I'm counting the days until I get to head to Boot Camp--Michael Feinstein High School Competition Finals Boot Camp, that is. Looking through the list of masterclass and other experiences in store for us next week is unbelievably exciting! We will be working with Michael Feinstein, Sylvia McNair, Sandy Patti, La Tanya Hall and Jim Caruso, as well as performing with most of them Friday night at the final performance!
I'm in the process of checking off my to-do list: Picked my music (stuck with "Orange Colored Sky" and added Indiana composer Hoagy Carmichael's "The Nearness of You"), transposed the music, emailed it for the accompanist, got a new tux, practice, practice, listen, practice, practice. Tomorrow I'll be doing an interview with the Herald-Times Newspaper, so got a haircut today. Meanwhile, I'm assisting with One Step Above's productions of "Alice in Wonderland Jr." and "Disney's Cinderella Kids" which go up this week, meaning all day rehearsals.
So much to think about! I want to get all my ducks in a row so that I can head to Indy next week and just soak up everything- enjoy, learn and create. I want time to speed up to get to Tuesday, then go in slow motion throughout the week. 5 days and counting...
We were cleaning out the basement this weekend, when… jackpot! I found some old Great American Songbook sheet music, photos and records. As I was looking through everything, it really got me thinking about the connection I have with this music.
My dad’s father, born and raised in The Bronx, loved Vic Damone. Evidence of this is in the collection of his records passed down. In fact, just recently my dad said that growing up, he didn’t even realize “On the Street Where You Live” was from a show. He thought it was just another “old crooner’s song”.
Mom’s side is just as connected with this type of music, beginning with my grandpa. He has been teaching my sisters and me Jazz History this year via Skype, since he’s in Kansas and we’re in Indiana. In one of our sessions this spring, he mentioned playing with Ella Fitzgerald, and how those charts were the best he ever played. WHAT?! Even my mom didn’t know about that, though she remembers watching him perform with Andy Williams, among others.
My parents are both musicians and have performed music of the Great American Songbook. My mom played cello with Barry Manilow in upstate New York during his tour following the release of “Singing with the Big Bands”. I got some weird looks when I would ask my friends, “So, what’s your favorite Barry Manilow song?” It didn’t phase me when they had never heard of him- I just played the CD, expecting them to love it as much as I did. Not everyone did, but that’s OK.
As with all other good music, Great American Songbook music can span generations and create experiences and memories that entertain and inspire.
An exciting email just came, with more information about the Michael Feinstein Great American Songbook Competition Finals. In addition to the 10 finalists from around the country each performing two songs, we get to sing a number with Michael Feinstein. AND... Michael Feinstein, Sylvia McNair and Sandy Patti (all who are judges and clinicians throughout the week) will be performing in the final concert, too. I'm so excited! Friends and family have already been asking about details, and I think anyone in the Indianapolis area should come check it out!
For more information on the finals, and to purchase tickets online, go to:
http://www.thecenterfortheperformingarts.org/tickets/production.aspx?PID=1668 (Price: $25-$50)
Meanwhile, I have to decide what two songs I am going to perform. I love the songs I performed for regionals ("Beyond the Sea" and "Orange Colored Sky"), but there are so many great songs that I want to sing. Right now, I'm in the process of trying to decide which two to select this time. I think I'll keep one from before, but am also looking for something a little more lyrical. It isn't as easy as you might think to choose from all the amazing material in this genre.
With this goal in mind, I have been constantly on Spotify. I love searching and listening to different renditions of the same song. I searched "My Funny Valentine" by Rodgers and Hart and came up with about 100 different tracks featuring artists such as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Chet Baker, Micheal Bublé, Miles Davis, Gerry Muligan, Barbra Streisand, Kristin Chenoweth and Joshua Bell, and even Matt Damon.
Two songs I am considering are "Do I Love You?" by Cole Porter and "The Nearness of You" by Hoagy Carmichael. These both are written by fellow Hoosiers (Indiana natives.) Another possibility is "All the Things You Are" by Jerome Kern. So much music... so little time!
One fun thing I learned about on the Michael Feinstein PBS special that I thought would be fun to share, are these versions of "For Once in My Life". They are of Tony Bennett and Stevie Wonder, each separately, then together. The different adaptations are
There are so many amazing things you can do with music. I am so passionate about it and look forward to a lifetime of exploring and creating.
"The only thing better than singing is more singing" -Ella Fitzgerald
New York City was amazing last week. Aside from having coachings, I ended up seeing two shows: Peter and the Starcatcher and Godspell...again...
Peter and the Starcatcher was incredible! I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book, and seeing the story put on the stage was so exciting and entertaining. Also, the set was brilliant! I loved how every piece of the stage had multiple purposes. This included members of the cast becoming part of the set from time to time. Though the entire cast was phenomenal, one of my favorite performers was Christian Borle, who played Black Stache. What an insanely delightful character! Let me just say, the 9 Tony Award nominations this show has received are well deserved and I hope they win a bunch! I definitely want to see this production again!
Godspell was amazing as always. What keeps me coming back to this production is not only the incredibly talented cast and amazing arrangements, but the moving, beautiful story that evokes every emotion and creates a wonderful evening of theater.
And...pay-your-age tickets? Who could resist.
We ended up seeing Godspell this time with Corbin Bleu ("High School Musical") playing Jesus. He was awesome! My family stayed afterward for a talkback featuring the star. What a down to earth, smart, and cool guy! I loved what he had to say about the show, playing the role, and his journey; but my take away was what he said about the casting process. He talked about the fact that there are so many aspects you can't control in casting, but the only thing you can effect is how much you learn and grow as an artist. My favorite quote of the evening - "You're never as good as you're going to be." I find this so inspiring!
This idea summarizes my goals for living in the city next semester! I don't know what will happen when, but I am determined to work hard and study, while enjoying the process and whatever comes to pass. Let's see what happens!
What a great week!
On Wednesday, I got to be a part of an online masterclass through the Carnegie Hall Musical Exchange! I had my video of "Different" reviewed by Leslie Stifleman (Musical Director of Chicago), Roger Rees (Tony nominated director of Peter and the Starcatcher), and Tara Rubin (Tara Rubin Casting). They had such valuable feedback for the video, and were so nice and fun!
Then, over the weekend, I participated in the Michael Feinstein Great American Songbook Regional Competition. Saturday started very early on the campus of The University of Michigan. The day was comprised of masterclasses ranging from phrasing to mic technique. That evening, all of the regional finalists performed at the Kerrytown Concert House in downtown Ann Arbor. All ten finalists did a fantastic job, but only three of us would be sent to the finals. After the Judges deliberated, they had us all gather on stage for the winners to be announced. The whole day, I had ended up being first to do things (which rarely happens!): I was the first one to sing in the masterclass, I was first up in the performance, and I was the first person to be announced as a winner! I will be participating in the finals at the Palladium in Carmel, Indiana on June 15th! I am so excited to work with Michael Feinstein, Sylvia McNair, Sandi Patty, and all the other amazing instructors at the four day boot camp prior to the finals!
For more information on the Finals, and to puchase tickets online, go to: http://www.thecenterfortheperformingarts.org/tickets/production.aspx?PID=1668 (Price: $25-$50)
The best part of the weekend was the fact that my family was there, including my grandparents from Kansas. They saw the performance and then stuck around in Ann Arbor for Mothers Day. It was so neat to be able to share that with them!
Later this week, I'll be in NYC! I'm so excited to head back to the city and possibly see some shows! More on that soon!
Hey there! My name is Tony Ponella, and I am so excited to start my first blog! I cannot wait to chronicle what I anticipate to be an exciting chapter of my life. This summer I will be moving from Bloomington, Indiana to New York City. I plan to take as many performing arts related classes as I can, while finishing my senior year of high school. As a Homeschooled seventeen year old, it will also be amazing to have the opportunity to study all of the history and culture the Big Apple has to offer.
Before moving, I still have some exciting upcoming events. Right now my focus is on the Michael Feinstein Great American Songbook High School Vocal Competition. The regional competition will take place this weekend in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and I will be singing the same two songs I recorded for the first round: "Orange Colored Sky" and "Beyond the Sea".
Here is the recording of "Orange Colored Sky" that was submitted for the first round of the Feinstein competition, as well as footage from a masterclass with extraordinary jazz musician Vince di Mura, where we played around with stylistic choices in "Beyond the Sea".
I hope this blog can give a glimpse into my journey as an aspiring singer/actor. I'm excited to share my experiences along the way! I will keep things updated here, but I can also be followed on Twitter @TonyPonella, and can be seen on YouTube on my tonyponella channel.
Stay tuned over the weekend for coverage of the Feinstein competition regionals, and feel free to leave comments below. I will be back soon!