Time is running out for songwriters hoping to join the esteemed BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop, the free crucible of craft that helps develop tomorrow's composers, lyricists and shows.
The 2003 application deadline for composers, lyricists and composer-lyricists is Aug. 1. An application and a successful audition — which includes singing songs or simply reading lyrics — gets a songwriter into the first year of the Manhattan workshop, moderated by Patrick Cook and Frederick Freyer, the team that penned Captains Courageous and other shows. The BMI school season, if you will, runs fall-to-spring and involves a weekly three hour class.
The first year of the workshop includes assignments that pair up strangers throughout the year to form potential writing partnerships; the exercises are meant to stretch the writing muscles of the students. Passing into the second year (moderated by Carol Hall, composer-lyricist of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas) is based on the quality of work and participation (and the writing of a 10-minute musical) and the third year (moderated by Richard Engquist, the lyricist of Little Ham, Abie's Island Rose and Kuni-Leml) is by invitation, based on work and participation.
For more information, visit www.bmi.com or call or e-mail BMI senior director of musical theatre Jean Banks at firstname.lastname@example.org or (212) 830-2508.
* As previously reported by Playbill On-Line, Tony Award winning composer-lyricist Maury Yeston stepped down as the advanced-class moderator of the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop earlier this year but will continue to be involved the workshop in an advisory role.
Yeston took over as moderator for the advanced workshop — the third year of the program — almost 20 years ago to "give back" to the creative community in memory of mentor and famed music director Lehman Engel, who founded the workshop in the 1960s.
Yeston will continue with the workshop in an advisory capacity, overseeing master classes and serving on the workshop steering committee.
The composer-lyricist won Best Score Tony Awards for Titanic and Nine, and also penned the popular Phantom and contributed to the score of Grand Hotel. Nine won the 2003 Tony Award for Best Revival. Among other projects, he is working on a musical version of Death Takes a Holiday with a book by late librettist Peter Stone. He has also penned the libretto and arranged the Frank Loesser score to a new stage version of Hans Christian Andersen.
The BMI librettists workshop is helmed by veteran Broadway dramaturg, Nancy Golladay.
Among the composers and lyricists who have been heard in the workshop during Yeston's tenure are Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (who met in the workshop) and would later go on to win Tony Awards for Ragtime; composer-lyricist Andrew Lippa (jon & jen, The Wild Party); composer-lyricist Michael John LaChiusa (Little Fish and Broadway's The Wild Party and Marie Christine, who also worked under Lehman Engel); songwriters Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez (Avenue Q); composer-lyricist Jeff Blumenkrantz (Urban Cowboy); composer Jeanine Tesori and lyricist Brian Crawley (Violet); composer-lyricist Douglas Cohen (Now Way to Treat a Lady, The Gig); songwriter and singer Amanda Green (Take It Like Amanda); composer-lyricist Michael Ogborn (Baby Case); composer Kim Oler and lyricist Alison Hubbard (who came in under Lehman and continued under Yeston and have penned Little Women and The Enchanted Cottage); and Patrick Cook & Frederick Freyer (Captains Courageous).
After the 1982 death of Engel, who started the workshop in 1961 and expanded it nationally as an arm of the music rights organization BMI, his workshop students — including Yeston, Alan Menken, Ed Kleban and others — vowed to keep the workshop running.
"Since that time, the multi-tiered workshop has been moderated by writers who were developed and nurtured by Engel as well as Broadway veterans," Jean Banks, BMI's senior director of musical theatre, told Playbill On Line."
The BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop consists of approximately 250 composers, lyricists and bookwriters, who are actively writing new works for the musical theatre.
BMI fully sponsors the workshop, Banks said: There is no cost to the participating writers, who are admitted solely on the basis of an audition of material. The goal is to bring writers together and develop new creative talent in the American musical theatre. "The workshop has become a springboard for new works, a resource for new collaborations, and a talent pool available to the theatrical industry," Banks said.
Among projects heard and refined in the workshop over 40 years are Raisin, A Chorus Line, Little Shop of Horrors, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Forbidden Broadway, Avenue Q, Weird Romance, Abie's Island Rose, Kuni-Leml, Lucky Stiff and more.
Engel's students included Clark Gesner, Michael Korie, Walter Edgar "Skip" Kennon, Ellen Fitzhugh, Frank Evans, Susan Birkenhead, David Spencer, Judd Woldin, Engquist and many others.
The Broadway musical, A Class Act, about composer-lyricist Ed Kleban, had several scenes set in the BMI workshop, with Lehman Engel featured as a jolly character in the show (Patrick Quinn played him). Kleban songs that were first heard in the workshop over the years formed the score of that musical, which is now finding a life in regional theatre.
According to the website, BMI "an American performing rights organization that represents approximately 300,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers in all genres of music. The non-profit-making company, founded in 1940, collects license fees on behalf of those American creators it represents, as well as thousands of creators from around the world who chose BMI for representation in the United States. The license fees BMI collects for the "public performances" of its repertoire of approximately 4.5 million compositions — including radio airplay, broadcast and cable television carriage, Internet and live and recorded performances by all other users of music — are then distributed as royalties to the writers, composers and copyright holders it represents. Broadcast Music International is the music performance rights orgnization that helps writers collect royalties for performances of work and promotes and protects the work of songwriters."