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Great American Songbook Academy draws in teen vocalists from Shreveport, Haughton

Kate Archer Kent

Two northwest Louisiana high school students from Haughton and Shreveport will travel to Carmel, Indiana, this month to compete in a week-long vocal competition called the Michael Feinstein Great American Songbook Academy.

Forty teen vocalists from 16 states will hone their skills focused on a music era spanning the 1920s to the 1960s, inspired by Broadway and Hollywood musicals.

16-year-old Leah Huber of Haughton hopes that by working shoulder to shoulder with Grammy and Tony Award winners that their success formula will inform her career trajectory. She will perform “Personality” from the musical “The Road To Utopia,” and “We’ll Love Again,” featured in the Alfred Hitchcock thriller “The Man Who Knew Too Much.”

“I’m hoping by the end of the week that I can take what [the professional musicians] have learned over their many, many years of expertise and working with many professionals before them that it’s a performer family tree and that their traits can be passed down,” Huber said.

17-year-old Elizabeth Ross has been studying this early 20th century music to better understand the meaning behind the songs and the background of composers. Ross will perform “This Could Be the Start of Something Big,” by Steve Allen, who created the original “The Tonight Show” theme, and “Too Late Now,” from the film “Royal Wedding.”

She hopes the Feinstein Academy will make her a well-rounded artist.

“A big thing that they focus on is storytelling. As an actress as well as a singer, I focus on that as well. I hope to incorporate that even more into my work,” Ross said.

Their vocal coach Jennifer Dowd accompanied a winning student to the competition last year. Shreveport native Nia Savoy won the 2014 Inspiration Award.

“They are watched from the time they get there to the very last bell until everyone’s awarded. The really brilliant thing about this experience is that they want to form a relationship with their All Stars -- that’s what they name them when they get there -- and follow them and help them through their career,” Dowd said.

The workshops begin July 18. A finale concert is set for July 25. The students will work with music industry professionals and educators from college arts programs to experience the Golden Age of American popular music and become youth ambassadors for the canon.

Chuck Smith brings more than 30 years' broadcast and media experience to Red River Radio. He began his career as a radio news reporter and transitioned to television journalism and newsmagazine production. Chuck studied mass communications at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and motion picture / television production at the University of California at Los Angeles. He has also taught writing for television at York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina and video / film production at Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport.