Mabel Mercer Foundation board members Adela and Larry Elow created an Endowment Fund specifically to encourage teenagers to learn and perform The Great American Songbook, as composed between the years 1900-1970. Eligible participants are students attending New York City public performing arts high schools which require auditions. The singers compete for cash awards: a $2,500 first prize, a $1,500 second prize, and a $1,000 third prize. Additionally, the top prize winner will be invited to perform at the Mabel Mercer Foundation’s annual Cabaret Convention at Lincoln Center in October.

The 6th annual competition is underway via video submissions. Students interested in joining the competition should scroll this page for complete details or visit HERE. Twelve finalists will compete in a live competition on April 1, 2023 at the Laurie Beechman Theatre in New York City. The public is invited to join and discover the bourgeoning young talents of today. Tickets and information can be found HERE.


Submission Email:

NYC Public Performing Arts High School students should submit a video recording of one American Classic Standard Song from the Great American Songbook (composed between the years 1900-1970). Students are encouraged to consult school staff for guidance on song selection. The preeminent songwriters across the decades specified by the Elow Grant not only comprise but define the Great American Songbook. Among them are such notable composers and lyricists as Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin, Leonard Bernstein, Eubie Blake, Sammy Cahn, Hoagy Carmichael, Cy Coleman, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Howard Dietz, Vernon Duke, Duke Ellington, Dorothy Fields, George and Ira Gershwin, Oscar Hammerstein II, W. C. Handy, E. Y. “Yip” Harburg, Lorenz Hart, Jerry Herman, Bart Howard, Jerome Kern, Burton Lane, Carolyn Leigh, Alan Jay Lerner, Frank Loesser, Frederick Loewe, Henry Mancini, Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers,  Arthur Schwartz, Jule Styne, Stephen Sondheim, Harry Warren, Thomas “Fats” Waller, Richard Whiting, Alec Wilder, Jimmy Van Heusen, and Vincent Youmans. 

Video submissions can be made with musical accompaniment, audio track or a cappella. Please include an introduction with name, age and school, then forward the clip via email (e.g. Mac Mail Drop, Gmail Google Drive), file transfer service (e.g. WeTransfer, Dropbox), or send a link to hosted video clip (e.g. YouTube, Vimeo). Twelve finalists will be selected by the Mabel Mercer Foundation to compete for the cash prizes in a live competition on Saturday, April 1st in midtown Manhattan at the Laurie Beechman Theatre. Finalists will also be invited to a coaching session on Sunday, March 26th with MMF Education Director Natalie Douglas. The Mabel Mercer Foundation will also provide pianist Jon Weber’s accompaniment services on both coaching and competition occasions. Students are welcome to bring their own accompanist should they prefer.

FINALIST COACHING: Sunday, March 26, 2023 (tentative time 1pm-6pm)

with Natalie Douglas, MMF Education Director, pianist Jon Weber

Location: The Mabel Mercer Foundation 630 9th Ave, Suite 402 New York, NY 10036

The finalist coaching is optional but will give students a chance to work with musical expert and performer Natalie Douglas on their performance and become familiar with Jon Weber on piano. Natalie may even suggest preparing a different song than the initial video submission to better suit the student and competition.

COMEPTITION DATE: Saturday, April 1, 2023 at 2pm (12pm tech rehearsal, 1pm doors open)

Location: The Laurie Beechman Theatre 407 W 42nd New York, NY 10036 (inside West Bank Cafe)

The competition is held at The Laurie Beechman Theatre, a cabaret venue in midtown Manhattan, and is open to the public to attend. The cover charge is $10 plus a $25 food and beverage minimum per person. The cover charge will be waived for student’s families by making a reservation through the Mabel Mercer Foundation (, 212-980-3026) although the $25 per person minimum would still apply. Reservations for the general public can be made at

Students are encouraged to arrive for the 12pm tech rehearsal to familiarize themselves with the stage, lighting, sound and accompanist. The Mabel Mercer Foundation will treat the students to beverages and food once the room opens to the public at 1pm. Five independent industry judges will score the performances and the top three winners will be announced. Finalists should have their social security number handy but will only need to supply the information if they are selected for a cash prize in order to issue the check. Students will also be asked to provide their mailing address, email, and contact phone number. The prize money check can be issued at a later date if the student isn’t able to provide the necessary information on the spot. 


The Future of Cabaret virtual show: Winners from the Adela & Larry Elow High School Songbook Competition

The New York Times feature: Meet The Generation of Cabaret Showstoppers

Playbill article: $50,000 Fund to Encourage Teens to Learn the Great American Songbook

Cabaret Scenes coverage: The 5th Adela and Larry Elow American Songbook Competition

Woman Around Town: Mabel’s Babies – An American Songbook Competition

Broadway World coverage: KT Sullivan Hosts High School American Songbook Competition

Cabaret Scenes coverage: The 2nd Adela and Larry Elow American Songbook High School Competition

Nitelife Exchange article: Mabel Mercer Foundation Announces Winners of the 3rd Annual Songbook Competition

Woman Around Town coverage: The Second Annual Adela & Larry Elow American Songbook Competition

Broadway World article: Mabel Mercer Foundation Receives Fund for Teens to Learn the Great American Songbook

For more information: The Mabel Mercer Foundation (212) 980-3026