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Johnny Mercer Foundation Songwriters Project comes to Northwestern

Free, weeklong residency for emerging songwriters

EVANSTON, Ill. --- The Johnny Mercer Foundation and the American Music Theatre Project (AMTP) at Northwestern University will present the 9th Annual Johnny Mercer Foundation Songwriters Project. The weeklong songwriting workshop for emerging songwriters and writing teams will take place from June 22 through 28, on Northwestern’s Evanston campus.

The no-fee program is accepting applications from aspiring young songwriters and songwriting teams working in any popular music style through Friday, March 28. An online application, application guidelines and information are available at Johnny Mercer Foundation Songwriters Project.

Led by award-winning master teachers Craig Carnelia, Andrew Lippa and Lari White, the week will culminate with a public concert showcasing the talents of the program participants, master teachers and the soon-to-be-announced recipient of the Artist of Distinction award.

Through the generosity of the Johnny Mercer Foundation, the program is free-of-charge to selected songwriters who are housed on Northwestern’s Evanston campus and receive a stipend for travel expenses and meals.

The Johnny Mercer Foundation Songwriters Project hosts the nation’s most promising songwriters in musical theatre, country, Latin, rock and contemporary pop music, and continues the legacy of legendary songwriter Johnny Mercer. Mercer was a dedicated mentor to young singers and songwriters throughout his career.

Last year, more than 100 applicants applied for one of the 12 spots in the prestigious program, which has been a catalyst to the careers of many artists. Among them are Latin Grammy-winner Obed Bermudez, singer/actress Jennifer Pena, songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Michael Koomin and Chris Dimond, Adam Gwon, Carrie Manolakos, Morgan Karr, and Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair.

The foundation is designed to support the discipline of songwriting in the tradition of the Great American Songbook, as exemplified by the life and work of Johnny Mercer. It continues Mercer’s legacy by partnering with individuals and organizations that celebrate and nourish the disciplines Mercer mastered and the causes he championed.

The Johnny Mercer Foundation partners with the Kaufman Music Center in New York, New Jersey Performing Arts Center and the Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project with Northwestern University’s American Music Theater Project to nurture and encourage young talent. The Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at Goodspeed Musicals is the first of its kind in the country dedicated solely to the creation of new musicals.


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 also was the co-founder and president of Capitol Records and established the Songwriters Hall of Fame with Abe Olman and Howie Richmond. 


Craig Carnelia has had four shows produced on Broadway. Working with composer Marvin Hamlisch, he wrote the lyrics for “Sweet Smell of Success,” with book by John Guare, and “Imaginary Friends” with Nora Ephron. As both composer and lyricist, Carnelia wrote the score for “Is There Life After High School” and contributed four songs to the musical “Working,” for which he received his first Tony nomination. Regional premieres include “The Good War” at Chicago’s Northlight Theatre and “Actor, Lawyer, Indian Chief” at Goodspeed’s Norma Terris Theatre in Connecticut, both written with playwright, director and Northwestern University Professor David H. Bell. Bell is the School of Communication’s Donald G. Robertson Director of Music Theatre. 

Andrew Lippa wrote the words and music to the original oratorio “I am Harvey Milk” which received its world premiere in San Francisco last June with the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, and in which Lippa starred as Harvey Milk. The recording, released in October 2013, reached No. 2 on the iTunes classical chart. Lippa also wrote the Tony-nominated music and lyrics for the Broadway musical “The Addams Family,” as well as the music for the Broadway production of Aaron Sorkin’s “The Farnsworth Invention.” He also worked on the Drama Desk award-winning “The Wild Party” (book, music and lyrics), “A Little Princess” (music), “john & jen” (music and book), “Asphalt Beach” (music and lyrics) and “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” (additional music, lyrics and arrangements).

Lari White is an award-winning recording artist, hit songwriter and producer, indie record label owner and actress. Her music has earned three Grammy Awards (“The Apostle” soundtrack and “Amazing Grace 1 and 2: A Country Tribute” and Recording Industry Association of America ( RIAA) Gold status for “Wishes,” RCA Records. Her most recent studio albums include “Green Eyed Soul,” hailed by the London Times as best soul album of the year, and “My First Affair.” 


The American Music Theatre Project (AMTP) at Northwestern University brings together the nation’s leading artists in music theatre to work with Northwestern’s faculty and students. AMTP’s goal is to nourish and invigorate American music theatre by developing and producing new musicals; increasing opportunities for education and training with Northwestern’s theatre, music theatre and dance programs; and creating new connections between professional and academic communities.

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