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Annual Johnny Mercer Foundation Songwriters Project Returns

Applications due March 4 for free, weeklong workshop for emerging songwriters

  • Johnny Mercer Foundation Songwriters Project at Northwestern set for June 19 to 25
  • Program accepting applications from aspiring young songwriters and songwriting teams
  • Selected songwriters receive free program and housing and stipend for travel and meals
  • Award-winning master teachers include Craig Carnelia, Andrew Lippa and Lari White

EVANSTON, Ill. --- The Johnny Mercer Foundation (JMF) and the American Music Theatre Project (AMTP) at Northwestern University will present the 11th Annual Johnny Mercer Foundation Songwriters Project. The weeklong songwriting workshop for emerging songwriters and writing teams will take place from June 19 through 25, on Northwestern’s Evanston campus. 

The program is accepting applications from aspiring young songwriters and songwriting teams between the ages of 18 and 30 working in any popular music style through Friday, March 4. An online application, application guidelines and information are available online.

With returning award-winning master teachers Craig Carnelia, Andrew Lippa and Lari White leading the week, the project will culminate June 25 with Songwriters In Concert, a program showcasing the talents of the program participants, the master teachers and a celebration of Johnny Mercer’s life and legacy.

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 emerging songwriters in musical theater, country, Latin, rock, contemporary and 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 130 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 Obie Bermúdez, singer and actress Jennifer Peña, Tony Award-nominated Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Michael Koomin and Chris Dimond, Adam Gwon, Carrie Manolakos, Morgan Karr, Michael Mahler, Alan Schmuckler, Benjamin Scheuer, and Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair.


The mission of the Johnny Mercer Foundation (JMF) 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 Colony at Goodspeed Musicals, Accentuate The Positive Programs (New York-Kaufman Music Center, Los Angeles and Miami), The Musical Theater Program at NJPAC, Georgia State University Fellowship Program, Florida International 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 various charitable causes, including UCLA’s Art of The Brain, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (Mark Taper and Johnny Mercer Artists Program), Braille Institute (Johnny Mercer Children and Adult Choirs) and KCET TVs Cinema Series. More information on The Johnny Mercer Foundation available online.


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. More information about AMTP available online.


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.” Mercer 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. More information on Mercer is available online.


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. Hamlisch and Carnelia received Drama Desk and Tony Award nominations for their score for “Sweet Smell of Success” and Carnelia received a Drama Desk nomination for his lyrics for “Imaginary Friends.” As both composer and lyricist, Craig wrote the score for “Is There Life After High School?” and contributed four songs to Studs Terkel’s “Working,” for which he received his first Tony nomination. Off-Broadway, he wrote the music and lyrics for “Three Postcards,” with book by Craig Lucas, and contributed to the revue “Diamonds,” directed by Hal Prince. Regional premieres include “The Good War” at Chicago’s Northlight Theatre, and “Actor, Lawyer, Indian Chief” at Goodspeed’s Norma Terris Theatre, both written with playwright-director David H. Bell, a Northwestern School of Communication faculty member. Carnelia’s major songwriting awards include the Johnny Mercer Award, the first annual Gilman and Gonzalez-Falla Musical Theatre Award and the prestigious Kleban Award. His best known songs include “Flight,” “What You’d Call a Dream,” “Just a Housewife” and “The Kid Inside.” He has an upcoming production of a new musical "Poster Boy" at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, with book writer Joe Tracz and director Stafford Arima and another new project in development with book writer John Weidman. Carnelia has been on the council of the Dramatists Guild since 1995 and is married to Broadway actress Lisa Brescia.

Andrew Lippa’s new hit song “Evil Like Me” appears in Disney’s “Descendants.” Written for Kristin Chenoweth the soundtrack hit No. 1 on the “Billboard 200” album chart, No. 1 on the iTunes and Billboard soundtrack charts, and has been viewed more than 27 million times on YouTube. Recently, Lippa composed and conducted a world premiere piece for the international piano virtuoso Lang Lang and the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra in Guangzhou, China. This new work, a 32-minute, five-movement piece called “Rising Tide,” will be reprised later in 2016 and recorded in China. Lippa’s epic “concert opera” “I am Anne Hutchinson/I Am Harvey Milk” had its world premiere at The Music Center at Strathmore in April of this year, starring Kristin Chenoweth as Anne Hutchinson and Lippa as Harvey Milk. This summer is the U.S. premiere of “Life of the Party” -- a musical compendium of Lippa’s career -- produced by Theatreworks in Mountain View, Calif., and starring Lippa. His Broadway credits include: music and lyrics for “Big Fish,” directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman; the Tony-nominated music and lyrics for the Broadway musical “The Addams Family,” as well as the music for Aaron Sorkin’s Broadway play “The Farnsworth Invention.”

Lippa’s other musicals include the Drama Desk award-winning musical “The Wild Party” (book/music/lyrics); “A Little Princess” (music); “john & jen” (music/book); “Asphalt Beach” (music and lyrics); and “You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown” (additional music/lyrics and arrangements). Lippa has received Tony and Grammy nominations; a shared Emmy for Nickelodeon’s “The Wonder Pets”; The Gilman/Gonzalez-Falla Theater Foundation Award; ASCAP’s Richard Rodgers/New Horizons Award; The Drama Desk Award; and The Outer Critics Circle Award.

Lari White enjoys a wide-ranging career as an award-winning recording artist, hit songwriter and producer, indie record label owner and actress. Her music has earned three Grammys (“The Apostle” Soundtrack and “Amazing Grace 1 and 2: A Country Tribute”), and RIAA Gold status (Wishes/RCA Records). Her most recent studio albums include Green Eyed Soul, hailed by the London Times as the best soul album of the year, and “My First Affair, music from her live show at the Oak Room in New York City. As the first female producer of a male superstar, White made music history producing Toby Keith’s platinum album “White Trash with Money.”  As a songwriter, she has had cuts by Tammy Wynette, Toby Keith & Lonestar. Her film acting credits include the blockbuster Tom Hanks movie “Cast Away” and “Country Strong” with Gwyneth Paltrow. White made her critically-acclaimed Broadway debut originating the role of June in “Ring Of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash.” White has sung with the New York, Boston and Pasadena Pops, and the Atlanta and Nashville symphonies, and she performs regularly for legendary lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman and with Michael Feinstein. Her latest projects include her production of Shawn Mullin's new album “My Stupid Heart” and her new compact disc "Piano Bar" (available online at, a collection of jazzy numbers with pianist Red Young.

For more information, contact Ryan Garson at or 847-467-1172.

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