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Students of Mount St. Mary Academy win a nationwide songwriting competition, taking them from Little Rock to Broadway



Little Rock, Arkansas – Two students from Mount St. Mary Academy in Little Rock had the opportunity to witness their work performed on one of the biggest stages in the world on Broadway for a single night.

The 2024 Musical Theatre Songwriting Challenge saw Isabella Nguyen and Maya Johnson submit the winning song, “Live Before Life is Gone,” from their unfinished musical, “Less Than Perfect.”

“It was very little fish in a big pond,” Johnson said.

The National Endowment for the Arts and the National Alliance for Musical Theatre are collaborating to present the competition. As winners, the soon-to-be seniors were invited to collaborate with mentors in New York City in June 2024, with their compositions being performed in a concert on June 17.

“We kind of didn’t believe it was happening until we were having it performed in front of us and even then it was like is someone going to like jump out and yell, ‘This is a prank,” Johnson admitted.

“Who are we, little kids in Little Rock, Arkansas, that no one cares about, to like go to New York and get this thing fully produced and published?” Nguyen asked.

34 states submitted more than 100 entries. California, New York, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, and Alabama were the other winning states.

Johnson and Nguyen claim that an empty room is their usual audience.

“I’m very more classic musical theater while they are a little bit more alternative,” Nguyen said as Johnson finished the sentence.

The Less Than Perfect musical features eighteen songs where their distinct vocals blend harmoniously. Although they both admit they are more interested in the response than the prestige, they do have another potential winner in mind for the tournament the following year.

“If someone wants to start writing or start something creative in theater, they should do it because it’s terrifying and that’s kind of the best part. It’s overcoming the fear of it,” Johnson advised.

“The best time to start is now,” Nguyen stated.

You may watch Live Before Life’s Gone, the Broadway production, on YouTube. You may also find other songs from the Less Than Perfect musical on YouTube.



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