The 2017 ASCAP Foundation Honors were held at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall in New York City tonight.
Jason Ma, who created the book, music, lyrics and orchestrations for the musical Gold Mountain, an epic love story set against the backdrop of the 1860s construction of The Central Pacific Railroad, received The 2017 ASCAP Foundation Cole Porter Award. The ASCAP Foundation also honored jazz legend Dee Dee Bridgewater with The ASCAP Foundation Champion Award, and acclaimed Broadway composers/lyricists/librettists David Hein and Irene Sankoff with the Richard Rodgers New Horizons Award.
A complete list of 2017 ASCAP Foundation Scholarship and Award recipients can be found here.
Past recipients of the Cole Porter Award, presented annually to an emerging composer/lyricist “whose work shows promise,” include Brett Ryback, Sam Willmott and Peter Mills.
Ma’s musical Gold Mountain was presented at the 2016 ASCAP/DreamWorks Musical Theatre Workshop in Los Angeles.
In late October, PHANTOM OF THE OPERA star Ali Ewoldt and Jonny Lee, Jr. starred in a glorious sold out concert of Gold Mountain at TheTimesCenter, directed by Alan Muraoka and produced by National Asian Artists Project in partnership with Prospect Theater Company as a part of Prospect’s IGNITE series. Gold Mountain is a love story set against the epic backdrop of a pivotal event in America’s history, the construction of the first transcontinental railroad, and celebrates the striving immigrant spirit, the redemptive power of love and the ultimate nobility of self-sacrifice. www.goldmountainthemusical.com
The cast also included Alan Ariano, Lawrence-Michael Arias, Eric Badique, Eric Bondoc,Tyler Bunch, Marc de la Cruz, Dan Edwards, Steven Eng, Alex Hsu, Brian Kim, Daniel May, and members of the NAAP Broadway Community Chorus: Ben Bartels, Eric Elizaga, David Eng, Alphonse Gonzales, Andrew Sakaguchi, and Viet Vo.
GOLD MOUNTAIN featured choreography by Billy Bustamante, music direction by Kristen Lee Rosenfeld, with Todd Low on erhu and viola, Steven Lyon on dizi, flute, and piccolo, and Leigh Stuart on cello. The concert was line produced by Julie L. Miller.
I had the opportunity to photograph several rehearsals, tech, the performance and the afterparty. Below is my conversation with Jason.
Lia: How has The Ascap Foundation made a difference in your life and career?
Jason: The ASCAP Foundation put Gold Mountain front and center before a panel of some of the most respected and successful writers in the business during the 2016 ASCAP/DreamWorks Musical Theatre Workshop, led by Stephen Schwartz. The feedback from these folks was so encouraging and practical, and I was able to apply all their good information in the continued work on the piece afterward. Inclusion in the workshop opened many doors for me. The ASCAP stamp of approval worked wonders and resulted in a number of opportunities for growth and visibility.
Lia: What does it mean to you to receive The 2017 ASCAP Foundation Cole Porter Award?
Jason: It means that the American dream is alive and well. My father came into the country with forged papers while the Chinese Exclusion Act was federal law. For the son of an illegal immigrant to be given an award named after Cole Porter is probably the most awesome sign to me that all things are still possible, even in this day and age.
Lia: What inspired you to create Gold Mountain?
Jason: I’m still figuring this one out. I was in the middle of a performance backstage during a long run of a show when I started picturing and hearing a Chinese man and woman on a hillside in America sharing their memories of home with each other. I asked myself, “Who are they and how did they get there?” and then the writing started. In the ensuing years since then, I’ve tried to figure out where that initial creative impulse came from. Perhaps it was an attempt to fill in a gap in the musical theater canon — a story written about a community which is not often included in our culture and stories, and an opportunity to see the world and our country’s history through a different, but universal, lens of human experience.
Lia: What did it feel like to experience the concert of Gold Mountain in New York?
Jason: It felt like this:
I had this lovely corner in the back of the house all to myself, where I had a view of the entire audience. To watch them experience this story and see how invested they were in the lives of the people onstage was an experience of a lifetime for me. I’m still reeling from it.
Gold Mountain was also selected for development by Apples & Oranges Studios for their 2017 THEatre ACCELERATOR, presented as a staged reading for San Francisco LaborFest 2016 at The Aurora Theatre, and received a 2017 eStudio grant for a workshop at The Masie Center this past summer.
Jason Ma has provided theater music for The Old Globe, Ma-Yi Theater Company, Leviathan Lab, and Ugly Rhino, and is the composer and co-lyricist for the full-length musical Barcelona, written with Christine Toy Johnson (book/co-lyricist). He is also an actor who has appeared in a number of productions on Broadway, as well as numerous regional, international and Off-Broadway productions.
About The ASCAP Foundation
Founded in 1975, The ASCAP Foundation is a charitable organization dedicated to supporting American music creators and encouraging their development through music education, talent development and humanitarian programs. Included in these are songwriting workshops, grants, scholarships, awards, recognition and community outreach programs. The ASCAP Foundation is supported by contributions from ASCAP members and from music lovers throughout the United States.
National Asian Artists Project and Prospect Theater Company Present a Concert Performance of Jason Ma’s GOLD MOUNTAIN Featuring Ali Ewoldt, Jonny Lee, Jr., Alan Ariano, and More at The TimesCenter on October 21
Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.
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