Close

History of the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop

In 1961, veteran Broadway musical director Lehman Engel approached BMI with an innovative idea: create a place where the fundamentals of musical theatre craft could be conveyed to a new generation of theatre songwriters.

Today, more than 50 years later, the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop is the foremost training ground for new musical theatre writers, the setting where the writers of A Chorus Line, Little Shop of Horrors, Nine, Ragtime, Avenue Q, Next To Normal and The Book of Mormon, among many others, learned their craft. 

In recognition of its resounding contribution to the past half-century of musical theatre, the Workshop was awarded a special Tony Award in 2007 and a Drama Desk Award in 2006.

Writers in the First Year Class (moderated by Patrick Cook and Frederick Freyer) explore the fundamentals of writing for the musical theatre through a series of assignments, culminating in the creation of 10-minute musicals at the conclusion of the year.

The Second Year Class (moderated by Patrick Cook, Frederick Freyer and David Spencer) is dedicated to writing a complete musical, emphasizing the content and placement of songs and the use of music and lyrics to convey and develop characters. At the end of the Second Year, participants present excerpts from their work and a limited number are invited to continue in the Advanced Class.

The Advanced Class is an ongoing class of talented graduates of the first two years and seasoned professionals. Moderators include Lynn Ahrens, Robert Lopez, Richard Maltby and Maury Yeston.

A separate Librettists Workshop focuses on crafting the scripts of musicals and works closely with the First Year, Second Year and Advanced Classes. Veteran Broadway literary manager and dramaturg Nancy Golladay serves as Librettists Workshop moderator.

BMI fully funds the Musical Theatre Workshop and provides it free of charge to admitted participants. Writers are not required to be affiliated with BMI.