Puneet Varma (Editor)

Great American Songbook Foundation

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Formation  2007
Location  Carmel, Indiana
Founder  Michael Feinstein
Great American Songbook Foundation
Type  Non-profit organization
Purpose  The Great American Songbook Foundation preserves, promotes, and perpetuates the music of the Great American Songbook.
Headquarters  The Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts

The Great American Songbook Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the music of the Great American Songbook. Located on the campus of the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, Indiana, the Songbook Foundation's administrative offices are located on the Gallery level of the Palladium, a 1600-seat concert hall that opened in January 2011. The organization was previously known as the Michael Feinstein Foundation for the Education and Preservation of the Great American Songbook and the Michael Feinstein Great American Songbook Initiative; in July 2014, the organization's board of directors voted to change its name to the Great American Songbook Foundation.


History and operation

Michael Feinstein's lifetime interest in, and immense knowledge of, the music of the Great American Songbook led him to found the organization in 2007. Upon Feinstein's appointment as Artistic Director of the Center for the Performing Arts in 2009, the organization committed to locating its headquarters and archives on the Center's campus in Carmel, Indiana.

The Great American Songbook Foundation's administrative headquarters houses a reference library, study and listening rooms for researchers, archival storage space, and the Songbook Exhibit Gallery, an exhibit space featuring rotating interactive presentations about the music, its creators and the performers of the Great American Songbook. The long-term goal of the Great American Songbook Foundation is to construct a free-standing museum on the campus of the Center with additional exhibit, instructional, and programming space.

The Great American Songbook Foundation is staffed by four full-time employees. They are assisted by a volunteer group of docents who serve as guides for the Songbook Exhibit Gallery and a team of collections assistants who assist the archivist with the Songbook Foundation's ongoing preservation efforts. The Songbook Foundation's national board of directors currently has twenty-two members.

Education and outreach

The Great American Songbook Foundation offers a variety of programs about the history and significance of the Great American Songbook that are accessible to the public and appeal to music enthusiasts of all ages.

The Songbook Exhibit Gallery features rotating exhibits and welcomes over 3500 visitors each year. These rotating exhibits provide guests with a view of the Songbook that is both educational and entertaining, and helps them to place the music of this era in context with the significant events and major cultural shifts that occurred in the United States during the twentieth century. The Songbook Foundation offers corresponding educational programs and guided tours for school groups, civic and professional organizations, and members of the general public. The Songbook Gallery is open Monday through Friday from 10:00am to 4:00pm, and one hour before all Jazz and Songbook Series performances at the Palladium.

Since 2011, the Songbook Foundation has presented the following exhibits: "The Great American Songbook" (2011), "G.I. Jive: The Music and Entertainers of World War II" (2012), "Blast from the Past: Roaring Hot '20s Jazz" (2013), "A Change Is Gonna Come: 1960s Broadway Musicals" (2014), "Gus Kahn: The Man Behind the Music" (2015), and "The Great Indiana Songbook: Two Centuries of Hoosier Music" (2016). The exhibit now on display is "Ella Sings the Songbook", celebrating Ella Fitzgerald's 100th birthday and commemorating her more than fifty-year career, much of which was spent performing music from the Great American Songbook. In particular, the exhibit highlights the series of eight albums of Songbook music sung by Ella under the direction of Norman Granz and issued by Verve Records.

These exhibits focus on different time periods, styles, and artists. In addition to the interactive display which houses clips and short biographies of over four decades of singers and songwriters, artifacts from the Songbook Archives that relate to the music and musicians being highlighted in the Songbook Gallery exhibits are displayed.

In 2014, the Great American Songbook Foundation partnered with four other institutions to form the Exhibit Alliance, a group of organizations that presented concurrent exhibits on the 1960s. The Exhibit Alliance continues to grow and now includes the Great American Songbook Foundation, the Indiana Historical Society, the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, the Indianapolis Public Library, the Carmel-Clay Historical Society and the Carmel-Clay Public Library.

Songbook Academy

The Songbook Academy, formerly known as the High School Vocal Academy and Competition, originated in 2009 and is held annually in July. The program is "the only vocal competition based solely on music from Broadway, Hollywood musicals and the Tin Pan Alley era." Over the past several years, the scope and visibility of the program has grown significantly. The competition initially involved only Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio; Iowa and Wisconsin were added the following year. In 2011, Chris Lewis, an educator and musician, joined as director, and four additional states were added. In 2013, the number of states doubled to twenty-two. The Songbook Academy continued expanding its national reach in 2014 with the addition of nine states, for a total of thirty-one states and six regional competition events.

Following the 2014 Songbook Academy, the regional component of the audition process was eliminated; in 2015, forty young singers were invited to Carmel for the Songbook Academy week (previously, only the top two winners from each region were invited). Judges and mentors for 2015 included program founder Michael Feinstein, broadway actress and singer Laura Osnes, and internationally renowned soprano Sylvia McNair. In past years, prominent Songbook interpreters including Sandi Patty, Jane Monheit, and Jim Caruso have served as mentors for the program. The Songbook Academy accepts applications from high school students in all forty-eight contiguous states. The week culminates in a mainstage performance at the Palladium where three participants receive the following awards: the Songbook Inspiration Award, the Songbook Celebration Award, and the title of Great American Songbook Youth Ambassador.

Recent Songbook Academy finalists have performed in major venues in Las Vegas, Pasadena, New York City, Costa Mesa, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and with Michael Feinstein in his appearances throughout the nation. Julia Goodwin, the winner in 2013, was featured with Darren Criss, Kelli O'Hara, and Aaron Tveit on Feinstein's New Years Eve at the Rainbow Room special, which was nationally broadcast on PBS in 2014. In September 2015, Nick Ziobro, Julia Goodwin, Maddie Baillio, and Lucas DeBard performed with the American Pops Orchestra on the Millennium Stage at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. These singers also joined Feinstein onstage at New York City's Carnegie Hall in February 2016. In June 2016, Maddie Baillio was cast as Tracy Turnblad in NBC's production of Hairspray Live!. On July 23, 2016, seventeen year old Brighton Thomas of Burbank, California was named the 2016 Songbook Youth Ambassador at the conclusion of the Songbook Academy Finals, which is held annually at the Palladium in Carmel, Indiana.

Great American Songbook Youth Ambassadors:

  • 2009: Julia Bonnett
  • 2010: Annie Yokom
  • 2011: Event on hiatus
  • 2012: Nick Ziobro
  • 2013: Julia Goodwin
  • 2014: Madelyn Baillio
  • 2015: Lucas DeBard
  • 2016: Brighton Thomas
  • Songbook Hall of Fame

    The Great American Songbook Hall of Fame is a tribute to people who have contributed to the genre, memorializing composers, performers, and lyricists who have added to the history of the Songbook. Artists are nominated and selected based on the following criteria:

  • Artists who made a significant contribution to the Golden Age of American popular music, typically defined as the period from the early years of the Twentieth century through the 1960s;
  • Living songwriters, both lyricists and composers, who have made a significant impact on American pop culture by creating the most beloved songs from the American popular songbook; and
  • Artists, songwriters and/or performers who continues to create the soundtrack of our lives by writing and/or performing music that will become the pop standards of tomorrow."
  • Each year, the Center for the Performing Arts hosts the Songbook Celebration Gala, a black-tie event that celebrates the lives and careers of the artists who have been selected for induction into the Great American Songbook Hall of Fame. Nominees (or their representatives, in the case of posthumous award winners) are invited to Carmel where they are honored with tribute performances celebrating their achievements. Tribute performers at past Songbook Celebration Gala events include Jimmy Smits, Andrea McArdle, Jessica Sanchez, Laura Osnes, Karen Ziemba and others.

    Great American Songbook Hall of Fame Inductees include Alan & Marilyn Bergman, Barry Manilow, and Cole Porter (2012); Liza Minnelli, Rita Moreno, Frank Sinatra, and Jimmy Webb (2013); Nat King Cole, Shirley Jones, Johnny Mathis, and Linda Ronstadt (2014); and George & Ira Gershwin, Chita Rivera, and Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gormé (2015). The 2016 class, consisting of Hoagy Carmichael, Diahann Carroll, and Dionne Warwick, was inducted into the Songbook Hall of Fame on Saturday, October 15th at the annual Songbook Celebration Gala and Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.

    Perfect Harmony Music Program

    Founded in 2015, the Foundation's Perfect Harmony program offers music experiences to people with Alzheimer's, dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases. This new program was launched in collaboration with the Greater Indiana Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.

    Music can enliven the brain and bring joy to people of all abilities, even those with memory problems. The healing power of music is becoming increasingly apparent in numerous studies, as well as in varied practical applications. A comprehensive article in the March/April 2015 issue of Scientific American Mind, "The Healing Power of Music," describes the results of research, along with specific examples of music's impact on the brain. The greatest benefits from music therapy– cognitive, emotional and social– come from intentional engagement with music.

    Songbook Film Series

    The Great American Songbook Foundation partners with Heartland Film and the Center for the Performing Arts to present classic movie musicals to the public, cultivating a new generation of movie lovers. Some screenings include guest speakers, who enlighten audiences on the nature and creation of the movies to be shown. The Songbook Film Series is on hiatus in 2015-2016.

    Archives, library, and preservation

    The Songbook Archives serves as a repository for the papers of significant Songbook figures including Meredith Willson, Hy Zaret, and Gus Kahn, as well as special collections covering such artists as The Andrews Sisters in the following formats: sheet music, photos, scrapbooks, posters, LPs, 45s, music magazines, books, lacquer discs, personal papers, theatre playbills, film, video, analog tape, and recordings. Many of these items are currently approaching one hundred years of age. A finite window of time exists to preserve these materials through digitization.

    The Foundation's non-circulating library houses a wide variety of reference materials. In addition, students, teachers and researchers from around the world visit the Foundation's website to view and research selections from the Archives, which contains over one hundred collections, 35,000 pieces of sheet music, and 3000 reference books.

    Items housed in the Foundation's Archives include:

  • 7000 audio recordings in thirteen different formats, including Rudy Vallée's radio transcription discs dating from 1932
  • Meredith Willson's personal papers, scripts, and recordings, including The Music Man and The Unsinkable Molly Brown
  • Musical orchestrations from Bob and Dolores Hope's decades of live performances across the globe
  • The piano which was used by composer Richard A. Whiting to write "Hooray for Hollywood"
  • Hy Zaret's original lyrics for "Unchained Melody", one of the twentieth century's most frequently recorded songs
  • References

    Great American Songbook Foundation Wikipedia