"Songwriters: The Next Generation," a program of The ASCAP Foundation and The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, which is made possible by the Bart Howard Estate, showcased the work of four emerging songwriters and composers -- Andy Akiho, Julia Haltigan, André Henry and Celia Woodsmith with Della Mae on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage on March 22 and 23, 2012.
Each evening’s hour-long program, designed to spotlight the talent of young songwriters and composers, was hosted by celebrated singer/songwriter and arts entertainment producer Larry Groce.
Larry is one of the founders of Mountain Stage, a live music program on NPR produced by West Virginia Public Radio. Since 1983 he has served as the show’s artistic director and host. He holds the same positions in the television version of the show. His musical tastes and leadership have been instrumental in defining Mountain Stage since its beginning.
"Songwriters: The Next Generation," was conceived in 2010 by the late jazz pianist, educator, composer and ASCAP Foundation Board member Dr. Billy Taylor. Throughout his life, Dr. Taylor stressed the importance of showcasing the talent of contemporary composers who are also performers.
"Songwriters: The Next Generation," presented by The ASCAP Foundation and made possible by the Bart Howard Estate, is part of The Kennedy Center’s free, daily performance series. The concerts and Q&A with the artists were webcast live and are now archived for viewing at: http://www.kennedy-center.org/programs/millennium/.
Described as “mold-breaking” and “vital” by The New York Times, Andy Akiho is an eclectic composer and performer whose interests run from steel pan to traditional classical music. A graduate of the University of South Carolina (BM, performance), the Manhattan School of Music (MM, contemporary performance), and the Yale School of Music (MM, Composition), Andy is currently a Ph.D. candidate with The Roger Sessions University Fellowship in Music at Princeton University. His upcoming engagements include a performance with the LA Philharmonic, a tour in Taiwan for the 2012 International Drum Festival, and a headlining show at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC for the Centennial National Cherry Blossom Festival. He is the recipient of several ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Awards and his 2011 debut CD No One To Know One on Innova Records features compositions that pose intricate rhythms and exotic timbres around his primary instrument, the steel pan.
Julia Haltigan grew up in New York City off the Bowery in the 1980s. As an only child born into a musically inclined family, Julia learned to use her voice to attract attention. Her songs have an antique, Americana-pop feel. Her lyrics create a collage of imagery that relates heartache, yearning and lust.
At times her powerful, sultry voice booms above her six-piece band while at other times she showcases her soft side, arousing nostalgia for the classics such as Nancy Sinatra and Betty Boop. Her self-released, self-titled second album was released in May 2009. The album is a refreshing addition to the current music scene, combining old-time music influences with Julia’s own whimsical style, complete with weeping guitar lines, heel-toe shuffle drum lines and ‘tugboat’ bass.
Joining forces with producer Phil Palazzolo (Neko Case, New Pornographers, Okkervil River), Julia and her band created their latest critically acclaimed release, My Green Heart. The album establishes an impression of mystery and empowerment while showcasing her nostalgic sense of imagery and longing. Julia attended The ASCAP Foundation Paul Cunningham Songwriting Workshop in 2009.
André Henry is a NYC based singer/songwriter/producer from Atlanta whose music intersects the genres of soul, jazz and pop. While a student at Florida’s Southeastern University, he wrote and arranged songs for the campus choirs - one of which, entitled Bless the Lord, was featured on The Inspiration Network. André followed the urban open mic circuit to Ashford & Simpson’s Sugar Bar, catching the attention of the iconic songwriting duo. In the summer of 2011 he collaborated with them on songs for Sir Cliff Richard’s hit album, Soulicious, on which André arranged four songs, including his own original, Don’t Say You Love Me (It’ll Ruin My Day). André is the inaugural recipient of The ASCAP Foundation “Reach Out and Touch” Award in honor of Nick Ashford. He is currently working on a book and album entitled Too Young to Die: How I Nearly Jumped Off a Bridge and the Songs That Saved My Life. He is also the Director of Worship and Arts Ministry at Glad Tidings Tabernacle in TriBeCa.
Celia Woodsmith and Della Mae
Celia Woodsmith and Della Mae, the roots singer/songwriter from New England, leads the bluegrass phenomenon, Della Mae, an all-star female band. Woodsmith formerly performed in the duo, Avi & Celia, and with the washboard rock ‘n’ roll band, Hey Mama. She has released four albums of original material spanning the gamut from folk to blues to rock ‘n’ roll.
In recent years, Woodsmith has opened for such major artists as Taj Mahal, Big Brother & the Holding Company and Leon Russell. Her powerful voice, presence and songwriting are the backbone of Della Mae. Woodsmith wrote 10 of the 12 songs on the band’s first full-length release, I Built This Heart (2011).