22nd Annual John Lennon Scholarship Winners Announced

Published: 07.23.2019
Ele Ivory
Leyla Blue
Katie Cunningham

NEW YORK, NY ― July 23rd, 2018 ― The winners of the BMI Foundation’s 22nd 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.

Tying for First Place this year are New York University student Leyla Blue and Lipscomb University’s Ele Ivory for their songs “Don’t Let Me” (co-written with Jasper Harris) and “LaZyboys” respectively, marking the first time in the competition’s history there was a tie for the top prize. The Second Place award was presented to NYU student Katie Cunningham for her song “Drifting Away.” 

 “Winning the John Lennon Scholarship is a huge honor for my cowriter Jasper Harris and me. As a songwriter, you work hard with little validation for a long time, and moments like this are the ones that keep you going. It’s extremely heartwarming to receive this kind of love and support from such a renowned organization” said Blue. Ivory added that, “Hearing the news from Samantha made my YEAR. I feel honored to receive this recognition from BMI and I am so incredibly thankful to everyone who believes in the song.”

 Second Place prize winner Cunningham also expressed her enthusiasm explaining that, “As a creative person who continually doubts themselves, it means more than words can say to win this award. Songwriting is like sending a message in a bottle into a void as a job. Knowing that people not only enjoyed something you created but think highly enough of it to recognize it publicly, it's an extremely validating thing. I am honored to be chosen, it truly means the world. I am excited to be included in this year's group of recipients and to keep writing and learning.”

 Over three 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;; Jake Ottmann, Sr. VP of A&R at RCA Records; and David Silberstein, Manager and Mega House Music Co-Founder.

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.

About the Winners

Leyla Blue is an NYC-native, who blends her Amy Winehouse-inspired personal lyricism and soulful voice with a minimalist take on the 2000s-pop/R&B sound she grew up worshipping. Leyla signed with Island Records in April 2019 and the first single from her debut EP “Songs for Boys That Didn’t Text Me Back” is set to be released September 2019.

 Ele Ivory is a Nashville based indie artist/songwriter. After receiving encouragement from her piano instructor, Ele began writing songs at 11 years old. She is a junior in the Commercial Music program at Lipscomb University. Before attending Lipscomb, she was featured on Season 15 of NBC's THE VOICE as a Comeback Artist with Coach Kelsea Ballerini. While in school, Ele consistently plays shows in the Nashville area and plans to release “LaZyboys”, among other singles, in the upcoming months.

Katie Cunningham is a 20-year-old singer-songwriter from all over the place. Born in DC, raised in Denver, Colorado, relocated to Los Angeles, and, now, situated in New York City, Katie draws on a variety of inspiration from RnB, NeoSoul, Jazz, and Folk music. Attending NYU's Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, she expanded her musical breadth of knowledge, collaborating with her peers and learning more about production.