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Centennial grads crowned regional winners in national songwriting competition

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The National Endowment for the Arts recently announced the regional winners of the 2019 Musical Theater Songwriting Challenge, and two Centennial High School graduates were included.

The Musical Theater Songwriting Challenge, a partnership with the American Theatre Wing, seeks to cultivate the next generation of musical theater songwriters through mentorships with professional musical theater artists. Program collaborators are Disney Theatrical Productions and Samuel French, Inc., a Concord Theatricals company.

Six finalists – one duo and five individuals – were chosen by review panels of professional theater artistsin a blind competition from almost 170 applications submitted by high school students in 40 states.  

The 2019 Musical Theater Songwriting Challenge regional winners are below, and summaries of their songs along with a photo are here. A video featuring all of the winners is here.

  • Tessa Barcelo from Andover, Massachusetts is a rising sophomore attending Andover High School
  • Emalee Flatness from Willard, Missouri recently graduated from Willard High School 
  • Makai Keur and Julian Watson from Franklin recently graduated from Centennial High School
  • Breezy Love from Winnetka, Illinois is a rising senior attending Interlochen Arts Academy 
  • Sophia Schwaner from Staunton, Virginia is a rising sophomore attending Stuart Hall School
  • Akira Sky from Los Angeles is a rising junior attending Los Angeles County High School for the Arts School

The next phase is that each regional winner will be paired with a musical theater mentor and music director to form a coaching team that will work directly with the student to hone all parts of their song. The team will meet with their winner both virtually and when the mentor and music director travel to the winner’s hometown for a three-day onsite workshop.

The Musical Theater Songwriting Challenge began as a pilot program in 2016 in three cities (Dallas; Minneapolis, Minnesota and Seattle, Washington) before going national in 2017/2018. Playbill was a key partner in developing the pilot program and assisting with the inaugural national competition.

Go to for more information and to watch performances from 2016 and 2018.

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