The American Musical Voices Project

Thanks to a generous million dollar grant from The Ted and Mary Jo Shen Charitable Gift Fund, in 2007 Signature launched The American Musical Voices Project, an unprecedented two-prong program consisting of Musical Theater Composer Grants and Musical Theater Leadership Awards. The American Musical Voices Project is the largest musical theater commissioning program in the United States.

The initial Musical Theater Composer Grants, presented to Ricky Ian Gordon, Michael John LaChiusa, and Joseph Thalken, awarded each composer $25,000 a year plus health coverage for four years. Further Musical Theater Composer Grants have been presented to Adam Guettel and Jeanine Tesori for $50,000 each. The program also underwrites the workshopping and presenting of the composers’ new musicals by Signature Theatre. Michael John LaChiusa’s musical Giant, Ricky Ian Gordon’s musical Sycamore Trees, Joseph Thalken’s And the Curtain Rises, Adam Gwon’s The Boy Detective Fails and Matt Conner’s The Hollow were the first projects presented under this program. Signature will premiere a full production of the remaining new musicals in the coming seasons.

The Musical Theater Leadership Awards portion of the project recognizes four individuals for their extraordinary influence on and contribution to the advancement of new musical theater. The recipients were orchestrator Bruce Coughlin, composer Adam Guettel, singer/actress Audra McDonald and director/musical director/orchestrator Ted Sperling. Each Leadership Award was presented in conjunction with a one-time grant in the amount of $25,000 to support the artists’ continued contributions to musical theater.

As a continuation of their commitment to the development of new musical theater, The Ted and Mary Jo Shen Charitable Gift Fund also generously awarded Signature a $300,000 grant in order to fund American Musical Voices Project: The Next Generation. Five emerging composers, Matt Conner, Peter Foley, Adam Gwon, Gabriel Kahane, and Marisa Michelson were the initial recipients of grants to develop full-length musicals under the guidance of former Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer. Four additional composer grants have since been awarded to Chris Miller, Scott Davenport Richards, Joshua Schmidt and Joshua Rosenblum.

The Ted and Mary Jo Shen Charitable Gift Fund

The Ted and Mary Jo Shen Charitable Gift Fund is committed to supporting and encouraging excellence, originality, and high aspiration in musical theater music-writing through its Musical Theater Composers Project. Inspired by the extraordinary, innovative musical theater works of Stephen Sondheim, the Foundation has engaged with non-profit theater organizations to help fund more than 40 projects since 2002 involving the creation, development, production, and cast recordings of works by Mr. Sondheim, and the next generation of innovative musical theater composers including Ricky Ian Gordon, Adam Guettel, Michael John LaChiusa, and Joseph Thalken.

Included in the grant is $250,000 designated to Signature Theatre’s capital campaign to support the Theatre complex in the Village at Shirlington and to nurture Signature’s artistic and organizational expansion. In recognition of The Ted and Mary Jo Shen Charitable Gift Fund’s generosity, the Project and its constituent programs as well as the large rehearsal room in the building was named for the Foundation.