ASCAP Members Madison Cunningham, MILCK, Alexandra James Win Songwriters Hall of Fame Prizes

May 23, 2019

The Songwriters Hall of Fame has announced three ASCAP members as recipients of the 2019 Abe Olman Scholarships for Excellence in Songwriting and The NYU Steinhardt Songwriting Scholar Award. 

Abe Olman Scholarship Recipients: Madison Cunningham & MILCK

Abe Olman, for whom this program is named, was both a major figure in the music publishing community and a songwriter himself, in addition to being one of the founders of the Songwriters Hall of Fame. The Abe Olman Scholarships, given out annually since 1990, have been made possible by his family in the interest of encouraging and supporting the careers of young songwriters.

Orange County, CA native Madison Cunningham possesses a keen understanding of songcraft that is perplexing for someone who is just 22 years old. With an ear for melody that is reminiscent of early Joni Mitchell and approach to guitar and vocals that isn’t far off from long past heroes of Jeff Buckley or Nick Drake, Madison exhibits a unique ability to keep the listener on the edge. She first picked up a guitar at age seven, and by age twelve was singing and performing alongside her five siblings in church. By the age of 15, Madison realized songwriting was a passion she wanted to pursue. It was a happenstance meeting with producer Tyler Chester (Blake Mills, Sara Watkins) six years ago that helped Madison start to develop her approach as a songwriter. Now at the age of twenty-two, Madison is a frequent guest on Chris Thile’s Live from Here and has toured with Punch Brothers, Andrew Bird and Lucius among others. She has just released the stunning For the Sake of the Rhyme EP on Verve Forecast ahead of her debut full length coming in mid-2019. Visit her at madisoncunningham.com.

LA-based singer/songwriter and artist fueled by social change, MILCK, recently released her debut EP This Is Not The End. The seven-song collection features her single “Quiet,” which in 2017 became widely known as the unofficial anthem of the Women’s March movement, after MILCK teamed up with two dozen female singers to perform a cappella flash mobs of the song on the streets in Washington, DC. A video of the last flash mob was captured by award-winning director Alma Har’el and quickly went viral, drawing over 14 million plays in just two days. MILCK released a new studio recording of “Quiet” in November as her “musical #METOO” in light of the massive movement of women and survivors speaking out against sexual assault. MILCK performed “Quiet” on The Today Show and went on to headline this year’s Women’s March on New York City on January 20, with Yoko Ono sharing the stage. “Quiet” has proved MILCK’s worldwide breakthrough, a cathartic pop anthem for people of all races, creeds, and colors who have suffered and survived in the face of trauma, trial, and tribulation. The #ICantKeepQuiet Global Community is made up of Gentle Rebels who bravely express themselves on behalf of the Misfits, the Survivors, and the Dreamers. We are dedicated to celebrating our unique voices and identities, in an effort to break the cycles of oppression and fear perpetuated by today’s state of affairs and media. Visit MILCK at milckmusic.com, and join the #ICantKeepQuiet community at icantkeepquiet.org.

NYU Steinhardt Songwriting Scholar Award recipient: Alexandra James

The NYU Steinhardt Songwriting Scholar Award is presented to music composition students whose work holds great potential for success in the field, and embodies the art, craft, individuality and qualities of communication of the best songwriting. 

Blending neo-soul and R&B, 24-year-old New York City vocalist and songwriter Alexandra James offers a fresh take on pop music, influenced by the jazz tradition. James attended the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where she earned her Bachelor's in Jazz Performance. Her original music is raw and personal, currently being honed through New York University’s graduate Program in Songwriting. James is an engaging lyricist with a compelling voice, unafraid to take on bold, sometimes controversial subject matter, which she presents with strength and self-assuredness. She delivers her thought-provoking lyrics with a resonant voice rooted in honest emotion. Raised by a single mother, James’ emphasis on the strength in and of femininity and independence within womanhood reflect an authenticity based in experience. This boldness and conviction can be heard in the recently released Ascension, her debut EP. Comprised of seven tracks ranging from a gospel-influenced a cappella piece about exploring the thin line of battling or befriending inner-demons to a victorious neo-soul anthem of self-love. Though her music reflects a multitude of genres, themes, and influences, one thing is clear: James is a tenacious and spirited artist on the rise, whose voice is only growing louder and clearer. Follow her at instagram.com/_alexandrajames_.

Find more information about all of the 2019 recipients in the Scholarship section of the songhall.org website.