The 2019 Songwriters Project master teachers and cohort.
The Johnny Mercer Foundation (JMF) and the American Music Theatre Project (AMTP) at Northwestern University once again seek out the nation’s most talented young songwriters and writing teams for the Johnny Mercer Foundation Songwriters Project, now in its 17th year. The free weeklong songwriting workshop returns to Northwestern’s Evanston campus from June 19-25.
The program is accepting applications through Feb. 28 from aspiring songwriters, ages 18 to 30, working in any style of popular music and theater. The application form, guidelines and full details are available online at the Project’s website.
In 2020 and 2021, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Project transitioned to virtual master classes and writing sessions, with the songwriters and master teachers participating remotely from across the world. Programs culminated in a free Songwriters in Virtual Concert, currently available to stream on YouTube.
“We will be very vigilant in the midst of this pandemic, but anticipate by the end of spring we will be able to gather in person and meet the COVID-19 health and safety protocols,” said Jonathan Brielle, executive vice president of JMF. “Although our songwriters and teachers gracefully adapted these past two years, we look forward to returning this year in person.”
“Bringing the project back to campus this year is very important to us,” said Brannon Bowers, AMTP producer. “While our virtual years were successful, the in-person version of our workshop offers songwriters a unique residency experience, with more opportunities for impromptu and in-depth conversations about their work.”
The program honors the legacy of Johnny Mercer by fostering the tradition of mentorship that Mercer was committed to throughout his career. Master teachers have included award-winning artists Stephen Bray, Craig Carnelia, Marcy Heisler, Jon Lind, Andrew Lippa, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Amanda McBroom, Shelly Peiken, Lindy Robbins, Lari White and David Zippel. The project culminates with a streamed performance of participants’ songs plus a group rendition of the Mercer classic, “Moon River.”
The program is free-of-charge to selected songwriters through the generosity of the Johnny Mercer Foundation. Last year, over 200 applicants applied for the 12 spots in the prestigious program, which has been a catalyst to the careers of many artists. Among the program alumni are Tony, Oscar and Golden Globe award winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul; Fred Ebb Award winners Sam Willmott and Shaina Taub; Latin Grammy Award winners Obed Bermudez and singer/actress Jennifer Peña; and 14 Jonathan Larson Award winners, including Nikko Benson, Emily Gardner Xu Hall, Michael Kooman and Christopher Dimond.
The mission of the Johnny Mercer Foundation is to support the discipline of songwriting in the tradition of the Great American Songbook as exemplified by the life and work of the legendary Johnny Mercer: lyricist, composer, performer, collaborator and producer. The Foundation continues Johnny’s legacy by partnering with individuals and organizations dedicated to
celebrating and nourishing the disciplines he mastered and the causes he and his wife Ginger Mercer championed. JMF has created a number of dynamic creative joint ventures with several prestigious institutions to facilitate its goals including: the Johnny Mercer Writers Grove at Goodspeed Musicals; Accentuate the Positive Programs (New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta); the Musical Theater Program at New Jersey Performing Arts Center; Georgia State University Fellowship Program; the Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project with Northwestern University and the Johnny Mercer Archives at Georgia State University. In addition, JMF also supports the Braille Institute (Johnny Mercer Youth and Adult Choirs). For more information, please visit the Johnny Mercer Foundation website.
The American Music Theatre Project (AMTP) at Northwestern University partners leading artists in music theatre with Northwestern’s faculty, staff and students to develop new musicals, bridging the educational and professional worlds through uniquely tailored new work processes. AMTP’s goal is to nourish and invigorate American music theatre by supporting writers in their early stages of development, creating new connections between the professional and academic communities, and increasing opportunities for education and training with Northwestern’s theatre, music theatre and dance programs.
The legendary Johnny Mercer (1900-1976) composed more than 1,400 songs, including “Accentuate the Positive,” “Fools Rush in (Where Angels Fear to Tread),” “Any Place to Hang My Hat Is Home,” “Too Marvelous for Words” and “Come Rain or Come Shine.” He also wrote songs for 100 motion pictures and won four “Best Song” Academy Awards. A top radio personality and recording artist, he was a co-founder and president of Capitol Records and established the Songwriters Hall of Fame with Abe Olman and Howie Richmond. For more on Mercer, visit the Johnny Mercer Foundation website.