Songbook Academy features CHS flavor with four students

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Griffin Scott knew right away it was a Songbook Academy experience he wanted to repeat.

Scott, who will be a Carmel High School junior in August, was selected to the summer intensive for the second consecutive year.

“The people you work with I loved so much, whether they are from LA or New York because you kind of get both sides, the Broadway and more commercial music side,” Scott said. “I love getting the feel for both of those.”

Students still in high school or recent graduates who didn’t make the top 10 last year are eligible to return. Scott is the only returnee in a Carmel High School group that includes 2019 graduates Morgan Koontz and Sydney Greene and Jack Ducat, who will be a junior. They are four of 40 students from the across the U.S. participating in the seven-day summer music intensive that runs July 13 through July 20 at the Great American Songbook Foundation’s headquarters in the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel. It culminates in a July 20 performance at the Palladium, where the Songbook Ambassador is named.

Scott will sing “The Nearness of You” and “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head.”

“I made sure I picked two contrasting songs because last year I didn’t,” he said.

Scott and the other three were members of CHS Ambassadors, a mixed show choir, in 2018-19. Koontz and Greene were three-year Ambassadors.

Koontz plans to major in commercial music with an emphasis in songwriting at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn.

“As long as I’m able to be creative and do what I love, then I’ll be happy,” Koontz said. “I really like soulful pop, R&B, but I like all music.”

Koontz had participated in Christian Youth Theater when she was younger and performed in “Phantom of the Opera” at CHS. But she primarily chose to sing on her own rather than participate in musicals as she got older.

“I enjoy being creative in my own way and not in the way of taking directions where to stand,” she said. “I love the art of theater, but that’s not something I’m as drawn to because I like being more original and independent.”

Koontz plans to sing “A Sunday Kind of Love” and “Accentuate the Positive.”

“I’m excited to be able to gain experience from being around Grammy Award winners and (Great American Songbook Foundation founder) Michael Feinstein and just growing in my craft,” Koontz said.

Greene, who will attend Ball State to major in musical theater, said growing up around the Palladium and participating in the Songbook Academy will be good a way to cap high school before attending college.

“I’ve actually watched the competition for years and everybody in the top 40 gets a chance to perform during the week,” Greene said. “It’s a lot less about the competition and more about the experience of the master classes.”

Greene plans to sing “The Trolley Song” from “Meet Me in St. Louis” and “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.”

“Musical theater is where I spent a lot of time training, but a lot of musical theater is kind of this style,” she said. “I think it will help me grow in that genre and expand outside of that, too.”

Greene said she expects the individual training students receive from the mentors will be the most valuable.

“You have to be vulnerable and open to new ideas and just put yourself out there,” she said. “Getting that one-on-one with so many mentors will be beneficial, especially going into college for music. Having this extra training will help.”

Ducat has watched friends participating in the Songbook competition.

“This is something I’ve always dreamed about doing,” Ducat said. “I thought if I ever got a chance it would be when I was older. To come in while still young in my high school career is just great. I have so much more time to hone my skills before college. I love the music of the Songbook era. I want to go into musical theater as a career, and musical theater features so many things from the Songbook era. The way to sing and interpret the Songbook will be great going into that kind of career.”

Ducat plans to sing “Darn that Dream” and “Tonight at Eight.”

For information on Songbook Academy performances, visit thecenterpresents.org.

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