THE 2023 SONGWRITERS
My name is Alice Mason and I am from Portland, Oregon. Currently I am living in New York City and attending the New School in the College of Performing Arts. I am studying in the singer-songwriter program and working toward getting my BFA. After studying music and performing in various ways throughout my childhood, in the past few months I have started performing my original songs live and it has been such a fulfilling experience. I am honored to join the Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project this summer.
Born and raised on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Aubrey Hays comes from the tradition of bold, fearless singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Janis Joplin, Fiona Apple, and Regina Spektor. A master of songs that contain untold depths and unexpected instrumental twists, Hays showcases their technical skills without sacrificing the immediacy of pop music. Hays’s versatility shows them to be equally at home on an electric guitar, piano, ukulele, or vocal looper, and their command of their instruments allow them to be a dominating yet vulnerable presence on any stage. In their coverage of her 2018 Tiny Desk Contest entry, NPR stated Hays’s “tone and emotion is rich and unguarded” and that unique characteristic of Hays’s voice and playing has helped them develop into one of Austin’s most impressive artists. Hays was selected to be part of the Austin Music Foundation’s Artist Development Program in 2020, leading to her working with legendary Austin producer Frenchie Smith at his renowned studio The Bubble. Hays’s newest single “Statue” came from those sessions at The Bubble and promises to propel them to even more widespread acclaim.
Chloe Geller (she/her) is a composer and music director based in New York City. She is one of the winners of Write Out Loud 2021, Taylor Louderman and Ben Rauhala’s musical theatre songwriting contest for emerging writers. Chloe's song "Pity Party" featuring Christy Altomare is available to stream on Spotify and Apple Music. Her work has been performed in concerts at Feinstein's/54 Below, The Green Room 42, and the Laurie Beechman Theatre. Chloe, along with her collaborators Hayley Goldenberg and Julia Sonya Koyfman, were semi-finalists for the Bechdel Project: "Room of One's Own" Residency with their new musical FAYE. She is currently a member of the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop. Chloe's music assistant credits include: Some Like It Hot (Broadway, Shubert Theatre), Days of Wine and Roses (Off Broadway, Atlantic Theater Company), INTERMISSION (Tom Kitt and Jerry Zucker, NYC Developmental Workshop), The Lunchbox (The Lazours and Ritesh Batra, Lincoln Center Theater Workshop), and Muriel's Wedding (P.J. Hogan, Kate Miller-Heidke and Keir Nuttall, NYC Developmental Lab) Graduate of NYU Steinhardt.
Damon Smith is a New York City based pianist, songwriter, and improviser. He's a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music and performs as a sideman and performer with the legendary "Losers Lounge" series at Joe's Pub (2014 onward). He started his career at the School of Rock, performing and touring with artists such as Jon Anderson of Yes, Napoleon Murphy Brock of Frank Zappa's band, and Andrew W.K. He's also toured as a pianist with artists such as T.3 and Burlap to Cashmere. He's played his original music at Highline Ballroom, the Knitting Factory, CBGB's, and Webster Hall, and as a sideman in festivals such as Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, and Zappanale. His debut solo album, "Intimate Machinery," came out on ERASED! tapes in December 2017. His second album "God of the Grid" came out in March 2019, which prompted NPR's Here and Now to state: "excited for what he has next." The "River of Regret" EP followed in November 2020.
Dylan Schifrin is an award-winning early career playwright, composer/lyricist and librettist. Distinctions include: Jonathan Larson Grant (2022 Finalist), Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project (2023 Participant), The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center (NMTC and NPC Semifinalist), New Musicals Inc. (New Voices Project Finalist), IAMA Theatre Company (Emerging Playwrights Lab Member), Musical Theatre Factory (Makers III Cohort Finalist), The Civilians (R&D Group Semifinalist), the National YoungArts Foundation (Finalist in Playwriting), The Foundation for New American Musicals (MUSI-CAL, SHOWSEARCH Finalist). Dylan is a member of ASCAP, the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop and UNTITLED Musical Project, a new writers group for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ musical theater writers based in NYC. Dylan’s writing for TV has been distinguished by ScreenCraft and Stage 32, among others. B.A. Yale College, Musical Theatre Composition (with distinction).
Eliza Randall is a composer, pianist, and music director from the Las Vegas Valley currently based in New York City. Her musical Black Holes Like Donuts written with Sam Norman was recently performed at Symphony Space NYC by Prospect Theatre and was just presented as a finalist at the Sound Bites Festival at Theatre Now. Eliza and Sam’s short musical The Yellow Wallpaper has been performed by Harp Theatricals, Irvington Theatre, and Alleyway Theatre, and was a 2020 finalist for the Mazumdar Short Play Prize. Their musical The Debutantes was recently workshopped and performed at the 2022 Leeds Conservatoire Musical Workshop. Eliza’s various other compositions have been performed at Tin Pan Alley 2, Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre off-Broadway, the Hackney Empire (nominated for the 2021 Stiles and Drewe Best New Song Prize), and the Lincoln Center Broadway Future Songbook. Education: BM in Piano Performance from BYU; MFA in Musical Theatre Writing from
Hayley Goldenberg (she/her) is an NYC-based queer feminist theatre creator. As a writer, her songs have been performed at venues around NYC and internationally at 54 Below, Green Room 42, The Laurie Beechman and others. She’s had her work produced by several organizations including New Music Theatre Intensives, Women of the Wings, Cabaret on the Couch, Capilano University, and the Musical Theatre Writers Collective. In 2022, along with her collaborators Julia Sonya Koyfman and Chloe Geller, she was a semi-finalist for the Bechdel Project: Room of One’s Own Residency with their new musical Faye. As a director, she’s worked on the directing team for Death of An Underling, The Baroque Cycle, Perpetual Sunshine and the Ghost Girls, 9 to 5, Sense & Sensibility, The Addams Family, Into the Woods and many others. Along with her other creative work, Hayley is the co- founder of Women & Theatre, a project dedicated to exploring the experiences of women and nonbinary people in the theatre industry.
Jasmine Power is a singer/songwriter and pianist from the coast of West Wales, which brings to her music a uniquely Celtic quality. The daughter of a musician and a sailor, she is one of the most engaging voices to emerge from the UK music scene over the past few years. In 2016 Jasmine's self-released debut EP 'Stories & Rhymes' quickly gained the attention and airplay of a number of respected UK selectors. Jamie Cullum (BBC Radio 2) referred to her as "a great new British singer... great song-writing, great voice and a unique sound" and the legendary Gilles Peterson (BBC Radio 6) said she is “one to watch." In 2018 she co-wrote and recorded a duet and video on behalf of the #metoo movement with Cult American Artist Amanda Palmer. The duet, called 'Mr. Weinstein will see you now', garnered global attention. She has now made a name for herself in Nashville as a 'one of a kind' songwriter and artist with a 'wonderfully British sensibility', and regularly co-writes for other artists and TV/film with Nashville and LA-based hit writers, including Melissa Manchester, Keith and Adrienne Follese, Robin Eaton and Nina Ossoff. She currently resides between the U.S and Wales. She has also been endorsed by Sir Paul McCartney who states, "Her songs are very good and she sings them wonderfully."
JULIA SONYA KOYFMAN
JULIA SONYA KOYFMAN (she/her) is a lyricist/ librettist, screenwriter, filmmaker, comedian, and performer. An NYC-based Seattleite, Julia has had her work (in collaboration with many others including Dusty Sanders, Paloma Sierra, and Paul F. Stovall) featured through several organizations around the country including Project Y Theatre Company, the Seattle Opera’s Jane Lang Davis Creation Lab, The New Ohio Theatre NYCITFF, New Musicals Inc., and Seattle’s Arts For Hearts. Along with Dusty Sanders, Julia won first prize in the 2021 Search for New Musicals for their musical It’s Always Off-Season At The Chalet Flamingo. Her work, in collaboration with Hayley Goldenberg and Chloe Geller, has been performed in concerts at Feinstein’s/54 Below, The Green Room 42, and the Laurie Beechman Theatre. In 2015, Julia founded, wrote, and performed in the From Seattle With Love Concert Series, a mix of music and storytelling showcasing up-and-coming Washington musicians and performers. The series later spun off with Why Won’t He Call Me Back: A Live Nervous Breakdown and Holiday Cabaret. Julia is a proud member of the Musical Creators' Institute led by Sam Carner and holds a degree in Playwriting/ Screenwriting from SUNY Purchase.
A recent graduate from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Karis is currently based in Philadelphia and is well on her way to becoming a practicing lawyer in Los Angeles. Previously, she did a Fulbright in Malaysia after earning her B.A. in English and Cinema & Media Studies from the University of Pennsylvania. Karis is also a professional singer and songwriter working on her artist project, Karis Lee, where she aims to capture moments of intense heartbreak and uncanny happiness in her music. Karis has written music for various projects, including fundraising campaigns for the University of Pennsylvania, toplines for EDM producers, and hook melodies for rappers. Her music has been featured on “Teen Mom” and in the “Step Up” web series, and you can find her performing her original music around Philadelphia. In her free time, she watches an inordinate amount of reality TV, plays the oboe, crafts, and writes things creatively. She is so excited to be a part of the Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project! To keep up with Karis, follow her on Instagram @karisleemusic.
Sam Norman is a writer from the UK. He was recently commissioned by Washington National Opera to write a short opera libretto for performance at the Kennedy Center in early 2024, as part of the American Opera Initiative. He had his off-West End debut with COME DINE WITH ME: THE MUSICAL, the official stage adaptation of the hit TV show, which was performed at The Turbine Theatre as part of the MTFest 2023. His other musical theatre and operatic work has been developed and/or produced at venues including Lincoln Center, off-Broadway Rattlestick Theater, Symphony Space, Merkin Hall, and the Royal College of Music. He is a winner of the OUFF Short Screenplay competition and the national Stephen Spender Prize for Poetry in Translation, as well as a finalist for the Stiles + Drewe Best New Song Prize, the Mazumdar One-Act Play Competition, and the Mercury Theatre Songwriting Competition. As a teenager, he authored a book of comic poems, A Teen’s Guide to Modern Manners (Little, Brown). He is a graduate of Oxford University and NYU Tisch, where he received an MFA in Writing Musical Theatre. He is thrilled to be part of the 2023 Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project! www.samuelnorman.com
Sarah Kaufman (they) is an autistic musical theatre writer and performer based in NYC. They are a Lyricist in the BMI Musical Theatre Writer’s Workshop. Their work has gone up at CAP21, the Manhattan School of Music, the York Theatre’s NEO Program, the New York Musical Festival’s Head and Heart concert, and 54 Below, among others. Sarah also writes fantasy novels. Sarah and Shane (They & Them) are a disabled, nonbinary writing team with ambition to broaden the accessibility of musical theatre to be more inclusive of the disabled community. They & Them were finalists in the 2022 Write Out Loud songwriting competition, and recipients of the 2022 Danny Award for Original Song. The 10-Minute Musical they wrote for the Prospect Musical Theatre Lab - The Velociraptor’s Very Good Day, a piece about dinosaurs and autistic joy - was also selected for the 2023 SoundBites X Festival by Theatre Now New York. Their flagship project is a D&D-inspired fantasy musical podcast called The Reality Shaper (therealityshaper.com) that they are currently developing. A song from the project called “The Non-Binary Song” went viral, and the pilot episode of the podcast is available on your podcast app of choice! @sarahtkaufman
I am a pacifist, mental health campaigner, feminist, trauma and emotions explorer, painter, singer-songwriter, and music producer. As an artist, I believe in the transformative power of music and its ability to promote social change and peace. My aim is to amplify the voices underrepresented in the music industry, such as women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. In my work, I address mental health, social and political issues, as well as problems faced by minorities. I am of Azerbaijani origin, and as a representative of an ethnic minority myself, I work towards making this world less hostile to diversity and more willing to listen. I am currently based in Tbilisi, Georgia. It is a fantastic country with a vibrant community of artists, both locals and expats. This city inspired me to start writing electronic music and arranging my songs in a non-conventional way. I am Semra and Enumen on Spotify and other streaming platforms. «Enumen» is a short version for énouement — «the bittersweetness of having arrived here in the future, seeing how things turn out, but unable to tell your past self» from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows by John Koenig. Grateful and looking forward to meeting other participants!
Shane Dittmar (they/them) is a blind composer, musician, writer, and advocate who does everything loudly. As a songwriter, they combine moving and memorable melodies with witty, evocative, and often tongue-in-cheek lyrics that you can’t help but sing. School, community, and professional choirs on three continents have performed their award-winning compositions. Their original musicals, with honest stories about lovable and under-represented characters, have been featured at Roundabout Theatre Company, 54 Below, and in concerts across the country. Shane is based in Brooklyn, where they work as an accessibility specialist, and has a passion for music education, a guide dog named Chevelle, and an infectious - and very loud - laugh.
Sophie is an Australian performer, songwriter, producer, and dynamic creative person with a passion for crafting engaging music for her listeners. In 2022, Sophie has worked creatively with artists and producers such as Kimbra, Jaguar Jonze, Anna Laverty, Odette, John Floreani (Trophy Eyes), and many more cowrites, camps, and collaborations. In late 2021, Sophie released an EP of early works titled ‘FEEL AGAIN SOON’ under Vacant Room Records. Since then, she has independently released her self-produced track ‘I Guess’, which has been her most fulfilling and successful release, receiving over 30,000 streams on Apple Music and editorial placements on Apple Music and Spotify. Sophie's subsequent releases "Lovescraps" and "A Vague Song of Regret" were both played nationally on Triple J. Sophie moonlights as an advocate for female/GNC people in the music industry, and is regularly fighting for equality in important conversations across the country. She is a member of the Minister for Art’s Creative Council, and was a lead juror in the 2022 Australian Women in Music Awards. Her contributions to her local music scene through the creation of the non-male led engagement project ‘She’s on the Bill’ has led her to be awarded a Young Canberra Citizen of the Year award, and she is currently nominated for ACT Woman of the Year for 2022. Sophie is currently based in New York studying a masters degree in Songwriting and Production at the Powerstation Studios, and is also currently a production intern for Jerry Barnes, the bassist for "Nile Rodgers and Chic".
Sydney Lauren tells stories through her songs. She grew up singing and writing music just outside of New York City, the place she now calls home. The city serves as her inspiration as well as her stomping grounds, and she has performed in NYC venues like the Delancey & The Bitter End. Sydney’s training in piano, guitar and songwriting are clearly reflected in her songs, which take inspiration from some of her favorite artists including JP Saxe, Sara Bareilles, Ingrid Andress, and more. Her music has been featured on “Temptation Island” and "The Biggest Loser" on USA Network. Sydney’s new era of music represents a chapter in her life lyrically, and her authentic vision sonically. She dives into the emotions that occur during heartbreak and the simplistic happiness that can come with love. New York City will always play an important role in her music, whether it’s a street she references or the subway home. She’s a storyteller at heart and hopes to sing words you were thinking but didn’t know how to say.