Carmel, Zionsville students among Songbook Academy finalists


Three Carmel High School students and two Zionsville Community High School students are among 40 of the nation’s top high school vocalists who have been selected to participate in the 2021 Songbook Academy summer intensive, a week of personal instruction and mentoring by arts and entertainment professionals presented each year by the Great American Songbook Foundation.

Nathan Koon, Jack Sullivan and Cara Nowlin are the CHS students. They are joined by Carmel resident Piper Murphy, who attends Park Tudor School. Lily Cross and Jilayne Kistner are the ZCHS students.

The other Indiana finalists are Annie Flowers, Indianapolis; Jonathan Grimes, Avon; and Camden Zetty, Avon

Now in its 12th year, the Songbook Academy is the nation’s leading youth music intensive focused on timeless standards from the worlds of jazz, Broadway, Hollywood and Tin Pan Alley. Typically offered on-site at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, where the Songbook Foundation is headquartered, the program is again shifting to a virtual format in response to the logistical and safety issues posed by the ongoing pandemic.

Still, during the week of July 17-24, the 40 finalists can expect an unforgettable interactive experience of professional vocal training, performance coaching, workshops, daily social activities and educational masterclasses with a star-studded team of mentors led by five-time Grammy Award nominee and Songbook Foundation Founder Michael Feinstein.

“There is no reason to expose our finalists or others to any health risk when the virtual format has already proven successful and meaningful to students across the country,” Songbook Foundation Executive Director Christopher Lewis stated. “We look forward to making a difference in the lives of these young artists in creative, safe and accessible ways that preserve the quality, the camaraderie and the personalized nature of the experience.”

Many of the education sessions will be available for live public viewing on Facebook and YouTube. This year’s program will culminate in a weekend of online performance showcases in early August, to be announced later, hosted by Feinstein and streamed for families, friends and the public. More information and a schedule of events are available at

This year’s Songbook Academy will be presented by the 2021 Education and Engagement Sponsors Libby and Randy Brown, and is sponsored nationally by the Efroymson Family Fund.

Upon completing the program, each year’s participants are welcomed into the Songbook Academy Alumni Network to maintain their connections and stay informed about college programs, auditions and performance opportunities. Notable alumni include Maddie Baillio (2014), who starred as Tracy Turnblad in NBC’s “Hairspray Live!” and appeared in the 2018 Netflix comedy feature “Dumplin’”; and Melinda Rodriguez (2013), who won the 2019 Ella Fitzgerald Jazz Vocal Competition and appeared on Season 17 of NBC’s “The Voice.”

This year’s application process drew entries from hundreds of students representing 25 states, all of whom have received personal feedback on their audition videos. The top 40 finalists, selected by a new panel of national screeners, from 15 states coast to coast.