Westfield vocalists eager for Songbook Academy


Journee Woodley didn’t know about the Songbook Academy until her parents brought it to her attention.

“We’re always looking for new things to do musically to branch out.” said Woodley, who will be a Westfield High School senior in August.

After she applied, she said the anticipation was building to see if she was selected. So, she said she was excited when she got the news she was accepted.

Woodley will be joined by 2024 Westfield High School graduate Keegan Connor as two of the 40 national finalists for the Songbook Academy, an intensive program set for July 13-20 at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel. There will be a Songbook Showcase at 7 p.m. July 18 and a Songbook Academy concert at 7 p.m. July 20, both at the Palladium.

Woodley said she has always loved Sarah Vaughan.

“She’s always spoken to me as a jazz singer,” Woodley said. “So, she has a song ‘Tenderly’ that I’d like to work on.”

Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Lady” is another song Woodley plans to work on with the Songbook mentors.

Woodley said she loves to watch musical theater and all types of music.

“But I would say jazz really resonates with me.” she said.

Woodley is in the WHS jazz a cappella choir and attends the School of Rock and plays the guitar. Her plan is to pursue vocal performance and jazz studies at the collegiate level. She aspires to sing in jazz clubs for a living.

The feedback she received so far has been about the storytelling.

“They want you to dive deep into it and allow people that are watching you to resonate with the lyrics and the meaning of the song,” Woodley said. “So, they can interpret it any way they choose, but it’s all about the storytelling. From people that have been in (Songbook) before, they always say they learned so much.”

Connor concluded her reign as Miss Indiana’s Teen in late June. She will attend the University of Alabama this fall.

“The final push to apply was I wanted to do something different before college,” she said. “I wanted to stretch my boundaries as a performer. A lot of my friends did it in the past and they said they grew a lot as performers. I was really excited to jump at the opportunity to audition for it.”

Connor has performed in musicals for several years.

“I definitely love musical theater and that’s what I will probably sing for the rest of my life,” Connor said. “But I love how the Songbook does really stretch my abilities as a performer and makes me look into these different genres of music, so I’m excited to explore jazz and even some of the Golden Age songs from the 1920s.”

Connor plans to sing “When I Fall in Love” and “You Don’t Own Me.” She said she appreciates the feedback she has already received.

“Before we even meet our mentors for the week, it’s exciting to see they are already ready to help us make a performance that much better,” she said. “I’m looking forward to 39 other amazing people who love performing and we get to perform at the amazing Palladium.”

Connor is eager to probe deeper into the lyrics and understand what they mean beyond simply the rhythm and the tempo. She said she wants to connect to the songs through her personal experiences.

For more, visit thecenterpresents.org.