“The experience drives me to keep pushing and not give up no matter how challenging it is to rewrite a show for the 67th time. It simply re-ignites the fire and reminds me why I do what I do.”
—Justin Rayna, on hearing his work performed at the 2022 MusicalWriters Festival
Justin Rayna is a Composer, Producer, Mixing/Mastering Engineer, Drummer, Acrobat, and Educator from Johnson City, Tennessee. He is also one of the workshop presenters at our upcoming Musical Writers Festival, this July in Fort Worth, TX.
MusicalWriters sat down with Justin to see what he’s been up to since last year’s festival, and to see what he’s most looking forward to this year.
MusicalWriters: What were your main reasons for attending the festival in 2022?
Justin Rayna: To learn more about the business side of getting a show produced so I can take wise next steps with my show (Legend City), to support and represent along with my current collaborators, to network with other theatre professionals and creators to establish relationships for future collaborations, and to hear my work interpreted and performed live by fresh talent.
2022 Festival Flashbacks
MW: What sessions or moments from the 2022 Festival stand out most in your mind, a year later?
JR: I have three:
1) Hearing the audience reactions to a performance of “It’s (Never) Just Ice Cream” from my show Legend City. It really affirmed which lines and lyrics were working really well and which ones could be tweaked. Priceless.
2) Learning that the sheet music I submitted for performance was used as an example of “how to” score for musical theatre. As a perfectionist, I tend to think there’s always something that NEEDS to be fixed. It was a real confidence booster to know my work was up there at the bar.
3) Having an insightful discussion with Sam Carner (“raising the stakes” breakout session) about not only a missed opportunity in Legend City, but being given a clear direction on how to address and fix that opportunity. Extremely helpful!
MW: How did the 2022 Festival help move your show (or your career) forward?
JR: The Sam Carner discussion… helped me fill the dramatic gaps in my show in a powerful way; the book for Legend City is now the best it’s ever been, and the new song that came about due to that is one of my new favorites! It also helped me better understand the kinds of steps I need to take, such as getting “street cred” for the show as we press on.
“It’s always surreal to sit back and think “I wrote that?”, to hear the audience react to my words and melodies, or see them tappin’ their toes to the beats and rhythms, to know that something I created is reaching them where they are and affecting their lives.”
—Justin Rayna, on having work performed by Fort Worth actors at the ’22 Festival
MW: Describe your experience having your work performed at the 2022 Festival.
JR: The other part of it is all the surprises of hearing/seeing how actors and music directors interpret the work (after having years of demo-bias in your head). Most of the time it leads me to think “hey, I should write that stage direction into the book”, that’s genius. It also reminds me that theatre is such a communal activity and that I can’t do it alone, don’t (and shouldn’t) have ALL the answers about how even my own show “should” go, and that my work is meaningful not only to me, but also to the audience and to the performers.
Looking Ahead to the 2023 MusicalWriters Festival
MW: What are you most looking forward to at this year’s Musical Writers Festival?
JR: An opportunity to hear more of my work performed, even to perform something myself and share my work with others again. I’m looking forward to re-uniting with attendees from last year, finding out how their works have progressed. I’m looking forward to meeting new theatre friends, networking, learning all I can. And I’m honored to be sharing some of my expertise and knowledge about audio production to help others create demos for their shows or improve the quality of the demos they’re making.
MW: What advice would you give to someone who is attending the festival for the first time this year?
JR: Submit your music for performance! Be courageous; talk to everyone. Ask questions; get unstuck (if you are). Take notes.
Note for Festival attendees: Click HERE to submit your songs for performance at the Festival!
Just for Fun
MW: What are 3 things that will definitely be in your suitcase when you come to Fort Worth?
JR: 1) Legend City branding T-shirt [to start conversations about my musical]. 2) Notebook and writing implements for workshops and sessions. 3) Laptop with remote access to my script and songs so I can edit as I’m inspired and educated.
MW: What is one thing you WISH you could bring in your suitcase?
JR: My entire studio! Nothing is more motivating and inspiring to write new music than being surrounded by it all weekend. That, and having the talent at hand to join in the spontaneous creation.
MW: Anything else we should know?
JR: Legend City had its first semi-full production (some of the technical spectacle was trimmed) in April 2023 thanks to Morristown-Hamblen West High School’s Advanced Choir and director Kaitlyn Younger! Also, I am available and currently taking on new clients. Whether you’re needing composing for lyrics, sheet music for performers, demo songs produced for new shows, or full productions that will be radio-ready for release to all streaming platforms, I’d be honored to help you get to the next step!
For more information about the upcoming MusicalWriters Festival, visit https://festival.musicalwriters.com/