Lynn Ahrens ’70 began her musical career fresh out of college, when she became one of the principal songwriters and singers for the animated television series Schoolhouse Rock.
Since then, she has written extensively for theater, film, and television, winning theater’s triple crown: the 1998 Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle awards for the lyrics of the acclaimed Broadway musical, Ragtime. In the same year, she received two Academy Award nominations and two Golden Globe nominations for Twentieth Century Fox’s animated feature film Anastasia.
With her longtime collaborator, composer Stephen Flaherty, other credits include Once On This Island, Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life, My Favorite Year, Lucky Stiff, A Man of No Importance, Dessa Rose, The Glorious Ones, and Seussical. For the recording of Songs from Ragtime, and the original Broadway cast recordings of Ragtime and Seussical, she received three Grammy nominations.
In 1994, Ahrens embarked on a large-scale “musical spectacular” stage adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, in collaboration with composer Alan Menken and director Mike Ockrent. The show starred a series of notable Scrooges, including Frank Langella ’59, Roddy McDowell, Roger Daltry, Tim Curry, and Jim Dale. Ahrens subsequently wrote its screenplay adaptation for the NBC/ Hallmark Entertainment Special starring Kelsey Grammar.
For her extensive work in television, she has received the Emmy Award and four Emmy nominations. She also contributed songs for the IFC feature film Camp and the documentary After the Storm, among others.
Her work has been performed by such diverse artists as Aretha Franklin, Bryn Terfel, Audra McDonald, Donny Osmond and Aaliyah. The song “At the Beginning,” from Anastasia, sung by Richard Marx and Donna Lewis, went to number one, and the soundtrack from that film earned a gold record.
Her short stories and personal essays have appeared nationally in such publications as The Kenyon Review, Narrative Magazine, Calyx, Glimmer Train Stories, and Tallgrass, and have been nominated for Best American Essays and the Pushcart Anthology.
Ahrens is a member of ASCAP, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. She is a lifetime member of Council of the Dramatists Guild of America, where she co-founded the Dramatists Guild Fellows Program for emerging writers of musical theater. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, and in English from the College of Arts and Sciences. A 1999 recipient of the Arents Award, Syracuse University’s highest alumni honor, Ahrens lives in New York with her husband, Neil Costa.