Established in 1997 by Yoko Ono in conjunction with the BMI Foundation, this scholarship program honors the memory of one of the preeminent songwriters of the 20th century: John Lennon. Through the generosity of Ono and Gibson Musical Instruments, three scholarships totaling $20,000 are presented annually for the best original songs in any musical genre. Over the past twenty years, more than $400,000 in scholarships has been awarded to talented young musicians from colleges and universities throughout the United States, making this award one of the nation’s most esteemed accolades for emerging songwriters.
Please read all of the information on elegibility and guidelines as updates have been made for 2021.
In order to be eligible for the competition, all applicants must be:
- Current full-time or part-time students of a U.S. college or university. Students who have been accepted to a U.S. college or university for future enrollment are NOT eligible.
- Between the ages of 17 and 24, as of January 22, 2021.
- A U.S citizen or green-card holder.
- Former winners (other than Honorable Mention) of the John Lennon Scholarships are not eligible to enter the competition.
Note: John Lennon Scholarship entrants who are also applying for the Nashville Songwriting Scholarship must submit different songs for each contest. Dual applicants may NOT submit the same original work to both competitions and dual entries will be marked ineligiable.
Applications must be submitted online no later than January 22, 2021, 11:59pm EST. Incomplete or late applications will not be considered. Before beginning an application, please read these guidelines thoroughly:
- Applicants may submit only one song to the competition.
- The submitted work must be an original song with lyrics accompanied by whatever instrumentation is chosen by the applicant. Both lyrics and music must be original and not based on any prior work.
- The entry must be submitted as a MP3 or MP4a file, which should be named only with the title of the song. One copy of the lyrics must also be submitted as a PDF. Neither of these items may indicate the name of the applicant or their school. Applicants should retain copies of their recordings and lyrics since the Foundation will not undertake to return materials.
- In the case of a joint or co-written song:
- All co-applicants must meet all eligibility requirements.
- Such a jointly written work will be considered as a single entry.
- Should a jointly written work receive any type of award under this contest, the scholarship will be divided equally between applicants.
- Applicants for all songs must warrant that they have not assigned any rights in the submitted work to a major music publisher or major record label.
Scholarships totaling $20,000 will be available for the competition. The Foundation reserves the right to make the total number of awards, to make no award, or to award prizes totaling less than the full amount. The BMI Foundation shall have the right (but shall have no obligation) to license up to three public performances of a winning composition and authorize appropriate musical arrangements to be made for such performances. The BMI Foundation shall also have the right to post or share a recording and/or written lyrics of any winning composition on the bmi.com and bmifoundation.org websites and social media profiles and to authorize the reproduction and distribution on CD of no more than twelve (12) copies of each winning work. The BMI Foundation reserves the right to limit the total number of entries in the 2020 competition to the first 5,000 entries received. All other rights under the copyright law remain vested in the composer and lyricist.
Winners, if any, will be announced in the summer of 2021 via e-mail, in the press, and/or on bmifoundation.org.
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