Winners & Finalists
The live theatre show I saw was Lion King at the Pantages. As a nine year-old, my life was changed after seeing literal animals walking by in the aisles.
I decided to pursue writing when I was in a New York Satellite Program with UC Irvine in 2015. We were rehearsing for a 15-minute musical performance when I realized “I could write these stories”.
The stories I try to tell highlight the lives or parts of someone’s life that are kept behind closed doors. Everything I write pushes me to tell a story the world hasn’t considered, yet.
Music is this beautiful universal language (more universal than math, I think) that has the power to literally communicate with someone’s soul and heal unseen wounds. It’s rewarding to see that.
Some highlights were playing Ado Annie in my school’s production of “Oklahoma” and Annie in “It’s A Hard Knock Twist”, a musical mashup where Annie and Oliver go on adventures together in NYC.
When I was nine, I started improvising at the piano and writing melodies. I'm inspired by Carole King and her incredible ability to tell stories through her music has greatly influenced my work.
My pop infused melodies are driven by the piano and I hope that audiences will sing along. I write songs that explore relatable aspects of the human experience through upbeat and hopeful music.
It has been incredibly rewarding to collaborate with other musicians on my work and to share my music with family, friends, and now the Write Out Loud community.
"Year In Review"
I auditioned for a local production of Mary Poppins and was cast as Jane Banks. It changed my life and I knew I wanted to do theater forever.
I've always written music, but I started to discover musical theater and writing in that style when I heard the Waitress Soundtrack for the first time.
I think Ive always had a knack for story telling and imagery so I think that fuels my artistry. I'm very proud of my abilities as a lyricist.
When a person can relate to my song even though it's about something very personal or comes from a personal place. They could know nothing about me or my experiences but my art still moves them.
I saw a high school production of Little Shop of Horrors as a junior high student. I just knew instantly it was something I wanted to pursue. Some part of me knew that I'd found my people.
I started writing short stories as a freshman and thought I'd be a novelist. As my guitar skills developed, I was able to compose some really bad songs and eventually combine both skills.
You know, I'm not entirely sure. I've never really approached writing with any specific theme or idea in mind. I guess I've always just let the song or story write itself through me.
The way a person can connect with the music! It's my favorite thing about music in general. It can speak to you, through you, and connect you to others like nothing else.
In 5th grade I played Mr. Bumble in our school choir’s production of “Oliver!” - with a sweet tape-mustache. The next year I saw “Wicked” and ended up memorizing the playbill and the cast recording.
I was highly influenced early on by singer-songwriters: Michelle Branch, Avril Lavigne, Toby Lightman. Disney music has also been super influential for my writing. Fantasmic will forever make me weep.
I’m a contemporary writer with pop, jazz, musical theater, and folk influences. What sets my work apart is the sincerity and playfulness in my lyrics, and the storytelling I do through my songs.
It gives me chills to hear artists perform music I wrote, like I’ve created a tiny world that they get to play in. I also love telling stories through a musical medium and evoking emotional reactions.
My mom bought tickets to see Dora Live at MSG when I was three years old. Swiper was SCARY.
I was an intern at the Atlantic Theatre Company during the run of The Secret Life of Bees and I would watch Duncan Sheik dance to his own songs at the back of the audience every night. He's brilliant.
I'd say my work is centered around tangible sensations - trying to understand abstract feelings through the colors and textures I associate them with. I rely so much on specificity.
Music allows me to express myself in ways that words alone cannot. I think the moment when the lyrics and music first line up feels like a world being built - it's an incredibly special feeling.
I was cast as a beggar in Les Mis my first year of high school. Did I eat moldy bread on stage every night? Yes. Was it the best feeling in the world? Also yes.
I remember the moment I saw a production of Sweeney Todd and heard music and lyrics that absolutely shook me to my core. It was then I realized how much I wanted to tell my own stories through music.
I love blending pop rock nuances with big orchestral sounds. Perhaps what really sets me apart is that I have no real idea what I'm doing...
I love all types of stories, but the ones that touch me most are always the ones that are so important to tell, they have to be sung.
Gretl in "The Sound of Music" at a dinner theatre in Denver. (Fun fact, Annaleigh Ashford was 18 at the time and played Leisl!)
I tried my hand at writing my first song after Sara Barielles dropped her album "Little Voice" in 2007. I was 14, I was obsessed, and I desperately wanted to write a song like "Gravity"
I hope my work is honest and vulnerable; Simple enough to allow the story to be communicated effectively, while interesting enough to hold your attention.
For me, it's my own form of journaling and processing emotion- I often feel the most free once I've released an unsettled feeling or situation through a song.
I was cast as "The Cat" in a play my dad wrote for the kids in our community. Needless to say, I killed.
I decided to become a writer when I realised that I can tell the stories I want to see on stage. A writer who has influenced me greatly is A.R. Rahman
I describe my work as a holistic view of who I am. You'll get some Indian elements, some Bollywood, some funk, some musical theatre. My work is a sponge that reshapes the things it has absorbed.
I think the most rewarding part is enjoying that music in a room full of people. Nothing beats the thrill of a live audience who are receptive to your message.
When I was four years old, I saw The Lion King and it changed my life forever.
I had the incredible opportunity to take a musical theater writing course in college taught by Ryan Scott Oliver who taught me almost everything I know about songwriting and I haven't stopped since.
My stories are always influenced by some facet of myself. Even in the sense of the music, it is all comprised of various genres and writers/composers I have been inspired by throughout my life.
As a performer of color, I often get frustrated at the lack of representation available to us and to be able to make space for more stories told by or about brown people is what inspires me to write.
JORDAN: I saw Jekyll and Hyde on Broadway when I was 4 years old because Brad Oscar, a family friend, was in the original cast. LUKE: Watching musicals at Pittsburgh CLO
JORDAN: I transitioned from performer to writer upon graduating college. Writers such as Sondheim, JRB, John Larson, and Larry Owens have been most inspiring. LUKE: I’ve always been writing things on the side but really made the jump when Jordan and I both moved to the city in 2016.
JORDAN: I believe writing music to be a legitimately magical act and spend most of my days committed to materializing new ideas into songs. LUKE: Musical theatre bops- songs that certainly are theatrical but also incorporate pop sounds from today.
JORDAN: When writing truthfully honestly, I find myself riding extreme highs, and chasing that feeling which feels like nothing else is my favorite thing to do. LUKE: I love watching ideas turn into reality.
SMJ: In first grade, I was the Narrator of The Cat Goes Fiddle-I-Fee. It was as magical as a first-grade production of a 10 minute musical in a small town Ohio public school cafeteria can be. SARAH: In 5th grade, I was cast in my middle school’s production of West Side Story, which looking back is a SHOCKING choice for middle school, but being on stage was a new and exciting feeling!
SMJ: I wanted to create complex and meaningful work for women, BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, Fat and all other theatermakers who have been reduced to the fringes of theater. Current inspirations include Josh Wilder, Bill Irwin, Poppy, Hansol Jung, and so many others. SARAH: I always wrote silly little songs as a kid, but only began to explore writing in college when professors started to notice I had an ear for creating melodies and harmonies, and I quickly fell in love with songwriting. So many artists inspire me, but some staples are Phoebe Bridgers, Lianne La Havas, Bon Iver and Anaïs Mitchell.
SMJ: I’m not afraid to mix and match and throw things against the wall and see what is exciting. I write mime musicals, social media cult plays, plays that examine pop culture, plays that can live on YouTube, and plays that blur the lines between comedy and horror. SARAH: I compose mostly vocally, even if it’s a piece that’s meant for several voices and instruments. I will usually sing the entire melodic line for an instrument or vocal part into a voice memo on my phone, (on the street or in the grocery store looking like a totally normal person) and then add it into Garageband with the other layers of the song.
SMJ: Collaborating with Flaim is a dream. Her work makes mine infinitely better. Plus, it’s really cool when songs connect folks together, so to know that one of our songs does that is humbling. SARAH: I love the journey. Watching the evolution of songs SMJ and I have written in the last 3 years is so interesting...some have changed drastically and some have barely changed at all. Each song has its very own life!
My first exposure to theater was auditioning and getting three callbacks for BILLY ELLIOT on Broadway. My parents then sent me to theater camp (French Woods)! SIMONE: My first experience with theater was through joining Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit in the sixth grade. I was a member of the Acting company for seven years, and I felt at home.
ISABEL: I started writing when I was approached by the Artistic Director of one of the student theater groups at the University of Michigan and asked to create a show. SIMONE: I never really decided to become a writer. The path, in a way, chose me before I chose it. After writing my first song at the age of seven, my parents encouraged me greatly, so I never stopped.
ISABEL: My work is a unique combination of my three favorite types of music: 60s/70s pop/rock, contemporary neo soul and musical theatre. The strong, catchy choruses of my songs set them apart! SIMONE: The goal of my music is to unite people, and to encourage them to feel their emotions and cherish their experiences, even if they’re difficult. I believe my vulnerability is what sets my work apart.
ISABEL: Seeing the impact my songs have on others is by far the most rewarding aspect of writing music. Creating a tangible finished product is nice, too. SIMONE: Every time I write a song, I feel closer to God. Throughout my process, I’m reminded that, by making me in His image, He’s allowed me to create as He created. I’m so grateful to Him for this gift.