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Posted on Mon, May 7, 2012 : 2:10 p.m.

Feinstein's Great American Songbook vocal competition for high school students comes to Kerrytown Concert House

By Staff


Michael Feinstein

High school vocalists from Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio will compete in the Great American Songbook Vocal Academy and Competition at 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 12 at Kerrytown Concert House, at 415 N. 4th Ave. The event is sponsored by the Michael Feinstein Great American Songbook Initiative, and the annual endeavor is the only U.S. competition dedicated solely to the music from Broadway, Hollywood musicals and the Tin Pan Alley era of the early to mid-twentieth century.

“Through this competition, we are reaching a new generation to teach this music and the American history that inspired and influenced these composers,” said Michael Feinstein, the Initiative’s founder and noted American Songbook ambassador, in a press release.

Saturday's regional competition will feature 10 high school vocalists. The public is invited to attend this free performance by the competitors.

The Great Lakes regional competitors are:

Tony Ponella (Bloomington, Indiana)

Jared Wells (Terre Haute, Indiana)

Grace Wipfli (Ottawa Hills, Ohio)

Lexus Hoskins (Salem, Indiana)

Renee La Schiazza (Carmel, Indiana)

Michael Brian Welch (Richmond, Kentucky)

Nicholas Angel (Haslett, Michigan)

Paige Brown (Indianapolis, Indiana)

Jonathan Schiff (West Bloomfield, Michigan)

Sydney Bishop (Lowell, Michigan)

Regional winners will travel to the Indianapolis area for a four-day comprehensive “boot-camp” June 12-16, led by local and national celebrity performers, including Feinstein. Workshops will cover topics ranging from breathing and microphone techniques to one-on-one coaching and master-classes. The classes are intended to prepare finalists for the Final Competition performance at The Palladium concert hall in Carmel, Indiana on June 15, when each student performs two songs and the top three winners will be announced.

The first place winner wins $3000 and the chance of a lifetime: a trip to sing in New York City with five-time Grammy Award nominee, world-renowned performer and recording artist, and co-founder of the Michael Feinstein Great American Songbook Initiative, Michael Feinstein.

Second place will receive $2000 and third place will receive $1500 towards continuing music education. Regional finalists for the 2012 competition will be selected from the following eligible states: Arizona, California, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, Nevada, New York, Wisconsin and Iowa.

For additional information, visit The mission of the Michael Feinstein Great American Songbook Initiative is to bring the music of the Great American Songbook to our young people today and to preserve it for the generations to come.


Jerry DePuit graduated from the University of Michigan and spent the next 12 years in New York City where he worked as a vocal coach at New York University and the American Academy of Vocal Arts, in various studios, and privately. As a musical director/pianist, he has worked for many New York cabarets and theatrical organizations including the Manhattan Theatre Club and the Player's Club. He has also musical directed and performed in numerous regional theatres and twice for the Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife in Washington, D.C. He has appeared nationwide with cabaret artists, and on the Tomorrow and Today shows. His work as an arranger has been heard on recordings, in pops concerts, and at the Metropolitan Opera House and Radio City Music Hall. He has orchestrated three original musicals (including A Wonderful Life by Joe Raposo and Sheldon Harnick), arranged and orchestrated several full-scale revues and many smaller ones, helped reconstruct the original score of Love Life (a 1948 musical by Kurt Weill and Alan Jay Lerner), and written many new arrangements of extant works—choral as well as instrumental. He has been on the faculty of the University of Michigan Musical Theatre Department since 1985.

Catherine Walker Adams received a bachelor of music education from Capital University Conservatory of Music, and a master of music in choral conducting from Western Michigan University School of Music. Ms. Adams has worked on professional, community, and high school productions. This summer, Ms. Adams will serve as the music director for, 'The Light in the Piazza' starring Broadway actress, Teri Bibb at the Farmers Alley Theatre. Other regional credits include: The Barn Theatre Production of 'Shenandoah', starring Robert Newman of T.V.'s Guiding Light, Derby Dinner Playhouse, Louisville, Kentucky; The Red Barn, Saugatuck, Michigan; The Kalamazoo Civic Theatre, Michigan; Island Center Productions, St. Croix, USVI; & Three-D Productions. Ms. Adams has also been recognized for her work as a choral conductor. She served as the conductor of the state honors choir for the Michigan School Vocal Music Association and her ensembles have been selected to perform at the Midwest Conference, ACDA Michigan Convention, and Michigan Youth Arts Festival. In addition, her choirs have performed at Carnegie Hall, as well as in Washington D.C., Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, and Italy. She is also in demand as a clinician and has presented at the Midwest Conference, Michigan Music Conference, and MSVMA Summer Workshop. Ms. Adams conducting mentors include: Dr. Craig S. Arnold, Dr. Rodney Eichenberger and Dr. Joe Miller.

Naz Edwards spent 25 years in New York City, before moving to Ann Arbor. Her career has taken her from Broadway, to national tours across the U.S. and Canada, regional theater and off-Broadway. Some of her favorite roles include: "Zorba," in which she starred opposite Anthony Quinn, and "Anna Karenina," both on Broadway, "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" by Dennis DeYoung, "The Baker's Wife," "Once Upon a Mattress," "Funny Girl," "Man of La Mancha," "The Drowsy Chaperone," "Woman Before a Glass" and "The Clean House." Naz has a deep passion for Cabaret performance and finds it one of the most rewarding art forms. She feels that Cabaret performing is an opportunity for a performer and an audience to connect on a very personal level, experiencing a journey through every song.