18th Annual John Lennon Scholarship Winners Announced

Published: 09.22.2015

The winners of the BMI Foundation’s 18th Annual John Lennon Scholarships, a program that recognizes the nation’s best and brightest young songwriters between the ages of 17 and 24, were announced today by Samantha Cox, Vice President of the BMI Foundation and Director of the competition. The John Lennon Scholarships were established by Yoko Ono in 1997, in conjunction with the BMI Foundation, and honor the memory of one of the preeminent songwriters of the twentieth century. The program has been made possible through generous donations from Ono with matching funds from Gibson Musical Instruments.

The 2015 winners are:

Dillon Gorden - 1st place winner of $8,000 for “Carry Me Home,” age 24, studies at Lansing Community College

Naika Richard - 2nd place winner of $7,000 for “Come what may,” age 20, studies at Berklee College of Music

Khaya Cohen - 3rd place winner of $5,000 for “Sky Might Fall,” age 18, studies at New York University

Thousands of students representing schools from every state participated in the 2015 competition. The judging panel included Rich Christina, Sr. VP & Head of East Coast A&R at Sony ATV Music Publishing; Ammar Malik, BMI Songwriter of the Year; Jake Ottman, Sr. VP of Warner Chappell Music Publishing; Rich Stumpf, Founder and CEO of Atlas Music Publishing; and Katy Wolaver, A&R at SONGS Music Publishing.

Three scholarships totaling $20,000 are presented annually for the best original songs submitted to the competition. More than $380,000 has been awarded over the last 18 years to students from colleges and universities throughout the United States.

About the Winners:

Dillon Gorden

Dillon Gorden is a singer, songwriter, and producer out of Lansing, Michigan. Currently, Gorden fronts the Lansing-based indie/electronic group Lights & Caves, and attends Lansing Community College in hopes of transferring to a four-year university to earn his BA. His musical influences range from many local Michigan acts to the largest headliners of your favorite festivals. Lights & Caves recorded and released their debut EP, In Satori, in late 2013 to both critical and fan acclaim. Gorden will be heading back into the studio later this year to record the follow-up to their debut album. In the meantime, Gorden plans to continue performing with the band and spending many late nights honing in on his production and recording technique.

Naika Richard
Naika Richard

Naika Richard is a singer/songwriter born in Miami, Florida. Naika developed an interest in music from an early age while traveling internationally with her family, before returning to the United States in 2011 to pursue her creative aspirations full time. Naika currently majors in Performance and Music Business at Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music and has been selected to tour with GRAMMY-winning recording artist Michael Bolton and participate on NBC’s vocal competition series, “The Voice.” She continues to develop her vocal and songwriting technique, knowing that her purpose in life is to share her passion and soul with the world and inspire others in the beautiful and unique way only music can.

Khaya Cohen
Khaya Cohen

Khaya is a NYC-based singer, performer, songwriter, producer, and engineer. During her junior year of high school, she was featured as a top 10 finalist on FOX’s music competition series “The X Factor” and since then has been pursuing a career in music, learning from and collaborating with anyone she can. She is currently studying at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, working on a variety of musical projects. She loves being on stage, as well as participating in various aspects behind the scenes, and hopes to work in many different fields in the music industry throughout her career.

About the BMI Foundation

The BMI Foundation is a nonprofit organization founded in 1985 to encourage the creation, performance, and study of American music. The Foundation’s programs include competitive scholarships for songwriters and composers, operating grants for nonprofit arts presenters, and support for innovative music education initiatives in schools and communities across the country. Tax-deductible donations to the Foundation may be made on our donation page. For exclusive news and content, follow @bmifoundation on Twitter at and like “BMI Foundation” on Facebook at