A couple of weeks ago, I made a quick trip to my home state of Indiana. The main purpose was to be a part of the Great American Songbook Hall of Fame Gala Weekend in Carmel, IN. Michael Feinstein invited me to sing on Friday night at the “Michael and Friends” concert, along with Hall of Fame inductee Liza Minnelli. I took advantage of the trip and spent some additional time in Bloomington.
I flew out Tuesday, and after a restful night back in the room that was mine for 9 years, my crazy adventure started early Wednesday morning rehearsing with my friend, Joe Noelliste, a pianist with whom I really enjoy collaborating. First we worked on "Fascinating Rhythm", which is what Michael had requested that I sing on Friday night in Indy. The arrangement was one that Marilyn Maye had helped me with when I sang at 54 Below. We just needed to get it set and notated so that I could take a chart to the pianist for the weekend. After working out the notation, we worked on a couple of pop tunes.
Wednesday night, I headed to Indiana University to see their production of "Swing" in which my dad was playing clarinet/saxophone. There were lots of people I knew in there, and it was fun catching up with everyone.
Thursday morning started even earlier than the day before, this time in the recording studio. Joe and I recorded at Russian Recording Studio, which brought back memories, having recorded there twice before. The first time was when I was still a boy soprano and I recorded a Christmas album, from which all proceeds went to local food cupboards. Last year I recorded my entry for the Feinstein Competition there, also with Joe playing piano. It is incredible to think back over the year since that last time. It almost seems like a different lifetime!
There was a local media outlet that sent a crew to the recording studio. They filmed footage of the recording and editing process, as well as interviewed me. I'm not sure when that will air, but talking through everything with them put it all even more into perspective. I've been very blessed in the past year, and am so appreciative of all the opportunities I've gotten!
As soon as the recording session was over, my dad and I immediately headed up to Carmel, just north of Indianapolis. There I met up with Nick Ziobro and Tori Anna, and we had dinner with the wonderful Feinstein Initiative folks. It was the beginning of an exciting weekend as part of the Great American Songbook Hall of Fame Gala.
Friday morning we had rehearsal at the Palladium. It was so neat to be back there with Nick and Tori for the first time since the competition last year. We had time to hang out in the Great American Songbook Archive and Gallery, where in addition to seeing their new exhibit on the Roaring 20s, Nick and I learned the Charleston from a diagram on the wall. Then, after a quick lunch break, we headed to the Indiana Roof Ballroom for a sound check. What a beautiful venue!
There is actually an interesting feature at that Indianapolis landmark. A door, just off of the stage, has a listing and a rating system of performers who played the room in the 1930s. Here is what the plaque says:
After the sound check, we headed back to the hotel to get in our tuxes, then right back to the Ballroom. Dinner was delicious, and entertainment was provided by the Tom Postilio Orchestra, including 1st trumpet player Joey Tartell, who is a friend and colleague of my dad's at IU. During the cocktail hour, Michael and Liza arrived, along with many others. I had a chance to briefly speak with them at that point, and it was great to see them again.
After dinner, there was a live auction, which was my cue to head backstage. As soon as the auction was over, Michael spoke and introduced Tori Anna (who was the 2nd runner up last year), and then it was my turn to sing. Michael introduced me as "part of the Palladium family", which is so special, then I sang "Fascinating Rhythm". It was amazing to look out at the sold out crowd of @900 people, with Liza sitting up front and getting into the performance. In the middle, when the music went to the verse, she actually called out and cheered. I felt great about the performance, after which I headed back to my seat to enjoy the two singers after me- Michael Feinstein and Liza Minnelli!
When the concert was over, I enjoyed meeting several other people, including Rita Moreno and Jose Feliciano. I also had more time to speak with Michael and Liza, along with an opportunity to catch up with other friends and acquaintances. Liza made me laugh when she gave me a lesson on shaking hands. She had me shake her hands a number of times, each time telling me to grip more tightly. There was no fear of hurting the living legend, as she definitely gripped harder than I!
Saturday, there was finally some time to relax. In fact, Tori Anna and I, along with our parents, took in the latest Star Trek movie, before heading back to the Palladium for the Songbook Hall of Fame induction ceremony, but this time just as spectators. Other than the amazing performances, one of my favorite moments was the speech by Jimmy Smits honoring inductee Rita Moreno. It was incredible to hear about her contributions, and how much she has inspired others. Later, I had a chance to hang out with Rita and Jimmy. It was the perfect ending to the weekend.
Sunday morning, I said goodbye to everyone, as well as my home state of Indiana, flying back to the Big Apple, inspired and ready to start the next chapter of my life.
Serenading Marilyn Maye
Last week I was invited to sing for Marilyn Maye’s 85th birthday celebration at Birdland. I was honored to be asked, and immediately started wracking my brain for just the right song. I decided that at least part of what I presented needed to be personalized with original lyrics, to tell her how much she has inspired me through her teaching, as well as performing.
I began by watching back video from her recent masterclass in which I had sung. I jotted down some of her instructions- “Grab the mic stand,” “Close up your hands,” You’re too young to be singing these lyrics.” I also thought about the recurring themes she talks about- holding out the notes, getting a good breathe and the infamous eyelashes issue. Well… I knew the eyelash thing wouldn’t work, but the rest seemed like good material.
Next I asked a few people for suggestions. My mom instantly sang the beginning of the verse to Silver Bells, “Christmas makes you feel emotional. It may bring parties or thoughts devotional.” A Christmas song? It could work. I took it from there and ran with it. The final piece of the puzzle came when I was working with my vocal coach Laura Bergquist, and she thought it would be fun for an 18 year old to sing “You Make Me Feel So Young” at an 85th birthday celebration. I immediately went home, found the music online, and learned it.
This all took place in just a few days, and before I knew it, it was Monday night and I was headed to Birdland to sing for Marilyn. I had printed out the lyrics to what I was singing and made a birthday card for Marilyn. When teaching, she always wants printed out lyrics on which to write comments, so it seemed like an appropriate birthday card. Plus, I could take it on stage and make sure I got the original lyrics correct and said what I wanted to say.
The whole night was incredible! First, as we approached Birdland, there was a line all the way down the block of people trying to get in. It was sold out, but we headed to the front of the line and were waved in thanks to our reservations. I’ve never seen anything like it on a Monday night Cast Party!
Once inside, it was so much fun to see everybody. Some of my favorites were there, including Ann Hampton Callaway, Jane Monheit, La Tanya Hall and Marissa Mulder. In addition to Broadway and Cabaret people, there were TV/Film personalities there to celebrate with Marilyn. We were seated next to Linda Lavin. I sat back and enjoyed the incredible performances.
Then, Jim Caruso finally called me up. I settled my lyrics on a music stand and told Jim that this one was for Marilyn. Due to the lighting, I could see her sitting at the table directly ahead and smiling. Ted Firth started the intro, and I thought, and said, “Let’s do this!” I began my tribute.
As soon as I sang the first stanza, there were great reactions from the audience. They obviously knew Marilyn as well, if not better, than I, and got the meaning of my carefully constructed lyrics. In fact, I sang the line right before the chorus, “It’s no wonder everyone loves…” and then something incredible happened. As I sang “Marilyn” everyone anticipated where I was going with the song and sang along. Not only sang along, but harmonized and did the traditional echo. What an amazing feeling!
I continued through the second verse, totally inspired as I quoted Marilyn in my song. Next was the transition and my opening statement of “You make me feel so young”. The room burst out in laughter and then something crazy happened. I was so amused and stunned that I lost my place for a minute. But guess what? Since everyone in the audience knew the words, they started singing along and I quickly recovered. I don’t remember having a memory slip like that before, and think I might have been bothered later thinking back, but instead it was just this incredible feeling of being loved and supported, almost as if it was intentional and they were singing their part.
I finished the song adding in a “Happy Birthday to You!” Marilyn jumped to her feet and before I knew it, I was getting a standing ovation. I blew a kiss to the birthday girl and exited stage right. What an awesome experience.
Now, you would think that was the end of the story, but one other thing happened that is definitely worth mentioning. Ann Hampton Callaway got up to improv a song for Marilyn. She asked Marilyn to join her, and the two legends proceeded to sing an improvised blues song about the night. You can imagine my smile grew even larger when they mentioned me. “Tony’s the real thing” and “Tony ain’t no bologna” are two of my favorite lines. It still makes me smile to think about it almost a week later.
Needless to say Marilyn Maye’s 85th birthday celebration at Birdland will be a treasured memory. What an incredible night to pay tribute to an incredible lady, and I am so honored to have had a chance to serenade the birthday girl!
Last week I had the honor of not only handing Marilyn Maye her trophy at the 27th Annual MAC Awards, but then a couple days later singing in her masterclass. What an incredible performer, teacher and person!
I had first met Marilyn last September, when Michael Feinstein invited me to sing at Feinstein’s at Loews Regency at a performance of “Michael Feinstein and Marilyn Maye: Swingin’ the Night Away”. I was blown away by Marilyn then, and even more so now that I’ve gotten to see her further perform, as well as teach.
Marilyn’s MAC Award was “Celebrity Artist” for “The Happiest Sound in Town,” at Feinstein’s. After receiving her trophy she sang original lyrics about the event, which segued into “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love”. My view was from the wings, but that didn’t diminish the effect of her engaging performance.
I had recently seen Marilyn perform in a Peggy Lee tribute at 92nd Street Y and her show “MAYE-den Voyage” at 54 Below. Be it a large hall or small, this 87-year-old firecracker commands the stage and brilliantly captures the attention of each audience member. I learn so much from watching her perform!
Last Sunday morning, though, it was my turn to perform for her. The venue was “Don’t Tell Mama’s” for this Marilyn Maye Masterclass Marathon- 10 am to 3 pm. Five hours non-stop genius at work.
I was in the middle of the running order, so got a feel for her teaching style before I was called up. Then it was my turn and I headed to the piano to talk tempo with the amazing Barry Levitt (another MAC Award winner whom I had the privilege of presenting with a trophy,) before taking center stage.
Marilyn spoke briefly with me as I introduced myself and my piece (“Ev’rybody Says Don’t” from Anyone Can Whistle,) then the intro started. It was a little faster than I was used to singing, but I dug in and started spitting out the words to this fast patter song. No sooner had I gotten a few bars into it, then Marilyn called a halt. “Too fast,” she said. No nonsense. No messing around. No singing through the piece first. Just getting down to business immediately. She quickly instructed me not to sing with the wrong tempo, but to just stop and tell the pianist. “You’re not married to the tempo that somebody sets. It can be a mistake on their part or your part. It isn’t a mistake at all. We just want it slower.” And with that correction, we began again with a more conservative tempo, enabling me to sing my best. The relaxed tempo really allowed me the time to get out the plethora of words and take my time to interpret what I was singing. Marilyn’s response was “Just darling!” My smile got even bigger.
On to the second song, “Here’s that Rainy Day”. I fell in love with this song last summer, hearing my good friend, Nick Ziobro, sing it in his winning performance at the Feinstein competition. This seemed like a good opportunity for me to sing the beautiful ballad. When I announced this second song, Marilyn’s immediate response was “I don’t believe you have lived through enough to sing this, you’re too young. But I want to hear you to sing it, so sing it!” So, I sang it. What followed was a lesson in mic technique, interpretation, engaging the audience and ornamentation. Marilyn Maye is brilliant. She doesn’t just talk to the students, but gets up and shows them example after example. I learned so much that can be applied to everything I sing.
After singing, I received a hug from the wonderful, brilliant, generous icon that is Marilyn Maye.
I continued to learn as the afternoon went on. Marilyn never slowed down. Each and every student got 150%. I certainly hope for many more times to be in the presence of Marilyn Maye, be it her performance or mine. What a blessing to have an opportunity to be a part of this Master’s class!
A Quick Trip to Neverland
I recently was cast in a reading of a new musical called “Lost Boy” here in New York City. It was such an interesting and eye-opening experience to be a part of this stage in the process of creating a new musical. It only lasted a little over a week, but here is a peek at my quick trip to Neverland.
I found out about an audition for “Lost Boy” late on Saturday night, and quickly submitted my headshot and resume via email. Shortly afterward, I received an email back, with an appointment for an audition the following evening. Early Sunday night I headed down to Pearl Studios for my audition, which I felt went well, then headed home. In less than an hour, I received a call offering me an ensemble lost boy role with rehearsals starting the next night. We were to put the show together in a week, and have performances for the industry one week later.
The next night, I joined the other lost boys and Peter, to learn the first two songs for the show. At that time, the concept of the story was explained to us. This story actually takes place after the traditional “Peter Pan” tale, and follows Slightly on his adventures to Neverland. I instantly fell in love with some of the music, and was intrigued by the plot twists. Tight harmonies, stirring call-to-action refrains and beautiful lyrical lines were challenging, yet rewarding.
In addition, I found out that one of the other guys got a different gig and wasn’t going to do the performance. I was promoted to a named character: Kamp.
Tuesday through Thursday the lost boys didn’t have rehearsal, though we did get the script, and I got to read the full story. This was a rather dark story, but so intriguing. More music was sent to be learned, which I did around auditions and dance classes. Wednesday night I got a much needed break, and headed to 54 Below for a concert by Marilyn Maye, then “Unsung Menken”. Talk about inspiration… that was it!
The weekend was busy, tweaking the show and preparing for the performances, in between which I managed a couple more auditions, classes and a lesson. Interestingly, in confirmation of the fact that it is a small world, there were two Indiana University Jacobs School of Music grads involved in the Lost Boy production, who both had studied at one time with my former teacher, mentor, and friend, Dr. Brian Horne.
The work concluded with 2 presentations of the show on Monday. Both performances went splendidly, and before I knew it the experience was over! I am so glad to have been a part of this process, and hope the show goes on to be a huge success!
For more info on Lost Boy, check out the website at http://lostboythemusical.com, or the Lost Boy Facebook page
Lost Boy: A New Musical
Tony was recently cast as "Kamp" in a reading of new musical, Lost Boy.
Lost Boy chronicles Slightly’s adventures with Peter Pan and the lost boys in a Neverland shaken by the return of Captain Hook.
For more info on Lost Boy, check out the website at http://lostboythemusical.com, or the Lost Boy Facebook page
A New Post for a New Year
Ok, so New Year’s was last week, but I am still going to consider this my New Year’s post. So many “new” things for me right now- new apartment, new age (I turned 18!), new schedule, new opportunities, new resolutions...- I feel so blessed and can't wait to see what this year will bring!
But first, I should start things off by wrapping up my awesome 2012...
Feinstein Initiative: Concert with Sylvia McNair
[Shameless plug here!—anyone in high school and interested in the music of the Great American Songbook, or if you just want to learn more, check out the Feinstein Initiative's website for more info on this year’s competition! Click here to read "Reflecting on my Michael Feinstein Great American Songbook Experience"! It's an amazing opportunity and wonderful experience!]
Additionally, I continue to enjoy my friendship with the other competition mentors:
Behind the Scenes with Carnegie Hall Musical Exchange
Carnegie Hall Musical Exchange created a video from when I recorded “Different” from Honk! to help promote their new project. Thank you to Leslie Stifleman for putting together this fun behind the scenes look!
[And, if you are a young musical theatre student- JOIN Musical Exchange for this year’s project!]
Broadway Dance Center Training Program
12/17/12 I graduated! #imadancernow? @BroadwayDance pic.twitter.com/sKIohEXS
I think the other biggest influence in 2012 for me was Broadway Dance Center. I participated in their 3 month Training Program. It is an incredible program during which I experienced top-notch training with the best teachers, and was exposed to all kinds of dance forms I might never had tried under other circumstances. My classes included tap, hip hop, ballet, theatre, popping, locking, bollywood, Horton Technique… and so much more. I have so much respect for the teachers, administrators and students in this program from which I officially graduated December 17th. I look forward to many more BDC dance classes, though probably not 12-18 in a week (27 hours!)
I’ve loved having my sisters around and involved! In fact, we were so inspired by all the tapping we did, that we put together a fun video for a video Christmas card/thank you to our teachers. (Special thanks to my friend Joe Noelliste for playing piano on this crazy arrangement!) This was thrown together during the @6 hours we had back in Bloomington before heading out to an Arkansas Christmas.
So, that was the quick version of what was an incredible year. 2013? I can’t wait to see what it brings. I’ll try to be more regular with the blog posts, which was one of my New Year’s resolutions. Now I’m off to an audition, practicing, dance class… Look out 2013! Here I come!
In the Recording Studio…
Yesterday I had the privilege to record “Different” from Honk! The recording was part of a project with Carnegie Hall Musical Exchange. For the musical theatre project, they had set the challenge to find “your song”. “Different” is certainly that for me, and I’m thrilled that they picked it as the one to record! What an amazing experience!
In preparation, I had a coaching with Leslie Stifelman (music director for Chicago, among many other things!) and Jeff Saver (music director for End of the Rainbow.) It was eye opening to realize how the song had morphed over time, and the fact that the rhythm and melody on the page wasn’t exactly what I was singing… (I’ve been singing a lot of jazz, etc., and that flexibility was creeping into this medium, too!) They helped me get back to the music as written by the incredible songwriting duo of Anthony Drewe and George Stiles. Once that was accomplished, then the storytelling could begin.
Jeff arranged the chart and played piano for the recording. The other musicians were Ed Salkin on clarinet and flute, and Jay Berliner on guitar. I was in heaven listening to them rehearse and lay down the track. Unbelievable! Leslie was producing, along with amazing Scott Lehrer and watching them work was awesome! Roger Rees also joined us in the studio and had such great advice.
Finally, it was my turn to sing. Everyone was so encouraging and supportive. We did 3 or 4 takes, and before I knew it, they had all they needed. Leslie, Jeff, and Roger all had such positive things to say and a lot of sage advice. What incredible people and wonderful artists!
Then it was time for Scott and Leslie to do their magic. It was a whole other lesson to hear my singing stripped down and every minute detail analyzed. Wow! I can’t wait to hear the final result. I guess it’s going to be on a CD with songs from around the world and from different genres. What an honor to be included! I loved every second, and wished that I could do it every day!
Thank you Carnegie Hall Musical Exchange for an amazing experience!
NYC Summer 2012 Overview
Labor Day Weekend! Summer got away from me, without many blog posts, but what an incredible summer it was! Here is a brief overview:
Michael Feinstein Great American Songbook Competition- Amazing experience (see previous blogs;) reuniting with various contestants/mentors, including 3 times singing at Jim Caruso’s Cast Party at Birdland, and one upcoming time this Monday with Nick Ziobro, the winner and Great American Songbook Youth Ambassador; and to top it all off, I've been invited to sing with Sylvia McNair on her Christmas concerts at the Palladium in December!
Carnegie Hall Musical Exchange Musical Theatre Project- Great online community experience, including feedback from Leslie Stifleman and Roger Rees, as well as being selected for a masterclass with Leslie, Roger and Tara Rubin. Upcoming project includes a recording session next week here in NYC. I will be recording “Different” from Honk! with Leslie Stifleman, Jeff Saver, Jay Berliner and Ed Salkin. Roger Rees will also join us, and there will be a video made for the Carnegie Hall Musical Exchange website.
iTheatrics- I was asked to participate in a workshop, creating a 1 hour version of “Bye Bye Birdie” for Tams Whitmark. I was cast as Albert Peterson, and got to perform the role for Charles Strouse (composer of “Bye, Bye Birdie” and “Annie”) It was a fabulous experience getting to work with the amazing iTheatrics team again!
Broadway Artists Alliance (BAA)- I was a work-study student/participant in all of the summer programs this year. Each session is worthy of its own lengthy blog post, and there is really no way to describe how incredible it was to work with all of the amazing people involved in this program. At this point, I’m just going to make a list of the professionals with whom I worked, and try to be more on top of specifics in the future.
BAA 2012 for me included: Chris Bailey, Michael Balderrama, Bridget Berger, Christian Borle, Norbert Leo Butz, Tiffany Little Canfield, Lou Castro, Adam Chanler-Berat, Karyn Casl, Bob Cline, Kristi Coombs, Kyle Dean Massey, Vince di Mura, Eden Espinosa, Lisa Gajda, Alex Gemignani, Diane Hamilton, Christopher J. Hanke, Megan Hilty, Andi Hopkins, Christopher Jackson, Jennifer Johns, Tyrick Wiltez Jones, Adam Kantor, Andrew Keenan-Bolger, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Tom Kitt, Joe Langworth, Beth Leavel, Michael Orland, Alice Ripley, Alexander Rovang, Seth Rudetsky, Holly-Anne Ruggiero, Jeff Shade, Celeste Simone, Lisa Stevens, Kevin Wallace, and Leslie Zaslower
Needless to say, I had an incredible summer, and learned so much! Now I’m looking forward to my first fall living in New York City and all it has to offer. Stay tuned…
The last two weeks have been so full of exciting events that there has been no time to blog about them. In fact, if life continues at this pace, I’ll have to rethink trying to keep up! Anyway, recent happenings are too important and amazing to skip over, so I’ll start with the Michael Feinstein Great American Songbook Initiative High School Competition…
Two weeks ago today, Tuesday, June 12th, I headed to the University of Indianapolis for the Michael Feinstein Great American Songbook Initiative High School Competition Finals. (How’s that for a mouthful!) I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that we were going to work with some amazing performers, further explore the Great American Songbook, and have our final performance at the Palladium in Carmel, IN.
Upon arriving and checking in, I met my roommate for the week, Nick Ziobro. We hit it off immediately, having so much in common, from a love of good music to a passion for Pixar. There wasn’t much time to sit around and chat at that point, since we started rehearsals immediately after dinner. We had to prepare the group numbers that we were to sing with Michael Feinstein and Sandi Patty. It was immediately obvious that the 10 finalists from across the country were all incredibly talented and I had an amazing week in store.
The next morning, we started early with all kinds of fantastic workshops- Vocal Health with Dr. Huntley, Basics of Vocal Performance with Dr. Hacker. After lunch, we finally got to meet Michael Feinstein. He was absolutely awesome! He taught the masterclass along with Sylvia McNair, who, though I know from IU, hadn’t heard me sing since I was a boy soprano! The two of them were incredible to watch working with the other kids. I was toward the end of the line up, and finally the person before of me was singing, when… FIRE ALARM! Fortunately, it was a false alarm and soon we were back in and it was my turn to sing “Orange Colored Sky”. I was so thrilled to sing for them, and the feedback was incredibly helpful. Honestly, if I had gone to a workshop and experienced just that one masterclass, it would have been a priceless experience! But wait… there was sooo much more…
That night we had a reception at the Chairman of the Board’s house, where Jim Caruso hosted a special version of his “Cast Party” and all the finalists and judges sang. Unbelievably awe-inspiring! Like something out of a dream, we sat around while people like Jim Caruso, La Tanya Hall, Sylvia McNair, and Michael Feinstein got up and sang. These judges are not only incredible teachers and performers, but people, too. What a night! Definitely one I’ll fondly remember the rest of my life!
Thursday morning came early, and it was another jam-packed day of experiences, any one of which would have been fantastic on its own. We got to work with La Tanya Hall and Jim Caruso. I was thrilled beyond words to work on “Nearness of You” with La Tanya, particularly as her recording of the song was a major inspiration when I chose to sing it in the finals. Both of them really drilled us on stage presence, coaching me to keep “Nearness” simple and honest, and really helping me break out and let loose in “Orange Colored Sky”
The afternoon masterclass was again led by Michael, who was joined by Sandi Patty. This time, I was one of the first to sing. It was another class full of great advice and teaching. Also, it is worth mentioning that Michael is so funny. He could easily have a standup routine, as he is so smart and quick witted. Even just casual conversation with him is entertaining! After the masterclass, we rehearsed our group number with Sandi, and WOW!
Then after dinner we headed over to the Palladium, and I got my first look at the beautiful hall where we were to perform the next night. Really? Could life get any better than this? The answer was obviously ‘yes’, because then Friday happened…
Friday was all about preparing for the sold out performance that night. The event was a competition, but even throughout the week it was never really the focus. We were too busy learning, having fun and soaking up everything possible. It honestly felt like I was part of an incredible family who were making music and celebrating the journey we had been on together for the past four days. I will never forget and walking out on stage for the first time. It was a dream come true. We were treated with performances by the judges, joining in on the group numbers with Michael and Sandi. I truly loved every second of being on the stage. Finally, the performing was done and the judges left to deliberate. Of course my hope was to be one of the winners, but as I sat there and reflected over what I had experienced during the process, I already knew that no matter what, this was a life-changing experience. There were ten talented kids on stage, all who could easily take the top prizes. Then the judges came out. It was time. Third place went to Tori Anna from CA. I was thrilled for her. Second place went to… Tony Ponella? I couldn’t believe my name had been called. Next thing I knew, I was getting hugs from the judges, handed flowers and was standing beside Tori. Finally, to be joined by First place winner, Nick Ziobro- who had become such a good friend, was the icing on the cake. The competition was over, and the party began. It was such a joyous celebration. My family was there supporting me, including my grandparents from Kansas, as well as my voice teacher, Dr. Horne, and his wife. I felt at home, part of a bigger family--loved, appreciated, supported, and as if this was just the beginning of something amazing.
Saturday morning dawned, and my mom came to check me out of the dorm. Living so close, we headed home to Bloomington for the day. That evening, I put my tux back on and headed back to the Palladium, this time as a spectator. Another incredible night unfolded- tapping duo The Manzari Brothers, Lari White, Andrea McArdle, Clay Aiken, Barry Manilow, Michael Feinstein, and my friend Nick Ziobro graced the stage. At dinner, I got to meet Clay Aiken, who told me, “There’s nothing wrong with second place. I’ve done it twice. Just keep working hard and everything will work out.” I totally agree. The night culminated with the after party, when Michael Feinstein called Nick, Tori and myself out of the audience and had each of us sing with him at the piano. I’m still not down off cloud nine after that! At the risk of sounding corny, I feel like we were all winners, and a part of something so special that there just aren’t words to describe it.
It really is impossible to write down everything that happened. I’ve just tried to hit some of the highlights. What a week! I will cherish this experience for the rest of my life. Thank you to everyone involved with this phenomenal event!
Michael Feinstein's Great American Songbook High School Competition Finals start tomorrow!
After a whirlwind weekend-- working and assisting for 5 performances of One Step Above's productions "Cinderella Kids" and "Alice in Wonderland Jr.", then staying up to the wee hours watching the recorded Tony Awards, today is all about getting ready for the amazing week ahead. I've practiced, listened, done laundry, checked my lists, practiced and listened some more.
In preparation, I was looking through all the information and remembered that Jim Caruso (one of the judges) was on an episode of Michael Feinstein's PBS program. Fortunately, I have them all saved at home on the DVR, so was able to go back and watch that part again. In that same episode, I noticed a trumpet player at Sophia’s who looked familiar. I double checked the credits, and sure enough, it was my dad’s cousin Michael Ponella! I’ll definitely have to ask him about that the next time I see him!
Also, my dad told me that a colleague from IU Jacobs School of Music (another trumpet player) came by today and mentioned that he will be playing for the Gala/After Party Saturday night at the Palladium. The winner of the competition will be performing, and all the finalists and families will be attending. Just another example of what a small world it is!
Tonight, I'll enjoy spending time with my family, then tomorrow I have a quick rehearsal before hitting the road. I can't wait! Hopefully I'll have time to blog, or at least tweet (@tonyponella), throughout the week. I know that it will fly by, and I'll want to look back and be able to remember all the details of what promises to be an amazing experience!
Watch for my next post from Indianapolis!