Forty of the nation’s top high school vocalists, including three from Zionsville Community High School and two from Carmel High School, have been selected to participate in the 2020 Songbook Academy summer intensive, a week of personal instruction and mentoring from arts and entertainment professionals presented each year by the Great American Songbook Foundation.
The three from ZCHS are Hayden Elefante, Lily Cross and Mahesh Gupta. The two from CHS are Emily Chrzanowski and Cara Nowlin.
Emily Legg, Fishers High School, and Leah Spurlock, Noblesville High School, also were selected. Others selected include Annie Flowers, Park Tudor School, and four from Avon High School: Jonathan Grimes, Alexa Margolius, Samantha Shelton and Camden Zetty.
Now in its 11th year, the Songbook Academy is the only youth music intensive focused on standards from the worlds of jazz, Broadway, Hollywood and Tin Pan Alley. Typically offered on-site at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, where the Songbook Foundation is headquartered, the program is shifting to an online format this year in response to the logistical and safety issues posed by the ongoing pandemic.
Still, during the week of July 12-18, the 40 finalists will take part in an interactive experience of professional vocal training, performance coaching, workshops, daily social activities and educational masterclasses with a star-studded team of mentors led by five-time Grammy Award nominee and Songbook Foundation Founder Michael Feinstein.
“While we are saddened we can’t gather on campus this year, we are guided by our first priority: ensuring the safety and well-being of our students, faculty, staff, volunteers, guests and the entire Songbook Academy community,” stated Christopher Lewis, executive director of the Great American Songbook Foundation. “Fortunately, our staff and teaching faculty have been working proactively since mid-March to develop a plan that preserves the quality, the camaraderie and the personalized nature of the experience.”
In addition to Feinstein and the vocal coaches and music directors who will work with the finalists, this year’s guest mentors will include: pianist and arranger Scott Bradlee, founder of the genre-blending Postmodern Jukebox video series and touring production; Tony and Grammy Award-nominated actress Ashley Park, whose Broadway work includes “Mean Girls,” “Grand Horizons,” “The King and I” and “Sunday in the Park with George”; actor and singer Faith Prince, a multiple Tony Award nominee and Best Actress winner for her role in “Guys and Dolls”; nine-time Grammy winner and 17-time Grammy nominee Janis Siegel of The Manhattan Transfer. Other names will be announced soon.
Although current health guidelines prohibit the customary schedule of in-person, public performances during Academy Week, many of the educational sessions will be available for live public viewing on Facebook and YouTube. The week will culminate July 18 in an all-day performance showcase hosted by Feinstein and streamed online for families, friends and the public to enjoy. More information and a schedule of events are available at TheSongbook.org/SongbookAcademyOnline.
After completing the program, each year’s participants are welcomed into the Songbook Academy Alumni Network to maintain their connections and stay informed about college programs, auditions and performance opportunities. Notable alumni include Maddie Baillio (2014), who starred as Tracy Turnblad in NBC’s “Hairspray Live!” and appeared in the 2018 Netflix comedy feature “Dumplin’” and Melinda Rodriguez (2013), who won the 2019 Ella Fitzgerald Jazz Vocal Competition and recently appeared on Season 17 of NBC’s “The Voice.”
This year’s application process drew entries from hundreds of students representing 28 states, all of whom have received personal feedback on their audition videos. The Top 40 finalists selected by the admissions panel hail from 16 states.