Winners & Finalists
I have been a performer my whole life, and after my career breaking role of “Straw” in The Straw That Broke The Camel’s Back, my kindergarten musical, I knew theatre was all I ever wanted to do. But my first experience with professional theatre was seeing the Hairspray tour in Chicago. It blew me away, and I remember going back to our hotel and not being able to sleep because of the pure adrenaline and love I felt. A feeling I will never forget, and still feel to this day.
My writing journey began in high school, as I began to learn piano. My learning piano naturally evolved into me just writing on the piano, not learning lol. So I started to write, and just never stopped from there. But when I knew it was part of what I wanted to do professionally, Ryan Scott Oliver (who I believe to be truly the most genius composer of our time) really helped me become the writer I am today. Regina Spektor also has always been a huge source of inspiration for me, as I feel she does what no one else has done before.
I would describe my work as having piano-led infectious melodies, whimsical yet strong storylines, imaginative lyricism, folk stylings and a balanced mix of pop + musical theatre sensibilities: all invoking a new sound. My aim is to muse all of this into Musical Theatre in a new, exciting way, which I think sets me apart. I hope it does, and if it doesn’t then I will just throw my lover to the cats (I KNOW YOU DID IT CAROLE).
Watching an artist perform it. It genuinely feels like ice cream. When someone performs your work and has a connection to it: it feels like your mission has been accomplished. Another thing I find so rewarding about writing music is that it is all in my control. So much of the world today is not in our control (…) and having 88 keys under your fingers that will create something that wasn’t there before, all at the bend of a finger, is magical. Pure magic.
I was incredibly lucky to have two parents who are very well versed in the arts- my Mom, Lois Sage, is a cabaret singer and actress and my Father, Chris Oyen has been a show director at DisneyWorld for my entire life- I can’t remember my first theatre experience necessarily but I do remember seeing Cats when I was a child (my “guncle” Kelly Briggs was plating Old Deuteronomy) and being absolutely scarred by the Cats interacting with me.
I may be the single most ridiculous human being in the world, but when I was 13 years old I had just finished up a stint on a reality television show (VH1’s In Search of the Partridge Family). I was pretty down (I… didn’t win) and my parents took me to go see Wicked. The show absolutely changed my life and made me want to write songs for musicals. It honestly decontextualized what I even thought theatre was, which is crazy. I love Wicked.
I think that I pretty much just try write songs that make complete sense to me and that satisfy me as an audience member- and then just hope beyond hope that other audience members like what I like. I think every single writer succeeds most in what makes them most unique and authentic.
Handing the song to a performer and getting to hear what the song actually sounds like. I don’t think I ever really have a firm grasp on what the song should be/sound like or what rewrites I should make until I really hear it sung by someone who can interpret the song!
"Coffee in the Morning"
My first experience with theater was in the 4th grade - My mom was directing Aladdin Jr. for our k-8 school district, and she forced me to audition for the show. I was interested in theater but had no idea what I was doing. She ended up casting me as Iago in that production, and every year after that I was in the next "MTI Jr." show that was being put up by my mom.
I started writing music when I was 14. What really kickstarted my passion was being in a Pop/Rock band called Cross The Line in high school. I was the songwriter for the band, and we released an E.P. and played a lot of shows locally for about 3 years. That kept me writing all through out high school. Most of the music I write for the stage now is very heavily Pop/Rock influenced with a full rock band, etc. So when I saw American Idiot for the first time, I was completely blown away. It was the only show I knew at the time that meshed both of my opposite interests - Pop/Punk band music and musical theatre. That tour definitely ignited a flame in me.
My work is very heavily influenced by early 2010's Pop/Rock/Punk. I love simplicity. I love how easy "Coffee in the Morning" is to hear and play, and I think there's a lot of beauty in keeping music stripped down. A lot of that early Pop/Rock is pretty standard, 4 chord melodies with a reoccurring chorus that builds each time it repeats. It's not very complex, but I really like to follow that structure whenever I start writing. I think what sets me apart from others is that I really just like to sit in the basics of songwriting. I like to tell the most story with the least amount of moving parts.
Whats most rewarding to me is making people feel something with music. I love to think of songs as short stories. Stories impact people in many different ways and make people feel emotions they maybe forgot about. That's really my only goal when writing music, is to make the listener feel something they aren't already. It's incredibly rewarding to me when a song of mine helps bring those forgotten feelings to light.
When I was 10, I was cast in a community production of "Oliver!" I caught the bug and never looked back!
Though I've been playing music my whole life, I cracked open my love for writing when I formed a band in high school. "Company" is a great inspiration---I love its structure, heart and sly humor.
These are weird times to be a young adult, so I especially enjoy making music that gives voice to the Gen-Z/Millennial experience. Tonally, I love filtering retro-pop sounds through a narrative lens.
I find catharsis through music writing--giving form and order to my flurrying thoughts and feelings. And of course, nothing is more exhilarating than seeing how an audience reacts!
A 7th grade performance of the musical Dear Edwina, Jr. I played Ziggy Montego, a little Jamaican boy trying to raise money for his steel drum band. I'm confident it's some of my best work to date.
I started writing music as a teen. I will be unabashedly predictable and say that Jonathan Larson and JRB's work were eye-openers because of the way they married contemporary music with storytelling.
My current vision is to create songs that are story-driven but also heavily pop-influenced bops that you could hear out-of-context on the radio and still enjoy.
Taking big, complex, nebulous feelings or thoughts and condensing them into a lyric. It's hard work, but pure magic when it all comes together!
Playing Gavroche in my home towns community production of les mis.
I used to buy the songbooks of composers I liked and play them whenever I got the chance. I’ve written songs my whole life but it took me a long time to put the two together.
I would say my work is youthful and energetic. I come from a background of performing in musical theater and I’ve found it really helpful to be able to look at a song as a musician and an actor.
I have struggled often in my life to be able to express myself in words. Writing songs allows me to say the things that I wouldn’t know how in every day life.
I performed in the Jungle Book at 4 and became obsessed with performing and being on stage, so I kept doing it!
I began songwriting at 12 because I felt there weren’t enough stories being told about people like me. I was most inspired by writers like Taylor Swift and Ahrens/Flaherty.
Personally, I write mostly pop/rnb, but my musical theater writing blends my contemporary background with more traditional structures and harmonies.
I love when someone tells me they connected with my song and it made them feel something - it’s an amazing feeling to know your work moved someone.
My first theatre experience was a Christmas play in kindergarten in which I played a worker out in the cold. My first line was “but it’s nice and warm in here”. My most iconic moment.
I started writing when a theatre club I was a part of was taking a 10 minute play that one a festival and turning it into a musical. I wrote my first theatre song and got accepted.Sondheim is my idol.
I love extended harmony and spicy chords. My musical world starts with Jazz and Rnb so I love playing with groove as well.
I feel amazing when people find the truth in the songs I write, then having a director interpret that.. I love being the first step in that process.
My 2nd grade school music "Bugz" where I got to play the stinkbug! My track did not get to sing unfortunately, but it was a huge milestone for me nonetheless.
I started getting into writing when I was 14, when a friend and I wrote a Hunger Games musical. As a kid, I was always drawn to Mariah Carey with her catchy melodies and sophisticated lyrics.
My writing embodies a 50/50 mix of pop & musical theatre. My progressions/melodies tend to be very "hooky" but I try to write lyrics that are more based in storytelling and read more theatrical.
There is no greater feeling than when someone says they can relate to your song. Music is the perfect vehicle to express complicated, yet universal, emotions and circumstances!
We were both exposed to music from a young age and soon we both got involved in school and community productions and never really looked back. We actually met during our school production of Chicago.
Dominic had written music for years and Ceola loved writing lyrics, it was only by a fluke one day that we realised our shared interest and wrote a song together and haven’t stopped since!
Our music is contemporary yet still firmly grounded in musical theatre. We pair music and lyrics by expressing what the other can’t, making music that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Les Miserables on a highschool trip. The story was epic, and the songs stuck in my head for years. I did a punk rock cover of “Do you hear the people sing” in my highschool band as our go-to opener.
I played in bands in highschool, and got into theatre in my 20s after working on a concept album. I discovered Ave Q, Spring Awakening, and In The Heights and was hooked. Lin Manuel blew me away.
I’m obsessed with finding a good hook, and want my songs to be something people can hum after the show. I want to write songs that can stand alone, but take on a deeper form when part of a show.
A song is a 3D snapshot of a moment in time. I am like a chemist trying to evoke a specific feeling. When everything is working, the song creates shared experiences which is an incredible sensation.
I auditioned for my middle school's "Into the Woods" and wasn't cast. I was discouraged, but my parents had me join a community show-choir. After my first solo (Defying Gravity), I was hooked.
I was dating a boy (now my husband) in 9th grade & wanted to write a song for our anniversary. My dad was a songwriter & I was always inspired to try it myself. I started writing then & never stopped!
I would describe my work as honest & relatable! I love to tell stories that other people see themselves in. I try to do it in a way that is catchy, sincere, and most of all-- me.
Writing is so therapeutic for me! I write as a way to process things I've been through. The true *magic* happens when other people can see themselves in the stories I tell. That fills my cup the most.
On a 3rd grade field trip, I attended a local community theatre production of "The Wizard Of Oz". The Scarecrow stole the show and I was immediately hooked. I needed to be in the next production.
I started writing for musical theatre two years ago. Having just moved to NYC, I was recently inspired by Matthew Dean Marsh's RIOT SONG at the Public. Affirming, I'm where I need to be.
My early work gravitates towards intimate introspection. With my performance background, I believe my work has good sense of what musical theatre performers want to perform today.
Sometimes I feel like songwriting transcends time. Old lyrics that felt arbitrary reveal themselves to be true in the future and new songs can calcify past moments and emotions.
I come from a family of musicians so I was in productions as early as five. I think I sang part of “I Just Can’t Wait to be King.
I think the combination of my parents both being professional songwriter and my brother becoming a successful singer/songwriter put me in a place where I was constantly inspired to create.
My work is close to Jason Robert Brown with a singer/songwriter twist.
Listening to the voice memos of the songs I’ve written on my phone every night before I go to sleep Is always a highlight of my day. One of the best feelings is when I listen back and find a keeper.
I started performing in 4th grade when I participated in a local high school production of Peter Pan.
I am very new to the world of writing, but I have always had so much respect for songwriters that I wanted to see what it was like to write a song of my own.
I love to tell stories through the songs that I write, and I accomplish that by using my own experience to create songs that are relatable yet still encompass everything I stand for.
The impact that one little song can have on an audience is truly the most humbling thing I have ever gotten to experience.