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

April 9, 2019

ASCAP Foundation - Songwriters: The Next Generation (l to r) Sara Sommerer, Carlos Simon, Sydney Franklin & Adam O'Farrill's Stranger Days.

NEW YORK, April, 2019 -- “Songwriters: The Next Generation,” an annual 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 concert on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage in Washington, DC. The free concerts took place in the evenings of April 10th and 11th, 2019.

The April 10th show featured original works by composer Carlos Simon and singer-songwriter Sara Sommerer, and the April 11th show featured singer-songwriter Sydney Franklin and Brooklyn-based trumpeter Adam O’Farrill. The shows 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 spotlighting contemporary composers and songwriters who also perform.

The concerts, presented by The ASCAP Foundation and made possible by the Bart Howard Estate, are part of the Kennedy Center’s free daily performance series. ASCAP member Bart Howard (1915 – 2014) was the writer of the enduring standard, “Fly Me to the Moon.”

ASCAP Foundation Executive Director, Colleen McDonough commented, “This showcase is a terrific example of what The ASCAP Foundation values – nurturing the careers of emerging songwriters and composers and providing them with opportunities to perform their original works. 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.”

Additional performer background is below, in order of each music creator’s performance:

Carlos Simon’s latest album, My Ancestor’s Gift, was released on the Navona Records label in April 2018. Described as an “overall driving force” (Review Graveyard) and featured on Apple Music’s “Albums to Watch,” My Ancestor’s Gift incorporates spoken word and historic recordings to craft a multifaceted program of musical works that are inspired as much by the past as they are the present. Simon was named as a Sundance Composer Fellow in 2018, a program that is part of the Sundance Institute and is held at the historic Skywalker Ranch in Marin County, CA. His string quartet, Elegy, honoring the lives of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner was performed at the Kennedy Center for the Mason Bates JFK Jukebox Series. With support from the US Embassy in Tokyo and US/Japan Foundation, Simon traveled with the Asia/America New Music Institute (AANMI) on a two-week tour of Japan in 2018 performing concerts in some of the most sacred temples and concert spaces in Japan including Suntory Hall in Tokyo, Japan. Simon earned his doctorate degree at the University of Michigan, where he studied with Michael Daugherty and Evan Chambers. He has also received degrees from Georgia State University and Morehouse College and studied in Baden, Austria at the Hollywood Music Workshop with Conrad Pope and at New York University’s Film Scoring Summer Workshop.

Sara Sommerer, artist and songwriter, is the 2018 winner of the ASCAP EXPO Factor competition for excellence in songwriting and performance, held at the ASCAP “I Create Music” EXPO and judged in part by Jason Mraz. Sara was born in Kansas City and is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music. You can find her music on all platforms. She thanks The ASCAP Foundation for the incredible honor to perform at “Songwriters: The Next Generation.”

Sydney Franklin is an R&B/soul singer-songwriter who released her debut EP Make It Hurt in February 2018 to widespread critical praise. The four-track EP has racked up 1M Spotify streams to date, and the title track along with the Mac Ayres duet “Forever” are currently in rotation on SiriusXM’s Heart & Soul station. Franklin’s songwriting encompasses the raw, emotional stories of a woman scorned but with a twist of female empowerment vs. the vulnerable angle often times heard in today’s pop tracks. Her five-octave vocal range has captivated audiences throughout the U.S., including a recent performance at the Xfinity x Sofar Sounds showcase (handpicked by Dinah Jane of Fifth Harmony), and opening slots for the likes of OSHUN, Priscilla Renea, Meg Mac and Bailen. Franklin made her debut appearance at the 2018 SXSW Conference & Festival, and received Honorable Mention recognition from the 2018 Unsigned Only Music Competition for “Make It Hurt,” in the Vocal Performance Category.

Adam O’Farrill, a Brooklyn-bred trumpeter, “has emerged as a rising star as a player and composer” (PopMatters). In June 2018, O’Farrill and his band, Stranger Days, released their second album, El Maquech, on Biophilia Records, which covers everything from traditional Mexican music to covers of Gabriel Garzon-Montano and Irving Berlin. The album received Best of the Year mentions from The Boston Globe, Nextbop, and placed in the NPR Jazz Critics Poll. O’Farrill received a 2016-2017 Jazz Gallery Residency Commission, for which he wrote “I’d Like My Life Back,” a song cycle about various environmental issues and the moral quandary which surfaces from them. In 2016, he was commissioned by Baltimore-based chamber duo, The Witches, to write “Overcoming” in tribute to motivational speaker Lizzie Velasquez, as part of the ensemble’s debut album, Behind the Curtain: New Music on Women.

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 initiatives. 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, Centene Charitable Foundation 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 twenty-two 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