ABOUT THE SONGWRITERS PROJECT
The Johnny Mercer Foundation Songwriters Project is a weeklong intensive for emerging songwriters in all genres between the ages of 18 and 30 held annually each June on the Evanston campus of Northwestern University. The highly competitive program attracts applicants from around the world and invites 12 songwriters or songwriting teams to spend a week in residence working with award-winning professional master teachers. This year, the project will be held virtually from June 20-26, 2021.
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, 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 weeklong program culminates in an intimate concert that features the program's participants, providing
an opportunity for them to share new songs they've worked on throughout the week.
The program is created in partnership between the American Music Theatre Project at Northwestern University and the Johnny Mercer Foundation.
ABOUT JOHNNY MERCER
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.
ABOUT THE FOUNDATION
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.
THE MASTER TEACHERS
THE 2020 MASTER TEACHERS
has written and produced 12 top 10 Billboard recordings including Madonna’s hits “Angel,” “Into the Groove,” “Poppa Don’t Preach,” “True Blue,” and “Express Yourself.” He also wrote and produced for his band, the BREAKFAST CLUB, earning a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist in 1987 and a top 10 single “Right On Track.” While continuing his work with BREAKFAST CLUB, Bray composed and produced for various multi-platinum artists, including Gladys Knight, Kylie Minogue, and The Jets. Bray’s music has appeared in many films and TV shows, including Beverly Hills Cop II, Desperately Seeking Susan, Who’s That Girl, Earth Girls Are Easy, Peeples, Glee, RuPaul’s Drag Race, Scream Queens, Despicable Me 3, Isn’t It Romantic, Pose, Juanita, and Stranger Things. In 2005, his Broadway debut as composer/lyricist of The Color Purple earned him one of the show's 11 Tony nominations. In 2017, Purple won a Tony for Best Revival of a musical and Stephen received a Grammy award for producing the Broadway Cast Recording. Currently, Bray is producing music for MGM’s upcoming Aretha Franklin biopic starring Jennifer Hudson.
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 The Good War at Chicago's Northlight Theatre and Actor, Lawyer, Indian Chief at Goodspeed's Norma Terris Theatre, both 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: Poster Boy with book writer Joe Tracz and director Oskar Eustis for the Public Theater, and an untitled project with John Weidman. Craig has been on the council of the Dramatists Guild since 1995 and is married to Broadway actress Lisa Brescia.
His Unbreakable had its world premiere with The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus on June 22 & 23, 2018 with 300 artists onstage, including Mr. Lippa. He conducted the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in a new production of his A Little Princess in concert in London at the Royal Festival Hall in May 2018 to a sold-out crowd of nearly 3,000 people. His hit song “Evil Like Me” appears in Disney’s Descendants. Written for Kristin Chenoweth, that soundtrack hit #1 on the “Billboard 200” album chart, #1 on the iTunes and Billboard soundtrack charts. “Evil Like Me” was certified gold in 2017. His epic oratorio for men’s chorus, orchestra and soloists, I Am Harvey Milk has seen over 30 productions including Disney Hall and Lincoln Center. Andrew’s new musical, The Man in the Ceiling, is set to release a world premiere studio album in May of 2019. Broadway credits include: music and lyrics for Big Fish directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman; the Tony-nominated music and lyrics for the Broadway musical The Addams Family (directed by Jerry Zaks) as well as the music for Aaron Sorkin’s Broadway play The Farnsworth Invention (directed by Des McAnuff). Other musicals include the Drama Desk award winning musical The Wild Party (book/music/lyrics); A Little Princess (music); john & jen (music/book); Asphalt Beach (music and lyrics); Life of the Party (a compendium of Mr. Lippa’s works); and You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown (additional music/lyrics and arrangements). 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, Mr. Lippa serves as president of the board of The Dramatists Guild Foundation dgf.org
is a multi-platinum-selling and award-winning songwriter from Los Angeles. She started her career in the New York City cabaret and theater community in the 90s, writing for numerous performers, such as Audra McDonald, Liza Minnelli, Michael Feinstein, Harvey Fierstein, Andrea Marcovicci, Ann Margret and Bruce Vilanch, as well as collaborating with legendary theater composers, including Stephen Schwartz and Adam Guettal. Robbins was a founding member and composer for the celebrated vocal group “The Tonics.” She returned to Los Angeles in 1997 to pursue writing mainstream songs in pop, country, rock, EDM and rhythmic R&B. Notable No. 1 radio hits include the worldwide smash “Want to Want Me” by Jason Derulo, “Dangerous” by David Guetta (featuring Sam Martin) “Daydrunk” (APRA's 2019 Country song of the year) by Morgan Evans and “Tonight, Tonight” by Hot Chelle Rae. Chart toppers also include “Skyscraper” by Demi Lovato, “Classic” by MKTO, “Slow Down” by Selena Gomez, “It Girl” by Jason Derulo, “Miss Movin’ On” by Fifth Harmony, “Kiss Me” by Olly Murs, “Hurts so Good” by Astrid S and “Crybaby” by Paloma Faith. Robbins also is well known for the following top 5 hits: “Incomplete” by the Backstreet Boys, “What's Left of Me” by Nick Lachey and the 2006 Disney Song of the Year, “Cinderella,” performed by The Cheetah Girls. Her songs have been featured on recordings by Dua Lipa, One Direction, Zedd (featuring Julia Michaels), Jennifer Hudson, LeAnn Rimes, Rachel Platten, 5 Seconds of Summer, J.Lo, Idina Menzel, Leona Lewis (featuring OneRepublic), Faith Hill, Brandy, Britney Spears, Jason Mraz, Westlife, Jordin Sparks, Lisa Loeb, Pitbull, Clay Aiken, Shaggy, Matthew Morrison, David Cook, Toni Braxton and Monica. She continues to write mainstream songs as well as working on her first musical.