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Eighty Years of Sparks


Our Founding Director, John Sparks, turns eighty in less than a year.  Eighty!  We’re celebrating this once-in-his-lifetime event with the launch of our new funding initiative:

We are planning on several events over the course of the year, launching several brand new exciting programs, and culminating in a spectacular Virtual Birthday Party for John on June 24, 2021.

A Virtual Birthday Party!

On June 24th, 2021, NMI will be hosting an all-online Virtual Birthday Party to celebrate the 80th Birthday of our Founder, John Sparks. The event will consist of performances and testimonials from musical theatre writers and performers from around the globe who have been touched by John’s luminous career.

Buy a ticket, or a pair of tickets, or an entire virtual “table”, and you will be rewarded with a fabulous event, some great perks, and the opportunity to support the new programming of our NOW! Campaign that will take this organization forward into the NEXT 80 years!

Check out the details of our new programming; and then check out the donation form that will allow you to purchase tickets to this fun event!

John Sparks

John was the founder/co-Director of the Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop, Inc. (1979-2002) and has been the Artistic Director of ANMT from 2002 to the present. He founded the Writers’ Workshop at Theatre Building Chicago in 1987 and also served TBC as Artistic Director from 1999 through 2009. Between the two workshops, John has mentored the work of over 250 writers, including Mark Hollmann, composer/lyricist of Urinetown; George Gorham and Dan Sticco, A Change in the Heir; Susan DiLallo and Ken Stone (both Kleban Award winners); and several Richard Rodgers Award winners. Nearly 400 shows written by workshop members have been produced in theatres across the country. Musicals for which John wrote the music, lyrics or book have been produced in Los Angeles and Chicago, including Buddy’s Plane Is Down; Babes In Barns, Hans Brinker, On The Brink and Wanting Miss Julie.

Help us give new voices an audience.

These extraordinary times in which we find ourselves have compelled us to look at how we can support more new voices to tell their stories in the musical theatre form. And to do it NOW.

In response to this call, NMI is in the process of launching the NOW! Campaign which is made up of several major initiatives to nurture the voices of underserved communities including veterans, writers of color, LGBTQ writers, young writers, and Deaf performers.

We’re honored to have received seed money from the California Arts Council, the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, the Jose and Helen Colton Foundation, and The National Arts and Disability Center (NADC) at UCLA…but this support has allowed us just to get started!  Now we need your help to strengthen and deepen these programs.

We hope that you will join us in supporting these new voices.

An Overview of our Programs:

Veterans’ Program.  So Proudly We Hailed, a musical webseries honoring veterans in their own words.

Mentor Program.  Paying stipends to black mentors and aspiring black voices to work together.

Youth Program.  New Voices Project.  And Scholarships to our curriculum.

Online programming.  Equipment, editors, tech crew, for our many webseries.

Deaf Program.  Innovative musical theatre working with Deaf actors.

General Operating.  Don’t want to choose? Just donate to our General Operating, and we will make sure the money gets to where it is most needed!

Veterans' Program

We are thrilled to be the recipients of grants from the California Arts Council AND the Helen and Jose Colton Foundation to develop a musical webseries honoring veterans in their own words.  Their generosity is allowing us to film the first SIX episodes of the series.  There’s an honorarium for veterans whose stories are chosen for the webseries, as well as opportunities for writers/composers who are either interested in supporting veterans, or are veterans themselves.

We’re hoping to be able to complete the first season, by developing and filming the remaining six episodes.  Each episode costs us about $5000 to develop and shoot.  Would you help us to raise $30,000 additonal dollars for this important, and moving program?

Mentor Program

The Musical Theatre Mentor program at New Musicals Inc pairs musical theatre mentors with undiscovered and underserved writers who can’t afford to enroll in programs at NMI. 

For the first wave of this program, we will be working with black mentors  and black writers.

Mentors work with writers for ten weeks, one-on-one, an hour a week, to create whatever.  Whether it’s just a song or two, or something more structured, is entirely up to the writer and the mentor to figure out.  The focus is on expression, on creating, on process, not on product.

NMI’s vision is to present whatever comes out of the Musical Theatre Mentor program in an online showcase — some combination of live performers or prerecorded-from-remote locations.

Both the mentor and the writer receive $2000 each. Can you help sponsor a mentor and/or a writer?

Deaf Actors program

We have been thrilled this season to work with Deaf actors in four very special episodes of our musical webseries, “Tales from the Darkening Wood.”  After some initial workshops with Deaf West Theatre, our Executive Director, Scott Guy, studied ASL specifically to be able to work with these actors, to explore the artform of musical theatre for the Deaf.

Now this fall, we are the recipients of a grant from California Arts Council to produce a 12-minute film featuring some of these actors, in a spooky musical fable called, “Burning the Cradle.”

We have just begun seeking funds for additional films with Deaf actors.  Would you like to help?

New Voices Project

Our New Voices Project features musical theatre of writers under the age of 26.  We conduct a national search, and reach out to hundreds of universities and colleges.  For the finalists, we offer workshops, feedback, and concert presentations.  Often we’ll invite industry professionals to join us for our feedback sessions — theatre producers and film and TV executives, who nurture the writers with supportive but constructive advice.

We also offer a limited number of scholarships for college students or very-recent grads, to our Core Curriculum.  This is your chance to sponsor a young aspiring musical theatre writer (scholarships are typically between $1000-$2000).