Press Releases

International Theater-Singing Contest Seeks Exceptional Talent
Applications Open Today, 1 October 2014
Top Prize $15,000

October 1, 2014: Kim H. Kowalke, President of The Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, announced today the launch of the 2015 Lotte Lenya Competition, a program of the Foundation. The Lotte Lenya Competition seeks exceptionally talented young singer/actors who excel in a wide range of musical theater styles for the 2015 contest. Contestants will compete for top prizes of $15,000, $10,000 and $7,500; total prizes awarded will exceed $50,000.

Established in 1998, the Lotte Lenya Competition is a unique international contest that bridges the worlds of opera/operetta and Broadway musical theater, following the example of Lenya's husband, composer Kurt Weill. The contest emphasizes wide-ranging repertoire, including works by Weill, and the acting of songs and arias within a dramatic context.

The 2015 Lotte Lenya Competition is open to singer/actors of all nationalities, ages 19-32, who were born after December 31, 1982 and before January 1, 1996.

Contestants are required to prepare a program of four selections, which must include: one theatrical selection by Kurt Weill (any genre); two songs from the American musical theater repertoire (one pre-1968 and one from 1968 or later); and one aria from the opera or operetta repertoire. They will be judged not only on their vocal talent, but on their ability to create believable characters in a variety of dramatic situations.

"The Lotte Lenya Competition is not a typical voice competition because it emphasizes both acting and singing with a very wide range of repertoire," said Kowalke, who founded the Competition. "Every judge looks for a different combination of skills, but I think they're all looking for the complete package. If you look at the list of winners of the Competition you can't come up with a template for the winner. They're all very different. The one thing they have in common is that they have to show that they can pretty much do it all."

The Kurt Weill Foundation for Music encourages participation by a geographically diverse pool of talented artists. Applicants may compete in the preliminary round of auditions by uploading a video, thereby making the first round universally accessible and overcoming any travel barriers. Travel stipends are offered to contestants in the semi-final and final rounds.

To enter the 2015 Competition, contestants must submit an online application by 5 January 2015. Preliminary auditions may be by video and submitted electronically or performed live in an audition in New York City. Both types of audition will be weighed equally. In-person auditions will take place on 24 January 2015; appointments are limited and will be assigned on a rolling basis. Video auditions must be submitted by 2 February 2015. Guidelines, application forms, and instructions are available at http://www.kwf.org/LLC.

Semi-finalists will be invited to audition in New York City on 13 or 14 March 2015. Finalists will each receive an award of $1,000 and compete for top prizes at the Finals on 18 April 2015 at the Eastman School of Music, Rochester, New York.

A panel of distinguished musical theater and opera professionals will judge the Competition. Past judges have included world-renowned soprano and actress Teresa Stratas; legendary director and producer Harold Prince; President of Rodgers & Hammerstein and past Chairman of the American Theater Wing Ted Chapin; and Broadway leading ladies Victoria Clark and Rebecca Luker.

A documentary about the Lotte Lenya Competition, Singing the Story, premiered on public television in March 2014. Produced by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, Inc., and directed, filmed, and edited by Granny Cart Productions, the film traces the journey of the 2013 Competition, on stage and off, through the semi-finals, finals, and a 15th anniversary celebration concert at New York's Symphony Space. Through live footage and interviews, Singing the Story reveals the rigorous and unique nature of the Lotte Lenya Competition. A shorter version of the film is available for viewing, sharing, and embedding at http://www.YouTube.com/KurtWeillFoundation.

Lotte Lenya Competition 2015 poster

Previous Lenya Competition winners perform regularly on Broadway, in regional theaters and national/international tours, and in major opera houses in the United States and Europe. Highlights of their current and upcoming performances include: Lauren Worsham as Phoebe D'Ysquith (Drama Desk Award, Tony nomination) in A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder (Broadway), Jacob Keith Watson as Amos in Chicago (National Tour), Noah Stewart as Rodolfo in La bohème (Nashville Opera), Kyle Scatliffe as Enjolras in Les Misérables (Broadway), Ariela Morgenstern as Diana in Next to Normal (Baltimore Center Stage), Jonathan Michie as Valentin in Faust and Malatesta in Don Pasquale (Leipzig Opera), Erik Liberman as Clopin in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (La Jolla Playhouse), Arlo Hill (swing) in The Phantom of the Opera (Broadway), Cooper Grodin as The Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera (25th Anniversary National Tour), Doug Carpenter as Billy Kostecki in Dirty Dancing (National Tour), and Liam Bonner as Aeneas in Dido and Aeneas (Los Angeles Opera). At Carnegie Hall on May 6 and 7, 2015, past winners and finalists Justin Hopkins, Megan Marino, and Lauren Michelle will perform in the North American premiere of The Road of Promise, a concert adaptation of Kurt Weill and Franz Werfel's The Eternal Road, with The Collegiate Chorale and the Orchestra of St. Luke's.

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September 3, 2014: Kim H. Kowalke, President of The Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, announced today the launch of the 2015 Foundation Grant Program. Grant applications may now be submitted for projects and performances taking place on or after 1 January 2015 and before 30 June 2016.

Grant Program

The Kurt Weill Foundation Grant Program awards financial support worldwide to not-for-profit organizations for performances of musical works by Kurt Weill and Marc Blitzstein, to individuals and not-for-profit organizations for scholarly research pertaining to Kurt Weill, Lotte Lenya, and Marc Blitzstein, and to not-for-profit organizations for relevant educational initiatives.

Funding is awarded in the following categories:

  • Professional Performance
  • Media
  • College/University Performance
  • Educational Outreach/Community Engagement (including Kurt Weill Mentors)
  • Kurt Weill Dissertation Fellowship
  • Publication Assistance
  • Research and Travel

The application deadline for the 2015 Grant Program is 1 November 2014. An additional application deadline of 1 June 2015 is restricted exclusively to College/University Performance grants for productions taking place in the fall 2015 semester. Applications for support of major professional productions/festivals/exhibitions, etc., may be evaluated on a case-by-case basis without application deadlines.

More information, guidelines, evaluation criteria, and application forms may be found here. Inquiries may be directed to Janice L. Mayer, Director of Programs and Promotion, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Sponsorships

In addition to its established Grant Program, the Kurt Weill Foundation cultivates relationships with professional arts organizations and leading educational institutions in connection with major projects and initiatives. Organizations may approach the Foundation with ideas for major projects, and the Foundation may on occasion present proposals to the organizations. Collaborative projects are developed through extended discussion between the Foundation and the organizations, and the Foundation provides substantial funding in order to make them possible.

Overview

The Kurt Weill Foundation for Music was founded in 1962. Although a few awards were made in the early years of the Foundation, the grant and sponsorship program began to flourish in the mid-1980s. Since 1984 independent grant panels have recommended, and the Board of Trustees has awarded, more than 500 grants and $3,000,000 to organizations and scholars worldwide in support of excellence in the presentation and study of Kurt Weill's compositions. In 2013, the Marc Blitzstein catalogue joined the list of works eligible for support.

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Staff Additions Support New Programmatic Initiatives

July 30, 2014: President and CEO Kim H. Kowalke today announced expanded programmatic initiatives for the The Kurt Weill Foundation for Music. Dr. Kowalke, who was invited to lead the Foundation by Lotte Lenya in 1981, described the present moment as "the beginning of a new phase in the Foundation's history. The twelve-member Board of Trustees of the Foundation has made available the financial resources necessary to increase funding for grants and sponsorships substantially, expand existing programs, and embark upon new initiatives that will significantly advance the organization's mission. Staff appointments will enhance the Foundation's ability to respond to these new opportunities."

New Program Initiatives:

Three program initiatives have recently been launched. Each advances a central goal in the organization's mission, namely to "nurture talent, particularly in the creation, performance, and study of musical theater."

  1. Sponsorship of a Kurt Weill/Lotte Lenya Glimmerglass Young Artist, which in its first year underwrites Lotte Lenya Competition Winner Ben Edquist's residency at the 2014 Glimmerglass Festival, where he is performing a leading role in Carousel.
  2. A pilot program at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's 2014 National Music Theater Conference underwrote orchestration mentors and contributed direct support to the two composer-librettist teams: composer Avi Amon and librettist Julia Gytri (The White City); and composer/lyricist Jim Bauer and librettist Ruth Bauer (The War Dept.).
  3. In collaboration with the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation's Observership Program, Kurt Weill Fellows were placed with Martha Clarke at the Atlantic Theater Company, New York City, and Matthew Gardiner at Signature Theatre, Arlington, Virginia, to observe the master directors preparing their stagings of The Threepenny Opera.

 

Staff transitions:

The launch of the initiatives coincides with the retirement of longtime Foundation Director and Vice President, Carolyn Weber, effective August 31, 2014. Kim Kowalke spoke of Ms. Weber's impact during her years at the Foundation: "Having joined the Foundation in 1998, Carolyn has been a key member of our team, playing a leadership role in the Kurt Weill centenary celebrations and many major initiatives thereafter, nurturing the growth of the Lotte Lenya Competition into an international event with ongoing influence on the career development of winners, overseeing the expansion of the grant program to include sponsorships and mentorships, interacting dynamically and productively with our publishing partners and producing organizations, handling complex licensing questions and business affairs--all with an integrity and ease of manner that concealed the prodigious commitment and effort she gave to these varied and sundry responsibilities. Her contribution has been enormous."Reflecting on her tenure, Carolyn Weber said, "It has been a great joy to work alongside my colleagues and the Board of the Kurt Weill Foundation over the past 16 years. I've loved collaborating with arts organizations and academic institutions on Weill projects and encouraging the growth of young artists through the Lenya Competition and related activities. With the excellent staff now in place, the Foundation is poised to expand these exciting new ventures."

In the newly-created position of Director of Programs and Promotion, Janice L. Mayer will spearhead the grants, prizes, and sponsorship programs, oversee the Lotte Lenya Competition and the career development program for previous winners, as well as such new endeavors as sponsored observerships for young directors, and support for creators of new musical theater. In welcoming her to the Foundation this month, President Kowalke said: "Janice Mayer's wide-ranging and distinguished background in arts administration makes her the ideal Director of Programs as we seek broader impact in our collaborations with artists and producing organizations on both sides of the Atlantic." Ms. Mayer responded, "I am delighted to have the opportunity to foster the appreciation and visibility of the work of composers Kurt Weill and Marc Blitzstein. I have deep admiration for the work of the Board of Trustees and staff of the Foundation and look forward to furthering the mission on a daily basis as part of the administrative team."

Nine-year veteran Brady Sansone has been promoted to Associate Director for Business Affairs and Record Management effective September 1, 2014. He will be responsible for licensing, royalty monitoring and collection, human resources, and data management. Kim Kowalke spoke of Brady Sansone's promotion: "Brady has proven himself a devoted team player and a quick study, now indispensable to our accelerated activities in several arenas." Brady Sansone commented, "Having worked closely with Carolyn for a number of years, I feel well prepared to assume greater responsibility in the Foundation's business affairs, while my graduate degree in Library and Information Science will allow for state-of-the-art systems of records management, retention, and retrieval."

As of August 15, 2014, Eric Joseph Meyer will round out the team as Program Administrator and Office Manager. "Eric Meyer will bring expertise in social media, Internet outreach, and technical support, as well as a master's degree in composition and a profound interest in musical theater," stated Dr. Kowalke.

About the Key Staff Members in Transition:

Janice L. Mayer
Janice Mayer joins The Kurt Weill Foundation for Music from Musica Sacra of New York, where she was Executive Director of the professional chorus. Ms. Mayer has held positions of responsibility with the New York City Opera, The Shubert Organization, The Metropolitan Opera, the Van Cliburn Foundation, and Classical Action: Performing Arts Against AIDS. She was a Vice President at Columbia Artists Management, Inc., and founded and directed Janice Mayer & Associates LLC., an international artist management firm based in New York, for eleven years. Janice Mayer has been engaged as a consultant by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, ML Falcone Public Relations, The Harlem School of the Arts, Caminos del Inka, Inc., and The Copyright Society of the USA, among other organizations. She was honored to be the first artist manager elected to the Board of Directors of OPERA America, serving for six years. Janice Mayer holds a Master of Public Administration degree with a specialization in Arts Administration from New York University and a Bachelor of Arts from Connecticut College.

Eric Joseph Meyer
A pianist and composer, Eric Joseph Meyer holds a Master of Music degree in Music Composition from New York University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Mr. Meyer joins the Foundation from NYU's Network Tech Department where he worked throughout his graduate studies. Prior to his position at NYU, he was the Education Tour Coordinator & Production Assistant at Florentine Opera in Milwaukee and the Student Services Manager at Wisconsin Conservatory of Music.

Brady Sansone
Over the course of his nine years at the Foundation, Brady Sansone has assumed increasing responsibility in the areas of licensing and royalty management, skills that he initially developed in the television royalty department of ASCAP. A native of Salem, Oregon, Mr. Sansone attended Hofstra University in New York where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Business and Pratt Institute where he completed a Master of Library Science degree. Building on early studies in piano and violin, he now plays mandolin, bass guitar, and ukulele.

Carolyn Weber
Before joining the staff of the Foundation, Carolyn Weber managed classical artists and touring orchestras as a Vice President and Manager at Columbia Artists Management, Inc. (CAMI). Responsibility for the management of the annual Mostly Mozart Festival tour to Tokyo fueled her love of travel and interest in Japanese prints--areas she intends to fully explore in her next chapter along with activities in support of NYC theater. After receiving a master's degree in voice and opera from Manhattan School of Music, Ms. Weber pursued a professional career as a singer/actress in Europe and the United States before moving into the field of arts administration.

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Ben Edquist, Arlo Hill, and Natalie Ballenger Named Winners of Annual International Theater Singing Contest

April 15, 2014: Ben Edquist, of Houston, won the $15,000 First Prize in the finals of the 2014 Lotte Lenya Competition, sponsored by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music and held on April 12, 2014, in Kilbourn Hall of the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. Arlo Hill, of New York, won the Second Prize of $10,000, and the Third Prize of $7,500 was awarded to Natalie Ballenger, also of New York.

Now in its 16th year, the Lotte Lenya Competition is an international theater singing contest that recognizes exceptionally talented young singer/actors, ages 19-32, who are dramatically and musically convincing in a wide range of repertoire, with a focus on the works of Kurt Weill.

This year's panel of judges included two-time Tony Award winner Judy Kaye, Broadway conductor and New York City Center Encores! Music Director Rob Berman, and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis Artistic Director James Robinson. Finalists were selected from a pool of 200 contestants, with 29 adjudicated and coached in a semifinal round by Rebecca Luker and Jeanine Tesori.

Each of the 14 finalists presented four selections ranging from opera/operetta to contemporary musical theater. Edquist, the youngest of the finalists, impressed the judges with a compelling and nuanced program comprised of "Me" from Beauty and the Beast, "Lonely Town" from On the Town, "This is New" from Lady in the Dark, and "She Called Him 'Curt'" from Jake Heggie's Three Decembers. Hill stood out for his performances of "I Am a Pirate King" from The Pirates of Penzance and "Buddy's Blues" from Follies, and Ballenger for Weill's "Je ne t'aime pas" and "I Want Magic!" from Andre Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire.

The Kurt Weill Foundation distributed a record $65,000 in prizes this year. In addition to the top prizes, the finals judges presented four Lys Symonette Awards of $3,500 each, named in honor of Weill's musical assistant on Broadway. Awards for Outstanding Performance of an Individual Number went to Robert Ariza, of Ann Arbor, Mich., for "She's a Woman" from Kiss of the Spider Woman; Diana Rose Becker, of Northport, N.Y., for "Emily's Goodbye Aria" from Ned Rorem's Our Town; and Briana Elyse Hunter, of New York, for "I Never Has Seen Snow" from House of Flowers. A fourth Lys Symonette Award went to Katie Travis, of New York, for Outstanding Dramatic Interpretation of her program. The remaining seven finalists each received an award of $1,000: Rachel Cordeiro, of New York; Norman Garrett, of Silver Spring, Md.; Carter Lynch, of New York; Lauren Michelle, of New York; Heather Phillips, of Philadelphia; Jim Schubin, of Matawan, N.J.; and Mikalai Znaharchuk, of Minsk, Belarus.

Since 1998, the Kurt Weill Foundation has awarded more than a half-million dollars in prize money to outstanding young performers and continues to support previous winners with career development grants. Previous Lenya Competition winners enjoy successful careers performing in major theaters and opera houses around the globe. In the 2013-14 season alone, their credits range from Broadway (Morgan James, Motown The Musical; Kyle Scatliffe, Les Misérables; Jacob Keith Watson, Violet; Lauren Worsham, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder), the West End (Kyle Scatliffe, The Scottsboro Boys), national tours (Cooper Grodin, Amy Justman, The Phantom of the Opera; Ariela Morgenstern, Flashdance The Musical), and regional theaters (Doug Carpenter, The Most Happy Fella, Goodspeed Musicals, and South Pacific, Paper Mill Playhouse; Analisa Leaming, Arlington, Magic Theatre San Francisco) to such leading opera houses as the Metropolitan Opera (Paul Corona, Ginger Costa-Jackson, Megan Marino), Houston Grand Opera (Liam Bonner, Rodell Rosel), Los Angeles Opera (Liam Bonner, Jonathan Michie, Rodell Rosel), Hamburg Staatsoper (Rebecca Jo Loeb), and Teatro Real Madrid (Noah Stewart).

A short documentary produced in 2013, Singing the Story: The Lotte Lenya Competition, explores the unique nature of the Competition. It recently had its broadcast premiere on public television and can be streamed at http://www.youtube.com/KurtWeillFoundation.

Click on the image below for a printable image of all the prizewinners:

llc-2014-all-winners-small
Caption: 2014 Lotte Lenya Competition winners (L to R): Ben Edquist, Diana Rose Becker, Arlo Hill, Robert Ariza, Katie Travis, Briana Elyse Hunter, Natalie Ballenger. Photo courtesy of the Kurt Weill Foundation.

Click on the image below for a printable image of the top three prizewinners:

2014 Lenya Competition top three prizewinners
Caption: 2014 Lotte Lenya Competition winners (L to R): Ben Edquist, Arlo Hill, and Natalie Ballenger. Photo courtesy of the Kurt Weill Foundation.

Click on the image below for a printable image of the top three prizewinners and judges:

2014 Lenya Competition top three prizewinners and judges
Caption: 2014 Lotte Lenya Competition judges and winners (L to R): Rob Berman, Judy Kaye, James Robinson, Arlo Hill, Natalie Ballenger, Ben Edquist. Photo courtesy of the Kurt Weill Foundation.

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14 Finalists Selected; Rob Berman, Judy Kaye, and James Robinson Will Judge

March 13, 2014: Fourteen exceptionally talented young singer-actors have been selected as finalists in the 2014 Lotte Lenya Competition. They will compete for top prizes of $15,000, $10,000 and $7,500 on Saturday, April 12, 2014, in Rochester, New York. Broadway conductor and Encores! music director Rob Berman, two-time Tony Award winner Judy Kaye, and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis Artistic Director James Robinson will judge.

Held annually by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, the Lotte Lenya Competition is an international theater singing contest that recognizes talented young singer-actors, ages 19-32, who are dramatically and musically convincing in a wide range of repertoire. A short documentary produced in 2013, "Singing the Story: The Lotte Lenya Competition," explores the unique nature of the Competition and can be streamed at http://www.youtube.com/KurtWeillFoundation.

"I can't imagine a more challenging competition for a singer then the Lenya Competition," says Rob Berman, who judges for the fifth time this year, "when you look at what they’re asked to prepare." Four-time judge and Broadway leading lady Rebecca Luker adds, "This is a competition of the highest quality."

Finalists were selected from a group of twenty-nine semi-finalists from the United States, Canada, and Europe after auditions in New York on March 7-8, 2014. Contestants were required to prepare four selections: an aria from the opera or operetta repertoire; two songs from the American musical theater repertoire (one from the pre-1968 "Golden Age" and one from 1968 or later); and a theatrical selection by Kurt Weill. Tony Award nominee Rebecca Luker and Tony Award nominee and Olivier Award-winning composer Jeanine Tesori served as coach/adjudicators, evaluating and working with each of the semi-finalists.

Seven men and seven women, ranging in age this year from 23 to 31, are the finalists: Robert Ariza (Ann Arbor, Mich.), Natalie Ballenger (New York), Diana Rose Becker (Northport, N.Y.), Rachel Cordeiro (New York), Ben Edquist (Houston), Norman Garrett (Silver Spring, Md.), Arlo Hill (New York), Briana Hunter (New York), Carter Lynch (New York), Lauren Michelle (New York), Heather Phillips (Philadelphia), Jim Schubin (Matawan, N.J.), Katie Travis (New York), and Mikalai Znaharchuk (Minsk, Belarus).

LLC 2014 finalists

Finalists will perform their entire programs for the judges on April 12 between 11:00 am and 3:30 pm. At 8:00 pm, they will perform a concert of selections which ends with the announcement of the winners. Both events are free and open to the public, and will take place in Kilbourn Hall at the Eastman School of Music, 26 Gibbs Street, Rochester, N.Y.

In addition to the top prizes, the Foundation will award special prizes at the finals and has already presented Emerging Talent Awards to first-round contestants Neda Lahidji (Santa Clara, Calif.), Zach Miller (State College, Pa.), Mary Beth Nelson (Oklahoma City), Laura Corina Saunders (Rochester, N.Y.), Ethan Simpson (Evanston, Ill.), Christine Cornish Smith (Sunnyside, N.Y.), Anthony Witson-Martini (La Mesa, Calif.), and Clayton Graves Williams (Rosedale, N.Y.). The Grace Keagy Award for Outstanding Vocal Promise went to Brian Vu of New Haven.

In its first fifteen years, the Kurt Weill Foundation has awarded over a half-million dollars in prize money to young performers and continues to support previous winners with career development grants. Previous winners enjoy successful stage, concert, and recording careers around the globe. In the 2013-14 season alone, their credits range from Broadway (Morgan James, Motown The Musical; Kyle Scatliffe, Les Misérables; Jacob Keith Watson, Violet; Lauren Worsham, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder), the West End (Kyle Scatliffe, The Scottsboro Boys), national tours (Cooper Grodin, Amy Justman, The Phantom of the Opera; Ariela Morgenstern, Flashdance The Musical), and regional theaters (Doug Carpenter, The Most Happy Fella, Goodspeed Musicals, and South Pacific, Paper Mill Playhouse; Analisa Leaming, Arlington, Magic Theatre San Francisco) to major opera houses including the Metropolitan Opera (Paul Corona, Ginger Costa-Jackson, Megan Marino), Houston Grand Opera (Liam Bonner, Rodell Rosel), Los Angeles Opera (Liam Bonner, Jonathan Michie, Rodell Rosel), Hamburg Staatsoper (Rebecca Jo Loeb), and Teatro Real Madrid (Noah Stewart).

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