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Oscar Hammerstein Museum and Theatre Education Center slates singing contest

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The nonprofit Oscar Hammerstein Museum and Theatre Education Center (OHMTEC) hosts the first-ever international youth solo contest centered on the lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II.

The center, which is in the midst of a nationwide fundraising campaign, is pleased to offer this opportunity for singers ages 5 to 23 to display their talents and celebrate the works of the “Father of Broadway,” who contributed lyrics to over 800 songs that continue to reverberate around the world.

The contest is the brainchild of OHMTEC board member and music educator Jaime Rogers, in response to the challenges of teaching virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As a school choir director during COVID, I am facing many challenges with how to provide meaningful performance opportunities for my choir students,” said Rogers. “Singing together live as an ensemble is on hold for the time being, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t work on our musicianship and vocal technique as individuals. The solo contest will serve as a performance opportunity for interested students.”

The solo contest is open to singers from across the globe in five categories – Elementary School, Middle School, High School, College and a local division for residents of Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

The first round of semifinalists will be determined by popular vote, followed by two more rounds of competition judged by music and theater professionals. Prizes will be awarded to winners in each category. First-place winners will receive a cash prize, have the opportunity to film their song at Highland Farm and receive a voice lesson with Broadway performers Justin Guarini (of “American Idol” fame) or Andrew Polec (Broadway’s “Bat Out of Hell”).

Oscar and his wife, Dorothy, lived with their family at Highland Farm in Doylestown, Pennsylvania for the last 20 years of his life. This is the place where he forged his legendary partnership with Richard Rodgers and that inspired many of their greatest musical works, including “The Sound of Music,” “Carousel,” “The King and I,” “Showboat,” “Oklahoma!” and “South Pacific.”

It is also the place where Hammerstein mentored a young Stephen Sondheim, and where he contributed to society by increasing awareness of social issues and the need for tolerance of diversity.

All proceeds from the contest will benefit The Oscar Hammerstein Museum and Theatre Education Center, which recently launched a three-phase fundraising campaign to support the nonprofit’s ongoing vision to secure the Highland Farm property and realize the dream of a museum and theater education center on the site of Hammerstein’s home.

Fundraising success will allow the nonprofit to secure, renovate, and preserve Highland Farm, the Hammerstein property located at 70 East Road in the heart of Doylestown, and convert the home and barn into a Museum and Theatre Education Center.

A prestigious panel of judges will evaluate the final round of solo submissions, including Joseph Ohrt, choir director for Central Bucks High School West in Doylestown; Peter Reynolds, head of musical theater, Temple University; John Simpkins, head of musical theater, Penn State University; and Ivy Walz, Interim associate dean and professor of vocal performance at Ithaca College.

Singers will be able to register for the contest beginning Nov. 1, with solos due no later than Dec. 18. Winners will be announced Feb. 1. For information, visit HammersteinMuseum.org/hammerstein-solo-contest or email jrogers.OHMTEC@gmail.com.

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