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Tony Nominee Stephen Bray to Teach at 12th Annual Johnny Mercer Foundation Songwriters Project


The Johnny Mercer Foundation (JMF) and the American Music Theatre Project (AMTP) at Northwestern University announce Stephen Bray, Tony, and Grammy-nominated songwriter for The Color Purple, will join the 12th annual Johnny Mercer Foundation Songwriters Project as a Master Teacher.

In this role, he joins Master Teachers Craig Carnelia and Lari White to help lead program workshops. Past teachers include Tony Award-winner Lin-Manuel Miranda ("Hamilton") and Academy Award-winner Amanda McBroom ("The Rose").

Each year, 12 emerging songwriters in rock, contemporary pop, country, Latin, and musical theatre are selected to participate in a week-long, free-of-charge, songwriting program of master classes and workshops. The project continues the legacy of legendary songwriter Johnny Mercer, who mentored young singers and songwriters throughout his entire career. The project is completely sponsored by The Johnny Mercer Foundation.

Applications are being accepted through Friday, Feb. 24. The application form, guidelines, and full details are available online at The culminating Songwriters in Concert event will be held June 24 at the Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts on the Evanston campus.

Last year, more than 120 applicants applied for the prestigious program, which has been a catalyst to the careers of many artists. Among the past participants are Golden Globe-winners and Tony Award-nominated Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (La La Land, Dear Evan Hansen); Fred Ebb Award-winner, Sam Willmott; Jonathan Larson Award-winner Nikko Benson; and Latin Grammy Award-winner Obed Bermudez and singer/actress Jennifer Pena.

The mission of the Johnny Mercer Foundation (JMF) 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 our goals including; the Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at Goodspeed Musicals, Accentuate The Positive Programs (New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Miami), The Musical Theater Program at NJPAC, Georgia State University Fellowship Program, Florida International 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 UCLA's Art of The Brain, Children's Hospital Los Angeles (Mark Taper and Johnny Mercer Artists Program), Braille Institute (Johnny Mercer Children and Adult Choirs) and KCET TVs Cinema Series. For more information, visit

The American Music Theatre Project (AMTP) at Northwestern University brings together the nation's leading artists in music theatre to work with Northwestern's faculty and students. AMTP's goal is to nourish and invigorate American music theatre by developing and producing new musicals; increasing opportunities for education and training with Northwestern's theatre, music theatre and dance programs; and creating new connections between professional and academic communities. To learn more about AMTP, go to

The legendary Johnny Mercer (1900-1976) composed more than 1,400 songs, including "Accentuate The Positive," "Fools Rush in (Where Angels Fear to Tread"), "Any Place to Hang My Hat Is Home," "Too Marvelous for Words" and "Come Rain or Come Shine." He also wrote songs for 100 motion pictures and won four "Best Song" Academy Awards. A top radio personality and recording artist, he was a co-founder and president of Capitol Records and established the Songwriters Hall of Fame with Abe Olman and Howie Richmond. For more on Mercer, visit


Stephen Bray wrote and produced 12 top 10 Billboard recordings including Madonna's hits "Angel," "Into the Groove," "Poppa Don't Preach," "True Blue," and "Express Yourself." During this time he also wrote and produced music for 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 made his Broadway debut in 2005 as composer and lyricist for the Broadway version of the Alice Walker book, The Color Purple. He was nominated for a Tony Award for his work on the show.

Craig Carnelia 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 for "Imaginary Friends." As both composer and lyricist, Carnelia 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," with book by Craig Lucas, and contributed to the revue "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.

Carnelia 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. His best-known songs include "Flight," "What You'd Call a Dream," "Just a Housewife" and "The Kid Inside." Carnelia has been on the council of the Dramatists Guild since 1995 and is married to Broadway actress Lisa Brescia. He has two new musicals in development, "Poster Boy," book by Joe Tracz, which premiered last summer at Williamstown Theatre Festival, and an untitled project with John Weidman, which is being workshopped at Roundabout Theatre Company.

Lari White enjoys a wide-ranging career as an award-winning recording artist, hit songwriter and producer, indie record label owner and actress. Her music has earned three Grammys ("The Apostle" Soundtrack and "Amazing Grace 1 and 2: A Country Tribute") and RIAA Gold status ("Wishes" for RCA Records). Her most recent studio albums include "Green Eyed Soul," hailed by the London Times as the best soul album of the year, and "My First Affair," music from her live show at the Oak Room in New York City. As the first female producer of a male superstar, White made music history producing Toby Keith's platinum album "White Trash with Money." As a songwriter, she's had cuts by Tammy Wynette, Toby Keith and Lonestar.

Her film acting credits include the blockbuster Tom Hanks movie "Cast Away" and "Country Strong," with Gwyneth Paltrow. She made her critically-acclaimed Broadway debut originating the role of June in "Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash." White has sung with the New York, Boston and Pasadena Pops and the Atlanta and Nashville Symphonies. She performs regularly for legendary lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman and with Michael Feinstein. Her latest projects include her production of Shawn Mullin's new album, "My Stupid Heart," and her new CD, "Piano Bar," a collection of jazzy numbers with pianist Red Young available at

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