Composer Turns Story into Song
Perseverance is a trait ingrained in Madeline Myers.
In January the 2011 graduate of the Blair School of Music won the first Ken Davenport Songwriting Contest in New York City. The contest, sponsored by Davenport, who produced the 2013 Tony Award winner for Best Musical, Kinky Boots, served as a showcase for Broadway’s newest songwriting talents. When Myers’ song “I Could Be a Hero”—from a musical called Legends & Lore that she is writing with librettist Jacob Combs—was announced as the winner, it was thrilling, she says, but not the end of the creative process.
“We’re still learning so much about our material,” says Myers. “After the competition a lot of actors asked if they could buy the sheet music, wanting to use it in auditions. But we felt the song is still evolving, the characters are still evolving, and the song may still change.”
Legends & Lore is set in the summer of 1952, when two bored Georgia teens set off on a dangerous journey to find explorer Hernando de Soto’s gold, rumored to be hidden deep in the Appalachian Mountains. After an ASCAP reading in 2012, the musical was selected for the 2013 Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival Workshop. It received further development at the New Dramatists’ Composer–Librettist Studio in February.
“I’ve been lucky to have had several development opportunities [for Legends & Lore],” says Myers. “It’s been said you don’t write a musical; you rewrite a musical—and that’s certainly proving true for me. I’m still exploring the material, and the only way to do that is to get the show on its feet, to have people perform it in front of a live audience.”
Currently, she is working as assistant musical director for Heathers: The Musical, based on the 1980s cult film and written by Laurence O’Keefe, writer of the Tony-nominated musical Legally Blonde. Her days are spent teaching the music to the performers, working with the orchestrator, or taking notes on sound balance. Last fall she scored her first film, a documentary about Vanderbilt’s Ingram Scholars program—something she knows about firsthand, having been an Ingram Scholar herself.
“I’d never written music for a film before,” she says. “It’s a totally different dramatic art form.”
As an Ingram Scholar at Blair, she majored in composition and theory and minored in piano performance. She finds that her training at Blair serves her every day.
“In my writing I ask myself, What would [my composition professors] think about this? How would they challenge me in this moment? Or if I’ve run into a wall, how would they help me get out of this?
“It’s important to note that I’ve applied for at least 200 new development opportunities—grants, workshops, competitions,” she points out. “I’ve had my fair share of rejection letters, but I’m never discouraged. I’m disappointed, yes, but never discouraged, and maybe even more empowered as a result of not getting everything easily.
“My mantra of late has been, whether I’m accepted or rejected, just do the work,” she says. “Do the work, and I know there will be an audience.”