He grew up in Hawthorn Woods. Now, he's writing hits for Justin Bieber, Britney Spears.

  • Songwriter Justin Tranter, who grew up in Hawthorn Woods, will be honored at the Chicago Academy for the Arts' gala on Saturday.

    Songwriter Justin Tranter, who grew up in Hawthorn Woods, will be honored at the Chicago Academy for the Arts' gala on Saturday. Associated Press, 2018

  • Singer Justin Bieber is among the artists who have worked with Justin Tranter. The former Hawthorn Woods resident co-wrote Bieber's hit "Sorry."

    Singer Justin Bieber is among the artists who have worked with Justin Tranter. The former Hawthorn Woods resident co-wrote Bieber's hit "Sorry." Associated Press, 2016

  • Former Hawthorn Woods resident Justin Tranter has co-written songs for pop star Selena Gomez, including her hit "Good for You."

    Former Hawthorn Woods resident Justin Tranter has co-written songs for pop star Selena Gomez, including her hit "Good for You." Associated Press, 2017

  • DNCE worked with top pop songwriter and former Hawthorn Woods resident Justin Tranter on the hit "Cake by the Ocean."

    DNCE worked with top pop songwriter and former Hawthorn Woods resident Justin Tranter on the hit "Cake by the Ocean." Associated Press, 2017

  • Justin Tranter, pictured here at the Grammy Awards in 2018, is a former Hawthorn Woods resident and one of the hottest songwriters in the country. Tranter will be honored at the Chicago Academy for the Arts' gala on Saturday.

    Justin Tranter, pictured here at the Grammy Awards in 2018, is a former Hawthorn Woods resident and one of the hottest songwriters in the country. Tranter will be honored at the Chicago Academy for the Arts' gala on Saturday. Associated Press, 2018

  • Gwen Stefani worked with former Hawthorn Woods resident Justin Tranter on several songs over the past several years.

    Gwen Stefani worked with former Hawthorn Woods resident Justin Tranter on several songs over the past several years. Associated Press, 2019

  • Shakira is among the artists who have worked with hit songwriter Justin Tranter, who grew up in Hawthorn Woods.

    Shakira is among the artists who have worked with hit songwriter Justin Tranter, who grew up in Hawthorn Woods. Associated Press, 2018

  • Adam Levine of Maroon 5, shown here performing during halftime of Super Bowl 53, has worked with songwriter Justin Tranter, who grew up in Hawthorn Woods.

    Adam Levine of Maroon 5, shown here performing during halftime of Super Bowl 53, has worked with songwriter Justin Tranter, who grew up in Hawthorn Woods. Associated Press, 2019

 
 
Updated 5/16/2019 10:31 AM

Former Hawthorn Woods resident Justin Tranter most often can be found in a Los Angeles studio crafting hits with singers including Gwen Stefani, Adam Levine, Shakira and Britney Spears. But a Chicago school fostered his creative talent, and now it has a studio just like his.

Tranter, who was named Songwriter of the Year at the 2018 BMI Pop Music Awards and has been nominated for Golden Globe and Grammy awards, donated a new recording studio to the Chicago Academy for the Arts. The studio provides students with a space to write, record and produce music.

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"I wanted to make sure the students there have a chance to be inspired to create and to learn the skills of modern music-making," said Tranter, 38. "So while they're chasing their dreams to be the biggest rock star in the world, they can also learn a very, very employable skill of being a producer or engineer."

In recognition of his donation, as well as his accomplishments as a songwriter whose credits include the Justin Bieber hit "Sorry," Tranter is being honored at the academy's Arts Matter Gala on Saturday.

"It feels unbelievable to be honored. This school was beyond important to me," Tranter said. "It not only changed my life, but it saved my life."

Tranter said he was bullied for being gay and feminine throughout his childhood in Lake Zurich schools. The bullying got worse during the first semester he spent at Lake Zurich High School in 1994.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"It became physical and very dangerous," Tranter said. "The teachers and administrators would blame me; they would say maybe you should think about why kids are harming you."

Tranter said he would like to say that the situation has improved for gay kids in public schools in the last 25 years, but it depends on where they live.

"GLAAD just did a study that we are drastically losing acceptance among young people," said Tranter, a GLAAD board member. "I think there is a lot of work to do to make sure things are better. We're still nowhere close to 100 percent acceptance."

Tranter, who performed in the glam-punk band Semi Precious Weapons, began writing songs about six years ago. He has written or co-written a number of hits, including DNCE's "Cake by the Ocean," Fall Out Boy's "Centuries" and Selena Gomez's "Good for You."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Tranter remains heavily in demand, with 92 songs since the beginning of 2017. Among those are the stadium anthem "Believer" by Imagine Dragons, the funky "Make Me Feel" by Janelle Mone and a song for the James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez film "Alita: Battle Angel" called "Swan Song."

When Tranter was at the academy back in high school, he started an AIDS benefit show to raise money for local charities. It's still going strong, and Tranter credits the academy for letting him start the event and for helping it continue.

"It's amazing, and that's the thing that I'm most proud of," he said. "And now having the recording studio there is the second thing I'm most proud of."

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