May 27, 2015

Local teens to perform Gershwin with Michael Feinstein at RPO

While so many young vocalists dream of one day performing onstage with a symphony orchestra, two area teens are already living that dream. This weekend, Syracuse-area teens Julia Goodwin and Nick Ziobro will join five-time Grammy nominee, two-time Emmy nominee and multi-platinum recording artist Michael Feinstein for two concerts celebrating the music of George and Ira Gershwin.

Feinstein has received national recognition for his commitment to celebrating the American songbook and preserving its legacy for the next generation. Goodwin and Ziobro are both previous winners of Feinstein’s annual “Great American Songbook High School Vocal Competition,” that draws top high school vocalists from across the country to a two-week summer intensive program in Indiana. While the top honor award achieved by Goodwin (winner in 2013) and Ziobro (winner in 2012) allows one performance with Feinstein, the pair have performed with Feinstein numerous times in venues across the country, thanks to the encouragement of Feinstein himself.

We caught up with Goodwin and Ziobro to learn more about Feinstein’s influence on their careers and why they are passionate about preserving the great American pop standards.

Julia Goodwin, 17 of Baldwinsville, N.Y. Entering her senior year of high school this fall.
Nick Ziobro, 18 of Manlius, N.Y. Pursuing a bachelor’s degree in musical theatre at Rider University (N.J.).
Julia Goodwin
Credit: Rebecca McManus

When did you start performing?
Julia: I always loved singing. My dad introduced me to music when I was young. He would play piano and I would sing along with him.

I’ve been onstage for as long as I can remember. I started singing jazz standards when I was 11. I was supposed to be taking piano lessons, but my piano teacher found out that I could sing so I started singing along while he played!

How do you define the great American songbook?
Nick: It’s constantly growing and changing. People think it’s just a certain time period, but any song that people still connect with generations after it’s been written can be a part of it. It’s not just the standards of the 40s and 50s; artists like Billy Joel and Barry Manilow can be considered part of the American songbook.

It’s music that will stand the test of time and it’s still growing today.
Nick Ziobro

How does Michael Feinstein inspire you as an artist?
Julia: Michael is such a genuine and friendly person. He is always looking to inspire audiences. He inspires me through his interpretation of this music; he is a talented individual and I am always learning from him.

Nick: He is very passionate about this music; as an artist it is amazing to see someone live and breathe this music. He wants it to survive and to put it into the hands of the next generation. He is also an incredible resource for me and we have this great mentor/student relationship. He is an amazing performer to watch and I have learned so much just from being at his shows.

Who are your favorite artists to perform?

Julia: I love all different genres of music, from pop and jazz standards to country and hip hop. Two of my favorite artists are Ella Fitzgerald and Ariana Grande.

Nick: George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter and Jimmy Van Heusen (also from Syracuse!) are my favorites. I like to listen to the music of Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Sammy Davis Jr. and Doris Day.

What: Michael Feinstein performs Gershwin songs in the RPO Pops season finale.
When: 8 p.m. May 29 and 30.
Where: Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre, 60 Gibbs St., Rochester.
Tickets: $23-95, available in person at the Eastman Theatre Box Office (433 E. Main St.), at all Wegmans That's T.H.E. Ticket! locations, by phone at (585) 454-2100, or online at

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