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The Johnny Mercer Foundation Songwriters Project is a weeklong intensive for emerging songwriters held annually each June on the Evanston campus of Northwestern University. The highly competitive program attracts applicants from around the world and invites 12 young songwriters or songwriting teams to spend a week in residence working with award-winning professional master teachers.

The program honors the legacy of Johnny Mercer by fostering the tradition of mentorship that Johnny was committed to throughout his career.  Master teachers have included award-winning artists Stephen Bray,

Craig Carnelia, Marcy Heisler, Jon Lind, Andrew Lippa, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Amanda McBroom,

Shelly Peiken, Lindy Robbins, Autumn Rowe, Lari White and David Zippel.


Thanks to the generosity of the Johnny Mercer Foundation, the program is free of charge to invited participants and a stipend is available to help cover living expenses during the week of the project.

The program is created in partnership between the American Music Theatre Project at Northwestern University and the Johnny Mercer Foundation.



Even if you’re not aware of it, you’re probably already familiar with the music of Johnny Mercer.


From the light-hearted “You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby” and “Jeepers Creepers” to the romantic “Laura,” “Dream” and “I Remember You”…from the big band “And The Angels Sing” to the dramatic “Blues In The Night,” “Come Rain Or Come Shine” and “One For My Baby”…from the sassy “Satin Doll” and “Tangerine” to the cinematic “Hooray for Hollywood” and “On The Atchison, Topeka And The Santa Fe”…not to mention the timeless standards of “That Old Black Magic,” “Glow Worm,” “Days Of Wine And Roses,” and “Moon River.” These songs, with their wide range of musical styles, have been heard by millions of people all over the world on recordings, radio, films, television programs and Broadway shows over the past century.


Throughout his acclaimed career, Johnny:

  • Wrote over 1,400 songs

  • Wrote songs for 100 motion pictures.

  • Won four “Best Song” Academy Awards and was nominated 18 times.

  • Wrote 23 theatrical productions, including St. Louis Woman and Li’l Abner.

  • Was a top radio personality and recording artist.

  • Was the co-founder and President of Capitol Records.

  • Nurtured the talent of artists like Margaret Whiting, Jo Stafford, Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra, and Nat “King” Cole.

  • Established the Songwriters Hall of Fame with Abe Olman and Howie Richmond.


Evidence of Johnny’s Southern roots, his appreciation for nature, and love of family resonate through his work. Born and raised in Savannah, Georgia, his love affair with music didn’t come from the glitter of Broadway or Hollywood. His influences were drawn from the scenic countryside, the sounds of regional African-American music, the concerts he attended in Forsyth Park, and dances on Isle of Hope and Tybee Island.


His lyrics came naturally from the colorful way the people around him talked: you gotta “Accentuate The Positive”; “Fools Rush In (Where Angels Fear To Tread)”; “Any Place To Hang My Hat Is Home”; and you’re just “Too Marvelous For Words.” And from the sounds he heard: the clickety clack of the railroad track, the wind whistling through the Spanish moss, and the rain like silver slivers racing along the horizon– “Now the rain’s a-fallin’, hear the train a-callin’ ‘Whoo-ee!’”


Johnny Mercer’s poetic genius continues to reflect the romantic yearnings, the wit, the energy, and the personality that is our America dream.


For more information, please visit the Georgia State University Johnny Mercer Research Guide.


The mission of the Johnny Mercer Foundation 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 its goals including: the Johnny Mercer Writers Grove at Goodspeed Musicals; Accentuate The Positive Programs (New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta); The Musical Theater Program at New Jersey Performing Arts Center; Georgia State 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 the Braille Institute (Johnny Mercer Youth and Adult Choirs). For more information, please visit


Founded by Dominic Missimi and Stuart Oken in May 2005 in Northwestern’s School of Communication, the American Music Theatre Project (AMTP) at Northwestern University partners leading artists with Northwestern’s faculty, staff, and students to develop new songs and musicals, bridging the educational and professional worlds through uniquely tailored new work and mentorship processes. AMTP’s goal is to nourish and invigorate American music and music theatre by supporting writers in their early stages of development, creating new connections between the professional and academic communities, and increasing opportunities for education and training in theatre, music theatre, and songwriting.



To learn more about AMTP, visit or find us on Facebook.



Craig Headshot - Web size_edited.jpg


has had four shows produced on Broadway. Working with composer Marvin Hamlisch, he wrote the lyrics for Sweet Smell of Success, with book by John Guare, 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 in Imaginary Friends. As both composer and lyricist, Craig wrote the score for Is There Life After High School, and contributed four songs to Studs Terkel's Working, for which he received his first Tony nomination, and which was seen in 2019’s Encores series at City Center. Off-Broadway, he wrote the music and lyrics for Three Postcards at Playwrights Horizons, with book by Craig Lucas, and contributed to the review, Diamonds, directed by Hal Prince. Regional premieres include Poster Boy at Williamstown Theatre Festival, The Good War at Chicago's Northlight Theatre and Actor, Lawyer, Indian Chief at Goodspeed's Norma Terris Theatre, the last two written with playwright-director David H. Bell. Craig has won a number of major songwriting awards, including the Johnny Mercer Award, the first annual Gilman and Gonzalez-Falla Musical Theatre Award, and the prestigious Kleban Award. He has two new musicals in development: Last Night on Just Us Boys (formerly Poster Boy) with book writer Joe Tracz and director Oskar Eustis for the Public Theater, and The Kids in 201 with bookwriter John Weidman and director Michael Greif. Craig’s book, The Reason to Sing: A Guide to Acting While Singing, was recently published by Routledge and is in use at universities around the country. He has been on the council of the Dramatists Guild since 1995 and is married to Broadway actor/educator Lisa Brescia.

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is a composer, lyricist, singer, actor, conductor, and record producer. His “Unbreakable” had its world premiere with The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus in June 2018 and in May of 2018, he conducted the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in a new production of his and Brian Crawley's A Little Princess in concert at the Royal Festival Hall. His hit song “Evil Like Me” appears in Disney’s Descendants. Thee soundtrack hit #1 on the “Billboard 200” album chart, #1 on the iTunes and Billboard soundtrack charts, and “Evil Like Me” was certified gold in 2017. He has conducted celebrated pianist Lang Lang and the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra in the world premiere of a commissioned symphonic work, and his own epic oratorio has seen over 30 productions including Disney Hall and Lincoln Center. Lippa’s musical, The Man in the Ceiling, based on Jules Feiffer’s book (and co-written with Feiffer) released a world premiere studio album in May of 2019. Current projects include songs for the original film musical “A Totally Awesome 80’s Christmas Musical” with a screenplay by David I. Stern, produced by Alex Lebovici for Hammerstone Studios; book/music/lyrics for a stage adaptation of “The Turning Point” produced by Kevin McCollum; book/music/lyrics for “American Original”, a musical based on Lippa’s “I am Harvey Milk” and “I Am Anne Hutchinson”. Broadway credits include: music and lyrics for Big Fish, music and lyrics for the 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 musical The Wild Party (book/music/lyrics); John & Jen (music/book); Asphalt Beach (music and lyrics); Life of the Party (a compendium of Lippa’s works/Menier Chocolate Factory); and You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown (additional music/lyrics and arrangements). His songs have been sung by Renée Fleming, Vanessa Williams, Kristin Chenoweth, Idina Menzel, Nathan Lane, Brooke Shields, and Mel B, to name a few. Awards include Tony® and Grammy® nominations; shared Emmy for Nickelodeon’s The Wonder Pets; SFGMC Vanguard Award; The Drama Desk Award; The Outer Critics Circle Award. A graduate of the University of Michigan, Lippa serves as president of the board of The Dramatists Guild Foundation

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is a multi-platinum selling and award-winning songwriter from Los Angeles whose hits include songs by many top artists in the music industry. Number 1 Radio Hits include: "Want to Want Me" by Jason Derulo; “Classic” by MKTO,   “Dangerous” by David Guetta , “Day Drunk” by Morgan Evans  and Hot Chelle Rae’s #1 Adult Top 40 hit, "Tonight, Tonight." Other chart toppers include: “Skyscraper” by Demi Lovato; “Slow Down” by Selena Gomez; "It Girl" by Jason Derulo;  “Miss Movin’ On” by Fifth Harmony ,  “Crybaby” by Paloma Faith” and “Hurts So Good” by Astrid S. Lindy is also well known for the Top 5 Singles "Incomplete" (Backstreet Boys), "What's Left of Me" (Nick Lachey), and the 2006 Disney Song of the Year, "Cinderella," performed by The Cheetah Girls. Lindy’s songs also have been recorded by Dua Lipa, Jon Legend, H.E.R.,Anne Marie, Kelly Clarkson. Keith Urban, Zedd (Featuring Julia Michaels), Andra Day, LeAnn Rimes, Pentatonix, Billy Porter, One Direction, Jennifer Hudson, Rachel Platten, 5 Seconds of Summer, Jennifer Lopez, Leona Lewis (featuring One Republic), Faith Hill, Brandy, Britney Spears, Jason Mraz, Westlife, Jordin Sparks, Lisa Loeb, Clay Aiken, Toni Braxton, Monica, Michael Feinstein and Audra McDonald. She is currently working on her first musical, “Dark of the Moon”.

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is on the heels of celebrating her Grammy Award win for ‘Best Album’ with Jon Batiste at the 64th Grammy Awards, where she was nominated for a total of four awards. Autumn co-wrote five of the album’s 13 tracks, receiving nominations for “Record of the Year” for “Freedom” (a track she also co-produced); “Album of The Year” for We Are; “Best Traditional R&B Performance” for “I Need You”; and “Best R&B Album” for We Are. The legendary songwriter and woman of color has collaborated with some of music’s biggest name such as Dua Lipa, Pitbull, Zendaya, Ava Max, The Knocks, Leona Lewis, Tori Kelly and Kali Uchis. Autumn also wrote the dance anthem behind the 2011 FIFA World Cup “Happiness” featuring Alexis Jordan. Rowe isn’t just a talent songwriter, but also a celebrated vocal coach. She has appeared on season 2 of The X Factor and was the only vocal coach on America’s Got Talent for five years, between the show’s eight and twelfth seasons. Rowe is also a talented DJ who studied at Scratch Academy, and her time as an accomplished songwriter has given her a platform to speak as an activist for songwriters. Autumn serves on the board of SONA (Songwriters of North America) and is an active advocate for music creators.

The Master Teachers
Mercer Songwriters Project 2014
2009 Mercer Master Teachers
Mercer Songwriters Project 2015
Mercer Songwriters Project 2017
Mercer Songwriters Project 2016
Mercer Songwriters Project 2015
Mercer Songwriters Project 2014
Mercer Songwriters Project 2016
Mercer Songwriters Project 2014
Mercer Songwriters Project 2016
Mercer Songwriters Project 2009


Thanks for submitting!

The Johnny Mercer Foundation Songwriters Project

c/o American Music Theatre Project at Northwestern University

10 Arts Circle Drive #144

Evanston, IL 60208

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