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Sanibel resident among winners in national songwriting contest



Henry Crater, of Sanibel, is one of 12 winners of the 2020 Musical Theater Songwriting Challenge, an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the American Theatre Wing.

Through mentorships with professional musical theater artists, leading to the recording and distribution of an original song, the Songwriting Challenge seeks to cultivate the next generation of musical theater songwriters from the country’s high school students, according to the independent federal agency.

Now a freshman at the University of Michigan, Crater’s orchestrated song, “Your World/Safe,” and the other winning songs debuted in a radio and online broadcast on April 3 on iHeartRadio Broadway.

“The inspiration for composing my song was the Parkland Massacre of 2018 in Parkland, Florida,” he said during the iHeart program. “The events that followed, including Never Again, the student organization dedicated to healing communities with art, and March for Our Lives, which was, as most people know, the massive anti-gun violence organization led by students that held rallies across the country until March of 2020. You know, I think the whole world stopped in its tracks when Parkland happened. It just took the whole nation by shock. You know, I’m from Florida first of all and I had some friends who went to that school, and it was harrowing to hear the news that such a horrible thing happened in the place where a couple of my friends went to school. And so back then in my sophomore year I started to write some things down, just writing different pieces of text and poetry and a little bit of music inspired by March for Our Lives, and about a year later eventually, it blossomed into the idea for a musical and this closing number for the show.”

For the recording sessions, participants were able to work together in a logistical feat engineered by the American Theatre Wing. The set-up interwove virtual and in-person spaces such that each winner and their mentor connected remotely and in real time to the artists over four days of recording at Reservoir Studios in New York City, the agency reported. The program employed over 70 talented professionals including musicians, vocalists, sound engineers, and music directors who worked both remotely and at Reservoir where they were in separated spaces and on rolling schedules that kept everyone safe.

Collaborators for the program included Concord Theatricals, Disney Theatrical Productions and the National Music Publishers’ Association, along with iHeartRadio Broadway.

Crater’s song is currently available on popular streaming music platforms, as well as on the agency’s Website at https://www.arts.gov/initiatives/musical-theater-songwriting-challenge/2020-musical-theater-songwriting-challenge-winners.

The 2021 challenge is now open for submissions until May 17. For more information, visit www.arts.gov/about/news/2021/2021-musical-theater-songwriting-challenge-opens-submissions.