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I am so encouraged when young people have opportunities to pursue big dreams and become more of who they want to be. Many musical opportunities exist, but finding the ones that feed the soul, challenge the intellect, inspire the imagination, and develop the character, is often difficult. Finding opportunities to carry on a genre or tradition of music that has made people happy for generations it a rare find. Almost anyone can sing a pop song … not everyone can carry on in the footsteps of the generation of singers and instrumentalists who recorded the American Songbook.

I am writing about these songs, this week, because The Songbook Academy’s summer music intensive for young singers has just wrapped up for this year. Young vocalists who love classic show tunes and jazz are given an opportunity to spend a week, working with award-winning industry pros, singers, performers, and educators. The experience they have had will indelibly alter them and their musical lives. The promotional video about the summer academy gives a number of reasons why this kind of experience is important, but one phrase sums it up: “It’s not the competition, it’s the learning.” Learning to rely on a tradition, to stand in the trajectory of that tradition, and to add your own personality and creativity to that heritage and take it into the future – this is a practice and a skill that we each need, in order to protect and prosper the gifts that we have been given.

This “American Songbook,” isn’t a real songbook, printed on paper. It’s a collection of some of the best-loved music from the early- and mid-20th century: the most popular and enduring songs that were created for Broadway, musical theatre, and Hollywood musical film. But the songbook is also a personal reflection of the songs that have shaped our culture. Each artist makes it their own. And it lives on, in the hearts and voices of a new generation.

What metaphorical “songbook” are you singing, and which of its selections will you pass on to those who join you in the choir?

YouTube Playlist  – ST#69 – The Great American Songbook

The Great American Songbook Foundation – in case you know of some young people who would love to be part of this academy next year!