Blame It On My Youth: Michael Feinstein’s Great American Songbook Ambassadors
by Marilyn Lester
Imagine singing on the stage of Carnegie Hall one night and then being back at your desk in school the next morning. This breathtaking experience of contrast is the amazing reality of four enormously talented teenagers who are ambassadors of Michael Feinstein’s Great American Songbook Academy.
Three 19-year olds, Lucas DeBard, Madelyn Baillio and Nick Ziobro, and one 15-year old, Julia Goodwin, are all individual winners of the annual Songbook Ambassador contest held by Feinstein’s organization. In Blame It On My Youth, these young lovers of popular music were given the opportunity to showcase their talents in a grand way. They didn’t disappoint–wowing an appreciative audience lucky enough to witness stardom being made. These young singers not only share the traits of polish, and poise, but of amazing vocal ability worthy of many older, seasoned professionals.
Leading the evening’s celebration of new talent and homage to the Great American Songbook was host, Artistic Director and entertainer supreme, Michael Feinstein. Feinstein opened with a bouncy, spirited “The Lady Is a Tramp,” backed by the musical prowess of Tedd Firth on piano, Sean Smith on double bass and Mark McLean on drums. Feinstein took the piano for the thematic rendition of “Blame It On My Youth.”
DeBard, the 2015 Feinstein Academy winner, first up of the four talents, has a smooth, engaging tenor which he applied to “Monticello,” and “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter,” with a second chorus of cleverly altered lyrics (“I’m gonna sit right down and tweet myself a twitter”). Baillio, the 2014 Academy winner, demonstrated she has the soul of a jazz singer with a vibrant interpretation of “Poppa Don’t Preach to Me.” Baillio then had a special treat up her sleeve: this young talent had the honor of introducing a new ballad, proving the Great American Songbook is not only gloriously alive but still growing. Her rendition of “Can’t Stay Away From You” by composer Larry Kerchner was radiant and thrilling in its “history being made” moment. This momentous occasion was further amplified by Feinstein’s introduction and well-deserved praise of audience-member Kerchner himself.
Before the appearances of Goodwin and Ziobro, Feinstein took the stage to sing “Without a Song,” and a medley of “If I Had You/Don’t Take Your Love from Me/The Gypsy.” Goodwin, 2013 Academy winner, with a smoky voice and precocious interpretive skills offered “My Mama Says No No,” and “I’ll Be Seeing You.” Ziobro, the 2012 Academy winner, already well on his way to a successful performance career, sang “On the Street Where You Live,” and then got behind the piano to deliver a confident “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life.” Having demonstrated their individual chops, the young ambassadors teamed up for several duets, including DeBard and Baillio blending beautifully on “How About You?” and a torch song duo of Goodwin and Ziobro with “Stormy Weather” and “When the Sun Comes Out.”
Closing out this evening of generation and regeneration (puns intended) was Feinstein with a medley of 100 years of Broadway, starting with “There’s a Broken Heart for Every Light on Broadway,” and moving through other favorites from “Lullaby of Broadway” to “On Broadway.” The sole tune sung without the name “Broadway” in its title was “New York, New York,” with some clever, funny lyric changes. By the end of an evening full of hope that the American Songbook is in good hands, it was fitting for the entire cast to close with “Our Love Is Here to Stay.”
Standard Time with Michael Feinstein – Blame It On My Youth: Michael Feinstein’s Great American Songbook Ambassadors (February 10, 2016)
Zankel Hall, 881 Seventh Ave., 855-502-6090, www.carnegiehall.org