ASCAP Foundation Announces 'Songwriters: Next Generation' Showcase

The ASCAP Foundation has announced that “Songwriters: Next Generation,” a signature program of the Foundation, will showcase the work of emerging ASCAP songwriters and composers in a new virtual format.

The show, which is hosted by songwriter, drummer, producer and Grammy-Award winner Stephen Bray, will feature performances of original works by country singer-songwriter Austin Jenckes; composer and performer Molly Joyce; musical theater, pop singer-songwriter Joriah Kwamé; jazz pianist, composer and songwriter Mathis Picard; country-pop and singer-songwriter Riley Roth and rhythm and soul singer-songwriter Liza Yohannes.

The multi-genre cast of talented performers will also share their musical journeys using photos and words to provide a unique glimpse of when and how music shaped their lives.

The performances will be livestreamed on Thursday, May 6 at 7:00 pm ET on the ASCAP Foundation YouTube page: youtube.com/channel/UCpJPCkzh0UGXC0BiSwhgnDg.

“Songwriters: Next Generation” was conceived by pianist, educator, composer and ASCAP Foundation board member, the late Dr. Billy Taylor. Throughout his life, Dr. Taylor stressed the importance of spotlighting contemporary composers and songwriters who also perform their own work.

The virtual performance is made possible by contributions from ASCAP Foundation donors and by the Bart Howard Estate. Bart Howard (1915 – 2014) was an ASCAP member and the writer of the enduring standard, “Fly Me to the Moon.”

“This showcase is a terrific example of what The ASCAP Foundation values – nurturing the careers of emerging songwriters and composers and providing them with opportunities to perform their original works," said ASCAP Foundation Executive Director Colleen McDonough. "We have taken this program from the live stage of the Kennedy Center to a reimagined virtual format to continue to give aspiring songwriters the platform to display their talent.”

Featured Artists and Host Bios

Stephen Bray is the co-composer of the Tony Award-winning revival The Color Purple. He also received a Grammy award for the cast recording of The Color Purple. Bray is co-writer of several Madonna hits including “Into the Groove,” and “Express Yourself.” Earlier in his career he wrote and produced songs for his band, the Breakfast Club.

Austin Jenckes hails from a small-town in Washington state. A singer-songwriter, Jenckes received The ASCAP Foundation Harold Adamson Lyric Award in 2018 and is known for his cutting, introspective lyrical prowess. His song "Fat Kid," sung with Lori McKenna, recalls Jenckes' experience being teased by classmates for his size while growing up. Even though the song speaks powerfully to the singer’s life story—and connects deeply with his fans—it is the only track on Jenckes’ 2019 album If You Grew Up Like I Did that he didn’t write. Jenckes has been busily honing his live show, rubbing elbows with the likes of Ashley McBryde, Brothers Osborne and the Cadillac Three.

Molly Joyce was recently deemed one of the “most versatile, prolific and intriguing composers working under the vast new-music dome” (The Washington Post). Her music has been described as “serene power” (New York Times) and written to “superb effect” (The Wire). Her work is concerned with a disability as a creative source. She has an impaired left hand from a car accident and her primary instrument is the electric vintage toy organ, an instrument that engages her disability on a musical level. Joyce is a graduate of Juilliard, Royal Conservatory in The Hague, Yale, an alumnus of the YoungArts Foundation, and currently serves on the composition faculty at New York University and Wagner College.

Joriah Kwamé is a songwriter and performer who grew up in Kalamazoo, MI. He started performing at age three in a church setting and at age 12 began writing and performing R&B/soul music before finding a passion for musical theater composition and writing his first musical Dream when he was 13. Kwamé has since written over six musicals ranging widely in style and subject matter-from a dark retelling of Pinocchio to an MLK biopic. In 2019 his career was launched when he won Tony nominee Taylor Louderman’s Write Out Loud competition with his now viral musical theater tune “Little Miss Perfect.” Kwamé participated in the 2020 Johnny Mercer Songwriting Project where he studied with master teachers Andrew Lippa, Stephen Bray, Lindy Robbins, and Craig Carnelia.

Mathis Picard is a French-Malagasy pianist, composer, producer, and bandleader whose music warps time. Rooted in the tradition of live acoustic performance while incorporating the latest musical technology, He has created his own style that merges electronic bass music, jazz, classical and stride piano. Picard, who began playing at 3 years old, was immediately passionate about music from the dance idiom and now focuses on sharing that passion globally, whether it’s with his orchestra, Mathis Sound Orchestra and their forthcoming debut album World Unity, his solo project and upcoming debut album Live At The Museum, or his emerging quartet, The Elements.

Riley Roth is a pop-country artist/songwriter. She sings what she writes, and she writes what she knows. Roth began writing at age 10 and performing at 12. During high school, she made monthly trips to Nashville to pursue her musical ambitions. After building a network of co-writers and contacts throughout the music community, she graduated early and moved to Music City. Hit producer/songwriter busbee heard Roth’s music and was intrigued. She is signed jointly to Warner Chappell and Altadena, where she works closely with Daniel Lee. Roth has released several singles under her label, Altadena, and was produced by busbee until his untimely passing.

Liza Yohannes is an Ethiopian-Canadian R&B singer/songwriter born and raised in Toronto. Inspired by the likes of Brandy, Sade, and Aster Aweke, her music draws influence from Ethiopian sounds, R&B and neo-soul. She has opened for Tinashe, Kyle Dion, Raveena, and the legendary Ms. Lauryn Hill during their respective tours and has performed at Canadian Music Week, Manifesto Festival, and SXSW. Yohannes performed on Daniel Caesar’s latest project, CASE STUDY 01 and ASCAP’s On the Come Up Showcase. Her music was featured on Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s official Spotify playlist, on Soundcloud as an Artist to Watch as well as in TV shows such as Twenties (BET) & Grown-ish (ABC).