Eleventh Annual Johnny Mercer Foundation Songwriters Project ‘Accentuates the Positive’ by Mentoring Promising Young Talent

Applications Due March 4 for Free, Week-long Workshop for Emerging Songwriters

Evanston, IL – Jan. 15, 2016 – The Johnny Mercer Foundation (JMF) and the American Music Theatre Project (AMTP) at Northwestern University are proud to present the 11th Annual Johnny Mercer Foundation Songwriters Project. The weeklong workshop for emerging songwriters and songwriting teams will take place from June 19 through 25 on Northwestern’s Evanston campus.

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

Last year, more than 130 applicants applied for one of the 12 spots in the prestigious program, which has been a catalyst for the careers of many gifted artists. Among them are Latin Grammy-winner Obed Bermudez, singer/actress Jennifer Pena, 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. According to JMF President & Chairman John D Marshall Jr., “Many of our successful alumni credit the mentorship and guidance they received from the JMF Songwriters Project as an integral part of their path to success.”

With returning nationally renowned award-winning master teachers Craig Carnelia, Andrew Lippa and Lari White taking the lead, this annual summer program culminates in a debut of new works on June 25. These events showcase the talents of the program participants and the master teachers, as well as celebrate Johnny Mercer’s life and legacy. The work produced by the current and past master teachers, as well as alumni, is outstanding and comprises  some of the most popular songs ever written.

The Johnny Mercer Foundation Songwriters Project hosts the nation’s most promising emerging songwriters in musical theatre, country, Latin, rock and contemporary pop music, and continues the legacy of acclaimed songwriter Johnny Mercer, a dedicated mentor to young singers and songwriters throughout his career. Through the generosity of JMF, the program is free of charge to invited participants, who are housed on Northwestern’s Evanston campus and receive a stipend for travel expenses and meals.

Former Master Teachers Include

Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is an American composer, lyricist, librettist, rapper, and actor, best known for creating and starring in the Broadway hit musicals In The Heights and the current smash hit Hamilton!  Miranda’s written work for the show earned him numerous accolades, including the 2008 Tony Award for Best Original score and the 2009 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theatre Album. Furthermore, Miranda’s performance in the show’s lead role of Usnavi earned him a nomination for the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical. Currently performing on Broadway in the lead role of Alexander Hamilton in Hamilton, Miranda is also a 2015 recipient of the MacArthur “Genius Award.”

Jon Lind, an award-winning songwriter known for composing “Save the Best for Last,” and as a senior vice-president for artists and repertoire at Hollywood Records, has collaborated with Madonna, Demi Lovato, Vanessa Williams and Selena Gomez, among other artistic greats.

Amanda McBroom is a very successful television actress featured in Star Trek, Hawaii Five- O, Gunsmoke, Starsky & Hutch, Charlie’s Angels, Taxi, MASH and Magnum, P.I. Besides acting, McBroom is a gifted songwriter. She wrote the iconic title song from the film The Rose, for which she won a Golden Globe for Best Original Song.

Marcy Heisler is an extremely talented musical theatre lyricist and performer. As a performer, she has appeared at world-renowned venues such as Carnegie Hall and Birdland.  Nominated for the 2009 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Lyrics for Dear Edwina, Heisler met composer Zina Goldrich at a musical theatre workshop in 1992 and they have been working together since 1993.

The writing partners were voted “Best Knocking on Broadway’s Door Songwriting Team” in the Village Voice Best of NYC edition, won the 2000 Backstage Bistro award for “Songwriters of the Year,”and were the 2002 recipients of ASCAP’s Richard Rodgers New Horizons Theatre Award. In 2012, Heisler received the Kleban Prize for Musical Theatre.

Current Master Teachers

Craig Carnelia has had four shows produced on Broadway. Working with composer Marvin Hamlisch, he wrote the lyrics for Sweet Smell of Success, 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, Carnelia wrote the score for Is There Life After High School? and contributed four songs to Studs Terkel’s Working for which he received a Tony nomination. Off-Broadway, he wrote the music and lyrics for Three Postcards 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. The winner of a number of major songwriting prizes, including 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.”

Andrew Lippa wrote the theatrical oratorio I Am Harvey Milk that had its New York premiere in  2014 at Lincoln Center starring Lippa as Harvey Milk. Life of the Party, an evening celebrating 20 years of his work, premiered at London’s award-winning Menier Chocolate Factory to great acclaim. He also wrote the Drama Desk-nominated music and lyrics for the Broadway musical Big Fish, 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. Other musicals include the Drama Desk-award winning 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). Most recently, he worked on a musical adaptation of Jules Feiffer’s book The Man in the Ceiling with Mr. Feiffer. Lippa’s accolades include a Tony and Grammy nomination, the Gilman/Gonzalez-Falla Theater Foundation Award, ASCAP’s Richard Rodgers/New Horizons Award, The Drama Desk and The Outer Critics Circle Award.

Lari White has had 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’s had hit cuts from Tammy Wynette, Toby Keith and Lonestar. Her film acting credits include the blockbuster Tom Hanks movie Cast Away, and Country Strong with Gwyneth Paltrow. She made her critically-acclaimed Broadway debut originating the role of June in Ring Of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash. Her latest projects include The Shoe Burnin’ anthology” and her new CD Piano Bar, a collection of jazzy numbers with pianist Red Young.


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 our goals, including the Johnny Mercer Foundation Writers Colony  at Goodspeed Musicals, Accentuate The Positive Programs (New York-Kaufman Music Center, Los Angeles and Miami), The Musical Theatre 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.

For more information please visit www.johnnymercerfoundation.org


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.

To learn more about AMTP, visit www.amtp.northwestern.edu


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 also the 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 www.johnnymercerfoundation.org/johnny-mercer/

For more information about The Johnny Mercer Foundation, please contact Mario Sancarranco at mario@gohrmc.com

Source contacts: Ryan Garson at ryan-garson@northwestern.edu or 847-467-1172.

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