By Mark Ambrogi
For years Kristin Barnes would eagerly attend the Songbook Academy finals.
“When you are a performer, it’s human nature to think ‘I would love to be doing that,’” Barnes said. “I never seriously considered that it was a possibility for me, but I sent in my tapes and here I am. I was over the moon surprised and excited when I found out I was going to be part of this.”
Barnes will join two fellow 2015 Carmel High School graduates, Sydney Sorrell and Kathleen Muloma, at the Songbook Academy from July 18 through 25. They are three of 40 finalists (grades 9-12) for 16 different states selected for the academy. Chris Lewis, director of programs for the Carmel-based Great American Songbook Academy Foundation, said it’s a blind judging process to select the 40 finalists and it’s just a happy coincidence that three CHS graduates were selected.
“We are definitely very blessed with a fantastic program at Carmel High School,” Barnes said. “I could go on for days about how that program has prepared and shaped artists for years and years.”
It’s special for Barnes to share the experience with Sorrell and Muloma.
“We’ve spent so much time together in choir and show rehearsals over their years,” Barnes said. “I’ll be excited to see these two girls whose voices and performances I’ve seen and know pretty well, and they know me, and see how we grow and develop over the week.”
Sorrell is eager for the experience to begin.
“It’s going to be so fulfilling and I’m just going to learn so much,” Sorrell said. “I’m just so excited to meet people who love the Songbook like I do, especially our mentors who are in the business and really know what they are doing. Just to soak up some of that knowledge from them is an opportunity that very few people get.”
Muloma enjoys working with different voice instructors.
“Getting to work with people who know what they are doing and have a passion and want to help us is the best experience,” Muloma said. “You get to learn from the very best and not many people have that opportunity.”
Muloma, who also plays the violin, had never sang outside of church until sitting with Barnes and some other friends at lunch as a freshman.
“They convinced me to try out (for choir) just for the fun of it,” Muloma said.
As a sophomore, she took voice lessons and worked hard on dancing and made the New Edition. She moved on to join the Accents, CHS’s No. 2 show choir, as a junior and the Ambassadors, the school’s top show choir, as a senior.
Sorrell and Barnes were members of the Ambassadors for their last three years in high school.
Muloma, who turns 18 on July 30, will attend Hope College in Holland, Mich., and plans to major in biology for pre-med. She wants to specialize in infectious diseases and internal medicine, but music will always be a part of her life.
The same is true for Barnes and Sorrell. Barnes, who turns 18 on Sept. 21, plans to pursue a behind-the-scenes career in music or arts administration at Vanderbilt. Sorrell plans to study neuroscience and minor in music at Rhodes College in Memphis.
“I want to combine neuroscience and music and do research on the effects music has on the brains of students with disabilities, such as autism and down syndrome,” said Sorrell, who turns 19 in March. “Maybe go into music therapy or stay on the research side. It’s combined my two passions. I’ll continue performing my entire life, maybe I’ll make it a career, it just depends. Memphis is the perfect place for blues and jazz so I’m just going to be in the perfect place for my voice.”
Five-time Grammy nominee Michael Feinstein is joined by Tony-nominee Laura Osnes and Grammy winner Sylvia McNair as mentors for the Songbook Academy, which is in its sixth year. The academy will be held at the Great American Songbook Foundation’s headquarters. Students will participate in a seven-day academy dedicated to interpreting and performing the Songbook music. Feinstein, along with other top music industry professionals and educators, will conduct workshops and master classes throughout the week.
There are three dates open to the public with no admission fee:
- July 22, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., Master Class with Feinstein and Osnes
- July 23, 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Student showcase (20 finalists will perform their songs for the panel of judges)
- July 23, 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Student showcase (20 finalists will perform their songs for the panel of judges)
The final show will be on July 25 at 7 p.m. in the Palladium. For more information, visit thecenterfortheperformingarts.org/tickets.
There will be 10 solo finalists performing and all 40 finalists will perform in group numbers.
Other finalists from Indiana and their high schools: Lucas DeBard, Lebanon; Avery Eliason, Lawrenceburg; Kendra Housel, Warsaw; Madelyn Steurer, Louisville (Ky.) Assumption (lives in Jeffersonville) and Katie Swaney, Center Grove.