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Mercer Project Searches For Young Composers and Lyricists

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March 11, 2008 | by Judy Moore
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Applications are being accepted for the 3rd Annual Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project. The weeklong educational program of workshops and cabarets, featuring some of the country's most prominent songwriters and singers, will be hosted by Northwestern University's American Music Theatre Project (AMTP), in association with the Johnny Mercer Foundation, from Aug. 9 to 16. All events will take place on the University's Evanston campus.

The Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project is seeking talented songwriters or writer teams, aged 18 to 30, from the fields of music theatre, pop, folk and country. Approximately 12 writers/writing teams will be selected to participate in daily master classes and to attend related guest artist cabarets. The project will culminate in a gala concert on Saturday, Aug. 16, when student songwriters will have their own work featured as part of a program honoring the legacy of Johnny Mercer.

Through the generosity of the Johnny Mercer Foundation, there is no fee for this workshop, and stipends will be offered to cover travel and lodging expenses. Applications must be postmarked by May 16 and include three songs for adjudication. Those selected will be notified by June 6. To download an application form or for more information, visit the American Music Theatre Project Web site at http://www.amtp.northwestern.edu/mercer.html or phone (847) 467-0333.

The program is devoted to the legacy of the American popular song and will feature some of America's most prominent songwriters working in the tradition of the legendary Johnny Mercer. These guest artists will serve as faculty for master classes and workshops for the jury-selected group of young composers. The master teachers also will present musical performances of their own material and discuss their work as songwriters throughout the week.

This year, the project will welcome back last year's four master teachers:

Craig Carnelia
is a two-time Tony Award-nominated songwriter for the musicals "Working" and "Sweet Smell of Success." Carnelia is well known to local audiences as the artistic director of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) Musical Theater Workshop in Chicago and as a collaborator on Studs Terkel's "The Good War," at Northlight Theatre, with Northwestern Associate Professor David H. Bell.

Andrew Lippa wrote the book, music and lyrics for "The Wild Party," which won the Outer Critics Circle Award for best Off-Broadway musical of 2000. In 1999, Lippa contributed three new songs to the Broadway version of "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown." In fall 2006, his musical "Asphalt Beach" premiered on Northwestern's Evanston campus, as the third production of the American Music Theatre Project.

Amanda McBroom
has been called "…the greatest cabaret performer of her generation." Her name first came to the attention of the public when Bette Midler's version of McBroom's first song, "The Rose," hit number one in 1979. Many notable artists such as Midler, Leanne Rimes, Barry Manilow and Judy Collins have recorded her songs. McBroom also is the lyricist of the new musical "Dangerous Beauty," which the American Music Theatre Project will present in summer 2008.

Lari White is a Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter and producer. Her albums include "Lead Me Not" and her rhythm-and-blues-flavored "Green Eyed Soul." She served as the producer of Toby Keith's platinum album "What Trash with Money" and has appeared on Broadway in "Ring Of Fire" and on film opposite Tom Hanks in "Cast Away."

One of America's most influential and prolific songwriters, Johnny Mercer (1909-1976) wrote some of the most enduring standards of the 20th century, including "Accentuate the Positive," "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby," "I Remember You," "Come Rain or Come Shine," "One For My Baby," "Hooray For Hollywood" and "Moon River." He wrote songs for 90 motion pictures, won four Academy Awards and wrote six Broadway shows, including "St. Louis Woman" and "Li'l Abner." Mercer discovered and nurtured artists, including Margaret Whiting, Jo Stafford, Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra and Nat "King" Cole.

The American Music Theatre Project at Northwestern University is dedicated to the development of new musicals and the creation of educational opportunities in the field of musical theatre.

The Johnny Mercer Foundation's goal is the preservation of the American Popular Song and the continuation of the tradition of Johnny Mercer's artistry and generosity. For more information on the foundation, visit http://www.johnnymercerfoundation.com.