Carmel students earn chance to compete in national vocal contest


By Pete Smith

Two Carmel High School students have been chosen to participate in the second round of the 2014 Great American Songbook Vocal Academy & Competition.

CHS junior Sydney Sorrell and CHS freshman Mattie Tom will take the stage May 17 in Ann Arbor, Mich., in a regional competition that will include a full-day workshop followed by an evening performance.

Finalists from the regional competition will earn a chance to compete in a final competition during the week of July 20 in Carmel at the Palladium.

At the July finals, one student will be awarded the title of Great American Songbook Youth Ambassador, $3,000, and the chance of a lifetime: the opportunity to perform with Michael Feinstein.

The Youth Ambassador will serve for one year, with opportunities to perform throughout the year. Other awards include Songbook Inspiration Award and Songbook Celebration Award, each receiving $1,000 toward continuing music education.

And last year’s winner, Julia Goodwin, has served as a huge inspiration to 14-year-old Mattie. Well that and the memory of time spent with her grandfather.

To reach this point in the competition she had to record and submit two songs. She chose “God Bless the Child” by Billie Holiday and “Orange Colored Sky” by Nat King Cole.

The latter was a song that reminded her of her grandfather because they used to listen to it when they were out driving.

“I love that song so much,” she said.

Mattie has been performing since she was 9 years old, but she heard about the Great American Songbook competition through her voice teacher, Heather Ramsey Clark.

“I couldn’t believe that I made it,” she said.

Neither could her friends. They all think she’s famous now. But more than the fame, Mattie said she sees the contest as an opportunity.

“It would be a dream come true to be able to sing at the Palladium,” she said. “Not many people can say they did that.”

Sydney, 17, agrees. She had the chance to sing a solo during an Ambassadors’ performance in the Palladium and would love to do it again.

“It was amazing,” she said.

She said she’s more excited than nervous after spending a ton of time getting her recordings ready for the initial contest submission.

She recorded “Black Coffee” by Ella Fitzgerald and “Frim Fram Sauce” by Nat King Cole.

She admits that she’s tried to check out her competition on Facebook – with some prodding from her mother. But that hasn’t yielded many answers.

“I have no idea what I’m up against,” Sydney said.

Produced by the Michael Feinstein Great American Songbook Initiative, the annual endeavor is the only U.S. competition dedicated solely to the music from Broadway, Hollywood musicals and the Tin Pan Alley-era of the early to mid-twentieth century.