The ASCAP Foundation “Songwriters: The Next Generation” Showcases ASCAP Artists at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

March 22, 2018

NEW YORK, March 21, 2018 -- “Songwriters: The Next Generation,” a program of The ASCAP Foundation and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, showcased the work of emerging ASCAP songwriters and composers in free concerts on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage in Washington, DC. Concerts took place on Wednesday, April 4 and Friday, April 6, 2018.

On April 4, the two headliners who performed their original works were Nashville-based singer/songwriter Annika Bennett and baritone saxophonist, Benjamin Barson with the Afro Yaqui Music Collective.

On April 6, the shows featured original works by singer/songwriter Victoria Canal and New York-based composer and pianist Will Healy, who performed with his group, ShoutHouse.

The concerts took place from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. each evening and were webcast live and archived for future viewing at

“Songwriters: The Next Generation” was conceived by pianist, educator, composer and ASCAP Foundation board member Dr. Billy Taylor, who also served as Artistic Director for Jazz at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts from 1994 until he passed away in 2010. Throughout his life, Dr. Taylor stressed the importance of showcasing contemporary composers and songwriters who also perform.

Presented by The ASCAP Foundation and made possible by the Bart Howard Estate, “Songwriters: The Next Generation” is part of the Kennedy Center’s free daily performance series. ASCAP member Bart Howard (1915 – 2004) was the writer of the enduring standard, “Fly Me to the Moon.”

ASCAP Foundation Executive Director, Colleen McDonough commented that “this talent showcase is a terrific example of what The ASCAP Foundation stands for – nurturing the careers of emerging songwriters and composers and providing them with opportunities to perform their original work. We are so pleased to partner once again with The Kennedy Center on this initiative, which gives enormous visibility, encouragement and support to our young talented music creators.”

The Kennedy Center is located at 2700 F Street, NW in Washington, DC. Additional performer background is below:

Wednesday, April 4th

Annika Bennett has been a songbird from day one. She was inspired to write her first song at age nine and hasn’t stopped since. Her music captures a unique blend of pop melodies with introspective, thought-provoking lyrics. At twenty years of age, she's already written a few hundred songs and received multiple awards including The ASCAP Foundation Robert Allen Award for excellence in songwriting, WNYC’s Battle of the Boroughs Queens champion, The Folk Alliance International Executive Director's Choice Artist and Falcon Ridge Folk Festival’s #1 Emerging Artist. In 2016, after studying pop music production for one year at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music on a scholarship, Annika moved to Nashville to work as a developing artist with Sony Records. She currently spends her time traveling between New York and Nashville, recording, playing shows and writing songs every step of the way.

Benjamin Barson is a composer, baritone saxophonist, historian and political activist born in Brooklyn, NY. He was mentored by Fred Ho in baritone saxophone technique and composition, and partnered with him to produce several mixed media projects just shortly before Ho’s passing in April 2014. In 2017 Ben was the recipient of The ASCAP Foundation Fred Ho Award. Ben and his wife Gizelxanth Rodriguez run the Afro Yaqui Music Collective, an ensemble combining Ho’s Afro-Asian political and music influences with the music of the Yaqui of northern Mexico. Ben is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Pittsburgh’s Jazz Studies program, where he carries out investigative research supporting Fred Ho’s assertion that the music of the African diaspora has been a social force for the liberation of oppressed people across the world. In 2018 Ben was the recipient of an ASCAP Foundation Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award and also received the top prize in that competition, The ASCAP Foundation Johnny Mandel Prize.

Friday, April 6th

Victoria Canal is a Spanish-American, pop-soul singer/songwriter. A U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts in 2015, Victoria's independently-released soulful debut EP Into the Pull has garnered over four million plays on Spotify and has been praised by the likes of Alessia Cara, Nataly Dawn of Pomplamoose and Gabrielle Aplin as well as having charted at #6 on Billboard's "Next Big Sound." At just nineteen, she has already toured the UK and the U.S. and performed in various venues worldwide. In 2017, she signed with Instrumental, a sublabel of Warner to enter production of her debut full-length album. Victoria received The ASCAP Foundation “Reach Out and Touch” Award in honor of Nick Ashford in 2017. She is currently enrolled at NYU Tisch as a college freshman, studying music production.

Will Healy is a composer and pianist based in New York. Noted for his "lushly bluesy" sound and "adroitly blended... textures" (New York Times), he is the artistic director of ShoutHouse, an ensemble of 14 hip-hop, jazz and classical musicians. After playing trumpet in an Afrobeat band for a few years, he grew interested in collaborating with performers from many corners of the New York music scene. In addition, he is an accomplished pianist specializing in Bach. Recent awards include a 2017 Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, an ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Award, the W.K. Rose Fellowship, a JFund commission from the American Composers Forum and prizes in the Juilliard and Kaleidoscope Orchestra Composition Competitions. Healy’s work has been performed at The Apollo Theater, the NY Philharmonic’s Biennial series, the Aspen Music Festival, on "New Sounds" with John Schaefer (WNYC) and "Making Music" (WBAI) and more. He was the recipient of the Richard Rodgers Scholarship at The Juilliard School, where he studied with John Corigliano.

About The ASCAP Foundation
Founded in 1975, the ASCAP Foundation is a public charity dedicated to supporting American Music creators and encouraging their development through music education and talent development programs. Included in these are songwriting workshops, grants, scholarships, awards, recognition and community outreach programs for songwriters, composers and lyricists. The ASCAP Foundation is supported by contributions by ASCAP members and from music lovers throughout the United States,

About the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage
The Kennedy Center is the only U.S. institution that presents a free performance 365 days a year. Created in 1997 and underwritten by James A. Johnson and Maxine Isaacs, the Millennium Stage features a broad spectrum of performing arts each day at 6 p.m. Brought to the public by Target Stores and The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation, the Millennium Stage helps fulfill the Center’s mission of making the performing arts accessible to everyone. In the past nineteen years, more than three million visitors have enjoyed more than 7,000 groups. Through intentionally identifying artistic partners regionally, nationally and internationally, performances reflect the breadth and depth of culture in society, exploring styles including jazz, ballet, storytelling, popular music, Hip Hop, contemporary dance, opera, choral music, tap dance, theater, chamber music, symphonic music, puppetry, stand-up comedy and cabaret. Of the many performers that have appeared on the Millennium Stage, approximately 25,000 have been Washington-area artists and more than 6,000 have been international performing artists representing more than fifty countries. The Millennium Stage has also hosted artists representing all fifty states, and has presented more than 15,000 artists in their Kennedy Center debuts. Since 1999, each night’s performance has been broadcast live over the internet, and more than 4,430 of these performances have been digitally archived on the Kennedy Center’s website,

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Cathy Halgas Nevins, ASCAP