Calling all high school songwriters! Beginning today, April 6, 2021, the National Endowment for the Arts and the American Theatre Wing are accepting submissions to the 2021 Musical Theater Songwriting Challenge. This national contest is for high school students with a passion for writing songs that could be part of a musical theater production and the wide range of musical styles represented in contemporary musicals. The goal of the program is to engage professionals in the musical theater field in nurturing the next generation of songwriters.


The application is simple and can be completed online. The deadline has been extended to May 24, 2021 at midnight ET.

New this year, iHeartRadio Broadway joins the program as a partner and will provide promotional support of the final recorded songs including the songs’ public debut in a special matinee radio and online broadcast. iHeartRadio Broadway is among Songwriting Challenge’s returning partners that are Disney Theatrical Productions, Concord Theatricals, and the National Music Publishers’ Association.

The Songwriting Challenge provides selected student winners (an individual or duo) with their own coaching team consisting of a mentor and music director (both musical theater professionals) to hone an original song into a Broadway-ready composition and then have that song recorded by Broadway musicians and vocalists in New York City. The final songs are combined into an album, are featured In the iHeartRadio Broadway matinee, distributed on streaming music platforms, and compiled into a songbook created by Concord Theatricals.

Details for the 2021 Musical Theater Songwriting Challenge are:

  • After the submission deadline of May 24, 2021, the Arts Endowment and the Wing will convene panels to review all submissions. Each panel consists of experienced songwriters, musicians, and industry professionals who select winners without knowing any identifying information about the applicant. Winners will be announced at the end of July.
  • Beginning in August, the winners work with their coaches remotely using video conferencing software to delve deeply into the purpose, tone, style, composition, and lyrics of each song. After this coaching period, the song is transcribed for an ensemble and the winner has the opportunity to select the instruments and voices that make up their ensemble.
  • The recording sessions take place in the late fall. At this time, we don’t know how the sessions will be structured in terms of virtual and in-person activity.

To meet the 2020 class, learn about them, and listen to their songs, go here. To join the conversation on social media use #IWriteMusicals.