Make it your magical moment


jeffrey-mcdermottCommentary by Jeff McDermott

During the week of July 22 through 26, the Michael Feinstein Great American Songbook Initiative will again proudly host the 2013 High School Vocal Academy and Competition. Ten poised and talented high school students hailing from across the country have qualified in regional competitions in 22 states to participate in a five-day “boot camp” interpreting and performing the music of the Great American Songbook. These young artists have been carefully selected from the best of the best to come to Carmel and compete.

The week will culminate July 26 at 8 p.m. at The Palladium where the finalists will each perform two songs from the genre. The winner will be crowned in front of a live audience, earning him or her the unique title of the Youth Ambassador of the Great American Songbook. Our Youth Ambassador also will receive a cash award, perform in concert with Michael Feinstein, be highlighted at next year’s Encore Gala, sing our National Anthem at an upcoming Colts game before more than 65,000 fans and much more.

Did I mention these talented young people are still just in high school? You will need to see it to believe it.

The vocal competition also helps fill an unfortunately growing void in national arts education. Why invest in the arts? Studies clearly show students who are involved in arts programs, on average, perform better academically and are more likely to volunteer in their communities. Yet, the Dept. of Education reports that only 56 percent of public high schools include music education as a requirement for graduation. Sadly, roughly 2.1 million children across the country receive no music education at all. The lack of focus for arts education and funding in our schools is a national problem. The High School Academy and Vocal Competition is one step toward the solution.

Previous winners and finalists have established impressive resumes. They have performed with Feinstein at his club in Manhattan, competed on American Idol, appeared with greats such as Marvin Hamlisch, Liza Minnelli and Marilyn Maye, and received admission to competitive performing arts programs at collegiate and professional levels. How fortunate we are that tomorrow’s stars are being discovered and their careers are being launched right here in Carmel.

Be a part of it. Last year’s competition was presented to a packed house at The Palladium with show-stopping performances from not only the finalists, but also from a star-studded panel of mentors including Feinstein, Sandi Patty, Sylvia McNair and Jim Caruso. Each of these talented and committed mentors has graciously agreed to participate again this year, along with a new mentor, Jane Monheit. The 2012 competition was a hidden gem on The Palladium’s schedule of shows. The 2013 version now is one of the premiere selections of this season’s Songbook Series, and the demand for tickets is greater than ever.

If you have not already purchased your tickets for Friday’s show, call The Palladium box office today. The competition brings together the best high school vocalists in the country who all share a great passion for the music of the Songbook. As one Songbook All-Star recently put it: “It was truly one of the most magical moments of my life.” Make it a magical moment in yours.

Jeff McDermott is Chairman of The Michael Feinstein Great American Songbook Initiative Board of Directors.

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