Seven high school student songwriters from across the country are regional winners in the 2019 Musical Theater Songwriting Challenge. This program of the National Endowment for the Arts partnering with the American Theatre Wing seeks to cultivate the next generation of musical theater songwriters through mentorships with professional musical theater artists. Program collaborators are Disney Theatrical Productions and Samuel French, Inc., a Concord Theatricals company.

Six regional winners— one duo and five individuals—were chosen by review panels of professional theater artists in a blind competition from almost 170 applications submitted by high school students in 40 states.

The 2019 Musical Theater Songwriting Challenge Regional Winners are below with summaries of their songs and photo here.

  • Tessa Barcelo from Andover, MA is a rising sophomore attending Andover High School
  • Emalee Flatness from Willard, MO recently graduated from Willard High School
  • Makai Keur and Julian Watsonfrom Franklin, TN recently graduated from Centennial High Breezy Lovefrom Winnetka, IL is a rising senior attending Interlochen Arts Academy
  • Sophia Schwaner from Staunton, VA is a rising sophomore attending Stuart Hall School
  • Akira Sky from Los Angeles, CA is a rising junior attending Los Angeles County High School for the Arts School

The next phase is that each winner will be paired with a musical theater mentor and music director to form a coaching team that will work directly with the student to hone all parts of their song. Initially, the coaching teams will work with their winner remotely, using Skype/video conferencing software. This will be followed by an in-person coaching weekend in August when the mentor and music director travel to the winner’s home community to work together. This extended coaching period allows for a deeper experience for the students.

In October, each winner’s song will be transcribed, performed by Broadway singers and musicians, and recorded on a CD. Students will be able to watch the final recording either via Skype/video conferencing or in person, depending on their schedules. As in 2018, Samuel French has generously agreed to publish a songbook containing each of the finalists’ song in their transcribed form.