Theater songwriting challenging provides a noteworthy opportunity


Songwriting benefits from the utilization of music theory principles. Musical composition and photo by Ethan Everett on Dec. 6.

Disney films have familiarized examples of theatrical music to the everyday person, and the popularity of theater musicals is increasing with pieces such as “Hamilton” and “Les Miserables”. Budding songwriters may be interested in applying and competing in the Musical Theater Songwriting Challenge held by the National Endowment for the Arts.

“I think this program allows students to learn and practice musical material in a more creative way,” music teacher Greg Johnson said. “People don’t realize how challenging learning ‘musical grammar’ can be.”

Applicants of this competition are tasked with writing a musical theater piece after submitting an audio submission and written narrative to display their musical talent. Competition finalists with qualifying musical pieces will have mentorship and scholarship opportunities, and a chance to have their original composition performed by professionals.

According to Johnson, the competition challenges budding songwriters in a more difficult way than “popular music”. Unlike other pieces, theater pieces require an additional layer of complexity.

“Musical theater adds a contextual aspect to the work, which requires writers to tell a story through their music,” Johnson said. “Similar to a film composer, the music needs to develop alongside and directly connect with a plot.”

Johnson encourages musicians of all kinds to participate in this challenge and practice music theory, as it requires students to interact with the musical language in a very difficult and academic way.

“Theater music provides a challenge that any aspiring songwriter should face, be it through film composing or anything,” Johnson said. “I think the concept of music theory applies to all styles, and it’s important to utilize it in contextual pieces, like theater.”

The deadline to apply for this competition is Jan. 5, and winners will be selected within the following month. For more information and to apply, access the competition website.