ZCHS will be well-represented at Songbook Academy


Lily Cross figures this is a rare opportunity, and she plans to take full advantage.

“The Songbook Academy has a great history, and the opportunity to work with the other students is a great honor,” Cross said. “I’m looking forward to learning more about the Songbook era.”

Cross, who will be a Zionsville Community High School senior in August, will be joined at the Songbook Academy by 2020 ZCHS graduates Hayden Elefante and Mahesh Gupta. They are three of 40 students selected nationally for the program, set for July 12 to 18. The intensive for young singers is typically held at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel but will be held virtually this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The weeklong music program, for high school students and 2020 graduates, will feature an interactive experience of professional vocal training, performance coaching, workshops, daily social activities and educational master classes with a  team of mentors led by five-time Grammy Award nominee and Songbook Foundation founder Michael Feinstein.

Cross said two of her Great American Songbook favorites are Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald.

“I’ve always listened to that style of music like Billie Holiday, and it’s really cool to see how they were able to put their own struggles during that time period into their art form,” Cross said.

Cross has attended the final performance of the top 10 finalists the past two years.

“I feel it’s a great opportunity to work stylistically and how to improve on more of a cabaret style from a musical theater style, which is more what I’m used to,” she said.

Cross was a member of the ZCHS mixed show choir Royalaires along with Elefante and Gupta this past school year.

ND ZCHS SONGBOOK 0623 Elefante head shot

“I would have to say that I am most excited for learning more about the art of singing and improving my craft of storytelling,” Elefante said. “Songbook Academy does a terrific job with educating these young performers regarding everything from stage presence to vocal health, preparing each singer with the tools they need to successfully lead a career within the arts.”

This is Elefante’s second time participating in the program.

“When I first heard about my acceptance in 2017, I was so shocked that I was chosen amongst a number of excellent performers who were all older than me,” Elefante said. “Being the youngest in the top 40 taught me a lot about how maturity in the voice plays a key role in success within the Songbook genre, and now that I have reached their age as a recent high school graduate, I feel that I can follow in their footsteps and tell these stories with the experiences I’ve gained these past three years.”

Elefante said although it’s disappointing that Songbook will not be in-person this year, he said the experience will be valuable.

“The mentors and guest artists Songbook brings in carry a lot of wisdom and are very capable of getting through to the singers, even if that means behind a screen,” Elefante said.

His favorite Songbook performer is Michael Bublé.

“He brings the superb songs of the Great American Songbook to a whole new generation of music lovers,” Elefante said. “I have a lot of genres of music that I enjoy, but I can always count on the Great American Songbook to tell me a feel good, yet so simplistic story.”

ND ZCHS SONGBOOK 0623 Gupta head shot

Gupta’s favorite Songbook performer is Gene Kelly.

“He tells compelling stories through his performances, and he is a talented singer and dancer,” Elefante said. “I listen to Songbook pieces often, and I also enjoy watching the movies where these songs are performed. I am most looking forward to learning more about interpreting the music from the Great American Songbook era. I am also excited to be in an environment where I can interact with other people my age who love this genre of music.

Gupta, who will major in biochemistry at Purdue University, served as Royalaires dance captain his junior and senior years.

“I’m really excited for the master classes and to learn from the incredible lineup of guest mentors,” he said.