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High school student named finalist for 2016 Songbook Academy

By KAYLA J. MARSH
Staff Writer

One local high school student will learn from some of the music industry’s best when he joins more than three dozen other scholastic students from across the country at a seven-day Songbook Academy focused on interpreting and performing music of the Great American Songbook.

The Great American Songbook Foundation, founded by two-time Emmy and five-time Grammy Award-nominated Michael Feinstein, selected Alexander Eisenberg, a 17-year-old Loch Arbor resident and student at the Academy of Allied Health and Science in Neptune, as a national finalist for the 2016 Songbook Academy.

“It is such an awesome opportunity,” Eisenberg said in a June 22 interview. “The Academy … presented us with this wonderful opportunity, and I am so honored to be a part of this whole thing and to be in this group of students my age.”

The Songbook Academy, currently in its seventh year, will take place at the Great American Songbook Foundation’s headquarters in Carmel, Indiana, where 40 students representing 17 states will participate in workshops and master classes by Feinstein and other top music industry professionals and educators before a final competition performance on July 23 at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel.

“There’s an application process in which you submit two audition videos of contrasting songs, so I sent in ‘Moonlight Serenade’ [by Glenn Miller] and ‘Our Love Is Here to Stay’ [by George and Ira Gershwin] in March, and in May, I was notified that I made the list alongside 39 other high school students so that was really exciting and awesome,” Eisenberg said.

“I was so excited because last year I applied and actually didn’t get in, but they still sent all these notes [and] helpful criticism, so I worked on all those and tried to bring them into my singing and performing this year, and thankfully I was accepted.”

Eisenberg, whose family owns General Dentistry, with practices in Freehold and Ocean, said he has been singing since he was about 8 years old and playing piano since he was about 4 or 5. He has been singing along to music of the Great American Songbook from an early age.

“To me, the Great American Songbook is really an interesting thing because it starts all the way back in the early 1900s with the Gershwins, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, and then it really evolves into everything else with Doo Wop, Rock ‘n’ Roll and now even things such as rap and pop,” he said.

“I think that this competition is focusing a little bit more on standards, so stuff from the 1930s or leaning more towards the jazz side, but I just think it is really amazing that the Great American Songbook represents really a reflection on history, represents all these different people all the way from Fred Astaire through Ella Fitzgerald through Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and The Beatles until now, which I really think is an amazing thing.”

Songbook Academy participants will vie for top prizes, including being named Great American Songbook Youth Ambassador, where the winner will receive the opportunity to perform with Feinstein at multiple appearances, as well have opportunities to perform throughout the next calendar year.

Songbook Inspiration Award and Songbook Celebration Awards recipients will each receive a performance opportunity with Feinstein as well.

“Throughout this week, we are working with Feinstein … then we’re also working with [nine-time Grammy winner] Janis Siegel, who is an amazing singer from The Manhattan Transfer group, and we’re also working with [Tony-award nominee] Jarrod Spector, who is just an unbelievable performer … who’ve I’ve met on multiple occasions,” Eisenberg said.

“I look up to all these people so much and to be standing in the same room as them … I am so honored.

“I feel like I’ve already won just from making it in even. … It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to really learn from these amazing artists and be around other amazing people my age who would hopefully become lifelong friends.”

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