2023 Burman and Wallowitch Winners Announced!

  • Post author:
  • Reading time:9 mins read


 The Manhattan Association of Cabarets (MAC) is delighted to announce that Kevin Kelso (music) and Hillary Rollins (lyrics) are the winners of MAC’s 2023 Dottie Burman Award songwriting competition, and that Sonya Hayden (music and lyrics) is the winner of MAC’s 2023 John Wallowitch Award songwriting competition. The winners will share in the $500 award that comes with each of the two competitions.

John Wallowitch and Dottie Burman were beloved songwriters in the cabaret community. When Dottie Burman passed away, her estate bequeathed $5,000 dollars to MAC to set up a songwriting competition in her name that would award a cash prize to songwriters aged 40 and over who have not yet received recognition for their writing talents. The MAC Board passed a motion to create a matching award in John Wallowitch’s name to honor songwriters under 40, and continues to replenish the funds to be able to continue providing a cash award in each competition.

The Burman Award finalists were Diana Lawrence and Ethan Tarasov.

The Wallowitich Award finalists were Alanya Bridge and Billy Recce.

The Dottie Burman Award Committee was chaired by Kristoffer Lowe with committee members Laura Davis, Anthony Lamattina, and Jennie Litt who narrowed the entries down to the three finalists.

The John Wallowitch Award Committee was chaired by Lennie Watts with committee members Frank Dain, John Fischer, and Yasuhiko Fukuoka who also narrowed the entries down to the three finalists.

Renowned Grammy-winning songwriter Julie Gold (“From a Distance”) was the Celebrity Judge who selected the winner from the finalists for both of the awards.

Kevin Kelso

After spending 25 years as an insurance company executive, Kevin Kelso turned his life around and now spends his time writing and playing songs. He has studied songwriting with Harriet Schock and Vance Gilbert and performs frequently in venues around Los Angeles. He has written and performed four one-person shows based on his songs. The latest one, U Sing 2, is a show of all sing-along songs which premiered at the 2023 IndyFringe festival. Kevin has appeared as “house band” on over a dozen episodes of the Nobody Listens to Paula Poundstone podcast, where his songs “Captain Culpepper’s Last Stand” and “Moby Dick Book Club” have become fan favorites. He enjoys co-writing as well, especially with co-winner Hillary Rollins, whose lyrics “pull a whole different kind of music out of me.” He and lyricist Chana Wise have written a musical entitled The Food Show and are planning its debut later in 2024. While he often writes in an Americana style, Kevin follows the song wherever it leads him, be it Broadway, rock, or samba. “A lot of my songs aren’t sure whether they’re tragedy or comedy; most are a bit of both,” he says.

Hillary Rollins

Hillary Rollins is an award-winning playwright and screen writer, performer, and lyricist-librettist. She began her cabaret career in her native New York as one-third of the close-harmony vocal trio, Hilly, Lili & Lulu, appearing in clubs and intimate venues all over the city and beyond for more than a decade, while simultaneously launching her career as a writer, supplying sketches and funny songs for the Manhattan Punchline Theater and others. Eventually, she worked her way into television, including a four-season stint as a writer on the Disney Channel’s Mickey Mouse Club in the ’90s and many Nickelodeon and Nick-At-Nite projects, then she set up shop in Los Angeles to raise her daughter and focus on her own creative work. In LA she started a small production company, Hillary Rollins Presents, bringing live concert and cabaret events to both coasts featuring artists such as Amanda McBroom, Julie Gold, Michele Brourman, Ken Hirsch, Steve Dorf, John Bucchino, Cassandra Kubinsky, and Christine Lavin. She has produced several on-going performance series, including Songs from the Source and The Right to Cabaret. But of all the creative “thinking caps” she wears, her favorite is the one that says “songwriter,” and she often quotes legendary lyricist E.Y. “Yip” Harburg (Over the Rainbow) who said, “Words make you think a thought. Music makes you feel a feeling. A song makes you feel a thought.” Hillary is thrilled that her song, “While There Is Still Time,” written with composer Michele Brourman, recently won the Braver Angels Songwriting Competition and was featured at their 2023 National Convention in Gettysburg, PA, and that the Manhattan Association of Cabarets has honored her songwriting collaboration with Kevin Kelso with this year’s Dottie Burman Award.

Sonya Hayden

Sonya Hayden (she/her) is a New York-based composer, lyricist, librettist, and playwright. Her work includes the musicals Wanda Does the Water Cycle (book/music/lyrics, Lincoln Center Festival), It Ain’t Over ’Til the Bat Lady Sings, and Sing a Song of Six Pants (co-book/music, NY Public Library for the Performing Arts), Crazy But True (book/lyrics, CAIM Creative Co.), and The Luckiest Girl (book/music/lyrics, Princeton University); songs “If I Didn’t Know Better” (music/lyrics, Lotte Lenya Competition Songbook, $1,500 award), “Our Little Life” (lyrics, Urban Stages, performed by Tony nominee Karen Akers), and “Away From It All” (music, Maestra-Circle in the Square Theatre School Collab); and plays Cassie Goes to Congress (New Perspectives Theatre), There’s Always Tomorrow (Piccolo Spoleto Festival; Finalist, Tennessee Williams Festival Play Contest), Just Like Magic (Little Fish Theatre), and The Clumps (Pittsburgh New Works Festival MainStage Series). She is a member of the BMI Advanced Musical Theatre & Librettists Workshops, New Perspectives Theatre’s Full-Length Play LAB, the Dramatists Guild, ASCAP, and the NY Songwriters Alliance. She was a 2023 artist-in-residence at Marble House Project and was previously a member of the Recording Academy’s Musical Theater Mentorship Program, Maestra Music’s Mentorship Program, and the Princeton Triangle Club Writers Workshop (Award for Outstanding Writing). She is the co-director of Maestra Music’s Mentorship Program. Masters in Playwriting, University of Edinburgh; A.B. Music, Princeton University. sonyahayden.com @sonyahayden11

Julie Gold

Julie Gold is a New York songwriter best known for Bette Midler’s version of her song “From a Distance,” which won the Grammy Award for Song of the Year in 1991. That song has since received close to 5 million air plays. It has been recited into the Congressional Record (by Senator Barbara Boxer); it has been recorded internationally and translated into many languages; it has been illustrated as a Children’s Book and mass produced in Music Boxes; it has been quoted in books, calendars, and greeting cards; and was used as the wake-up call for astronauts in the Mir Space Station the very first time the Americans hooked up with the Russians in outer space. A wide range of artists have covered it, singers from Jewel to Cliff Richard to The African Children’s Choir to Judy Collins to The Byrds to Donna Summer – just to name a few. Nancy Griffith, the first to record “From a Distance,” has also covered Gold’s songs “Heaven,” “Southbound Train,” “Good Night New York,” “Mountain of Sorrow,” and “Love Is Love Is Love.” Other artists who have recorded Julie Gold songs include Patti LaBelle, Patti LuPone, Lea Salonga, Andrea Marcovicci, Carol Woods, and Kathie Lee Gifford. Gold’s Emmy-nominated lyric “We’re 4 New York” was a popular favorite that ran on the local NBC affiliate for years. Her song “Thanks to You” was featured in the motion picture Andre and her song “Dream Loud” was featured in the motion picture Unfaithful, starring Richard Gere. “Dream Loud” is a favorite song of The Girl Scouts of America. Gold delights in the fact that she was paid in Girl Scout cookies for that transaction. Gold has served on The Board of Governors for NARAS and is a guest artist for Lincoln Center’s prestigious Meet the Artist Series. She has five CDs documenting her work over the years: Dream LoudTry LoveThe Girl I FoundLove Is Love Is Love, and Sixty. Currently, she is writing songs for the Oxford University Press for a series that teaches English to elementary school children all over the world. As the daughter of an immigrant, she sees this as her most meaningful endeavor to date. She performs and gives motivational speeches around the country.

The Manhattan Association of Cabarets (MAC) was founded in 1983, primarily as an organization for cabaret owners, managers, and booking agents to meet and exchange ideas. The organization started accepting performers in 1985. MAC’s mission is to advance the art and business of live entertainment. A trade association, its activities are designed to heighten public awareness of the field’s contributions and vitality, to honor its creativity, to build its current and future audiences, and to speak out as an influential voice on behalf of MAC members and the industry at large. Members of MAC include cabaret, comedy and jazz artists, directors, musical directors, technical directors, musicians, club owners, booking managers, composers, lyricists, journalists, publicists, artists’ managers, agents, and friends and supporters of live entertainment.

Inquiries: macpressrelease@gmail.com   Visit: www.macnyc.com