By Rick Morwick
Imitation, the saying goes, is the sincerest form of flattery. But Peter Fulton was never trying to flatter when he imitated the silky-smooth style of a famous crooner. Rather, he was trying to mirror what works for an acclaimed artist — an approach he now realizes isn’t the best for creating his own singing identity.
That was the No. 1 lesson he learned at last year’s Songbook Academy.
“A big takeaway from last year is the importance of being original, of making a song your own,” said Fulton, a Fishers resident who has been selected again to participate in the summer music intensive. “Previously, I had been mimicking the style and song selection of Michael Buble, but since then I’ve learned to explore different styles and artists.”
Fulton, 17, is one of 40 students from across the U.S. participating in the 2019 Songbook Academy, a seven-day program that runs July 13 through July 20 at the American Songbook Foundation’s headquarters in the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel.
A senior at Colonial Christian School in Indianapolis and winner of 2018 CarmelFest Has Talent’s 16-and-under division for vocalists, Fulton plans to refine what he learned last year while digging further into the popular songs and jazz standards of the early 20th century which comprise the Great American Songbook.
“Last year was great. I made a lot of new friends, discovered a lot of great songs and had the chance to learn from the best performers there are,” Fulton said. “I hope to learn a lot and practice well so that I can perform better than I did last year. More importantly, I hope to meet and stay in contact with a bunch of new friends.”
Celebrating its 10th year, the Songbook Academy, open to students ages 14 to 18, affords participants the opportunity to work closely with music industry professionals, including award-winning singers and performers as well as instructors from some of the nation’s top university music and theater programs.
This year’s lineup of mentors includes Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter/actress Melissa Manchester; Broadway actress/singer Laura Osnes; two-time Grammy-winning singer Sylvia McNair; Tony Award-winning actor Michael McElroy; New York-based singer/pianist/composer Nat Zegree; and five-time Grammy nominee and Great American Songbook Foundation founder Michael Feinstein.
“This year we have an incredible lineup of mentors for our 10th anniversary,” said Renee La Schiazza, manager of programs and communications for the Great American Songbook Foundation. “For aspiring vocalists who love music, Songbook Academy is one of the most unique and life-changing arts education experiences offered annually to high school students from across the nation.
“The Songbook Academy is certainly an unforgettable experience for the nation’s young talent.”
Fulton is one of eight Indiana high school students, including five from Hamilton County, selected for the 2019 Songbook Academy. The others are Jack Ducat (Carmel High School), Sydney Greene (CHS), Morgan Koontz (CHS), Griffin Scott (CHS), Cynthia Kauffman (Zionsville Community High School), Grace Tucker (ZCHS) and Samantha Shelton (Avon/Herron High School).
“My first year was life-changing, and I couldn’t bear not to try out again,” Fulton said. “Since I’m a senior, this is my last change, so I can’t let it go to waste. I appreciate how the academy focuses on teaching music rather than hosting a competition. It shows that the staff and mentors truly love the Songbook and care about us students.”
Fulton’s post-high school plans are to study 3-D modeling and animation at IUPUI.
For more, visit thesongbook.org.