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Pictured: Sophia Schwaner, Emalee Flatness, Tessa Barcelo, Makai Keur, Akira Sky, and Breezy Love at Resevoir Sudios in New York City. (Photo by Natalie Powers)

NEA, American Theatre Wing Announce Songwriting Winners

The 2020 recipients include 12 high school student composers from across the U.S.

NEW YORK CITY: The National Endowment of the Arts and the American Theatre Wing have announced the recipients of the 2020 Musical Theater Songwriting Challenge. The annual Songwriting Challenge, now in its third year, seeks to cultivate the next generation of musical theatre songwriters and provides high school students mentorship opportunities with professional artists. The winners are paired with mentors and will receive professional recordings of their songs.

This year’s mentorship program will take place virtually, and the recording sessions will be a combination of in-person and virtual. This virtual shift has opened up funds usually dedicated to travel, which allowed the program to double its winners to 12. The winners were selected from a pool of 200 applicants from 41 schools across the U.S. The program collaborators include Disney Theatrical Productions, Concord Theatricals, and the S.O.N.G.S. Foundation of the National Music Publishers’ Association.

“These talented young people and the varying styles and themes of their songs speak to the energizing diversity of our country,” said NEA chairman Mary Anne Carter in a statement. “Offering this life-changing opportunity to more young artists this year is especially exciting, and I look forward to following their progress and listening to their songs.”

This year’s writers and writing teams include Sierra Blanco, N.Y. ; Jane Brinkley and Ashley Schmitle, Ore.; Henry Crater, Mass.; Viola Durfee, Washington, D.C.; Ada Fender, Iowa; Adam Jones, Va.; Joseph Mosby, Tenn.; Xyzsa Pagaduan, Texas; Leilani Patao, Calif.; Alejandro Rodriguez, Fla.; Chelsea Rose, N.C.; and Soleil Singh, Texas.

“Despite the challenges the arts community has faced in 2020, we are committed to continuing to provide opportunities for the next generation of artists to express their creativity and tell their story,” said Heather Hitchens, American Theatre Wing president & CEO, in a statement. “The Songwriting Challenge allows the chance for young songwriters to be seen, to be heard, and to form lifelong relationships with Broadway professionals. It is my hope that these winners will develop into artists whose talent drives social change, shifts our perceptions, and transforms the way we think.”

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