top of page


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. Off-Broadway, he wrote the music and lyrics for Three Postcards at Playwrights Horizons, with book by Craig Lucas, earning a "Best Plays" Citation, 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. Carnelia's book The Reason To Sing: A Guide to Acting While Singing was published by Routledge in 2021 and is in use at universities around the country. Current projects include two musicals, The Kids in 201 with John Weidman and Just Us Boys (formerly known as Poster Boy) with Joe Tracz, and a play 14 Animals in One Minute. He has been on the council of the Dramatists Guild since 1995 and is married to Broadway actor/educator Lisa Brescia.

Stephen Bray HS_edited_edited.jpg


Tony and Grammy-winning songwriter Stephen Bray is best known for his groundbreaking work with Madonna. Bray co-wrote and produced many of Madonna’s classics, including “Into the Groove,” “Express Yourself,” “Papa Don’t Preach,” “True Blue,” “Causing a Commotion,” and more.


His work as composer/lyricist for The Color Purple (2005) earned him one of the musical’s 11 Tony nominations. In 2017, as cast album producer, he won a Grammy award for Best Musical Theater Album (The Color Purple), and the show won a Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical.


Bray’s Songwriter, Music Producer, and Music Supervisor credits include a wide range of projects, including The Color Purple (Musical Feature), Juanita, Peeples, Who’s That Girl and Earth Girls Are Easy. His songs have appeared on Pose, Scream Queens, Stranger Things, Despicable Me, Isn’t It Romantic, Beverly Hills Cop, Desperately Seeking Susan, and others. Recently, Bray served as Executive Music Producer for the Aretha Franklin biopic Respect and The Color Purple (musical feature) to be released Christmas, 2023.

Lindy Robbins_bw.jpg


is a multi-platinum and award-winning songwriter from Los Angeles who has had over three hundred releases. Hailing from Los Angeles, she first became known as a songwriter in the 90’s NYC cabaret scene and was a member of the acclaimed vocal group “The Tonics.” After moving back to LA in 1997 to fulfill her dream of writing mainstream radio songs, Lindy has garnered multiple #1’s, including the worldwide smash "Want to Want Me" by Jason Derulo; “Classic” by MKTO, (which has reached over a billion streams) “Dangerous” by David Guetta, “Day Drunk” by Morgan Evans, Hot Chelle Rae’s “Tonight, Tonight and “A Different Way” By DJ Snake feat Lauv.” 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, as well as the Top 5 Singles "Incomplete" (Backstreet Boys), "What's Left of Me" (Nick Lachey), “Try Me” ( Derulo feat Jlo) , and the 2006 Disney Song of the Year, "Cinderella," by The Cheetah Girls . These hits earned her winning Five ASCAP pop awards. Known for her versatility and longevity , Lindy’s songs have also been released by artists including: Dua Lipa, Keith Urban,  H.E.R., One Direction, Kelly Clarkson, Bebe Rexha, Zedd (Featuring Julia Michaels), Zendaya, 5 Seconds of Summer, Andra Day, LeAnn Rimes, Rita Wilson, Pentatonix, Billy Porter,  Britney Spears, Jennifer Hudson, Shaggy, Idina Menzel, Rachel Platten, Monica,  Leona Lewis (featuring One Republic), Faith Hill, Brandy, Liza Minnelli, Jason Mraz, Westlife, Dixie D’Amelio (feat.Wiz Khalifa), Lisa Loeb, Toni Braxton, Michael Feinstein and Audra McDonald. In addition to continuing to write songs in multiple genre’s all over the world, Lindy has co-written the music and lyrics for “Dark of The Moon : A New Musical” which just had it’s first developmental production at The Rubicon Theatre,  and is also  developing a concept musical called “21st Century Singles” She lives in Los Angeles with her husband Derek and their two cats.

Autumn Rowe_bw_002.jpeg


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

  • Facebook - White Circle
  • Twitter - White Circle
bottom of page