2020 John Lennon Scholarship Winners Announced

Published: 08.04.2020

Above: Annika Bennett, Photo by Sam Street

NEW YORK, NY ― August 4, 2020 ― The winners of the BMI Foundation’s 23rd 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 in cooperation with Gibson Musical Instruments.

The First Place prize for 2020 was awarded to Annika Bennett for her song "Sober Up" which will be released at the end of August. Allie Rohrer of Belmont University took Second Place for her song "Secrets" and New York University’s Madelyn Paquette won Third Place for “ Ready Or Not.” 

 “It's such an honor to have my song recognized by BMI, and I'm so grateful for their support and investment in young artists. Especially since the song has yet to be released, it's really encouraging to know it was well received by such a respected organization." said Bennett.

Rohrer added that, “ Winning this award is a huge honor that means more to me than I can explain. As an aspiring songwriter and artist validation from the BMI Foundation is so humbling to me. I feel so inspired and motivated to create more art to share with the world." and Paquette  expressed that "I am honored and so grateful that BMI has chosen me for this prestigious scholarship. Being selected validates years of learning and refining my craft, and reaffirms that I am on the right path as a songwriter and artist. Thank you to BMI, and to my family and mentors for their constant support and inspiration."

 Over four hundred students nationwide entered this year’s competition. The judging panel included Rich Christina, Sr. VP & Head of East Coast A&R at Sony ATV Music Publishing; Justin Kalifowitz, CEO of Downtown Music Publishing; Evan Lipschutz, SVP of A&R at Arista Records and Jake Ottmann, Sr. VP of A&R at RCA Records.


About the Winners

For Annika Bennett, songs are a space to hear ourselves out. Whether writing for herself or other artists, Annika’s songs bubble with quiet curiosity, and a willingness to put words to complicated feelings.Annika Bennett was nine years old and living just north of New York City when she started playing guitar and wrote her first song, inspired by her obsession with the Beatles. By age 11, she was leading an all-girl rock band, and by the time she graduated high school had written hundreds of songs and won multiple awards. After a brief stint at NYU, Annika moved to Nashville, penning songs with the likes of gnash, Jordy Searcy, Catie Turner, and more. Aside from pop songwriting, she found artistic growth in the Nashville DIY scene, playing house shows with a variety of indie artists. Annika learned to empower her music, not through showy performance, but a quiet insistence and invitation to listen. Her vast collection of solo-written songs fuse pop concision, country clarity, indie introspection, and the remarkably playful melodic instinct of McCartney classic rock. Annika’s debut EP “Only Emotion,” slated for release this fall, is an introduction to the scope and promise of her precise and honest song-craft.

Nashville based up and coming pop artist Allie Rohrer started writing songs when she was 11 years old. Growing up in Florida, Roar draws inspiration from memories of her childhood on the east coast, as well as her transition from adolescence to adulthood. She made the move to Music City at 18 to pursue a career in music. Roar released her first two singles “Small Town Love”, and “Secrets” in 2019, followed by her third single “Black” in 2020.

Music has always been the fuel to Madelyn Paquette's fire. Growing up in suburban Massachusetts, Madelyn discovered her love of singing as a toddler and developed a keen ear for harmony and pitch soon after. She fell in love with guitar, piano and the craft of songwriting at age ten. She won two American Songwriting Awards (ASAs) at fifteen; became a National YoungArts Foundation winner at seventeen; was a 2018 Presidential Scholar in the Arts finalist at eighteen, and in April 2020, became a winner of the 18th annual Independent Music Awards (IMAs) for her song "Broke Like Me." Madelyn describes her music as a fusion of contemporary country, pop, folk, Americana and singer-songwriter where she draws inspiration from her favorite artists Ben Rector, Maren Morris, Kelsea Ballerini, Joseph, Hunter Hayes and NEEDTOBREATHE. Reinforcing her desire for creative autonomy of her work, Madelyn adds producing and engineering to her repertoire. Madelyn performed at Miami’s New World Symphony, and has been a regular at Massachusetts venues including Boston’s Faneuil Hall Marketplace, The Precinct, the Berklee Performance Center and Café 939. Now living in New York, she looks forward to returning to loved venues such as Arlene's Grocery, The Cutting Room and Pianos to perform live shows. Currently, Madelyn attends New York University’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music in the Tisch School of the Arts where she is pursuing a BFA degree in Recorded Music.

The John Lennon Scholarships competition annually awards up to $20,000 to the three best original song submissions. More than $400,000 has been awarded over the last 20 years to students from colleges and universities throughout the United States.