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Spotlight on Cabaret: Can’t Stop Learning

Updated: Jan 11, 2021

By Tracy Adams

The line between jazz singing and cabaret singing is often fine, blurred, and crossed—with frequently spectacular results that delight Chicagoland listeners. Chicago Jazz Magazine is thrilled to partner with Chicago Cabaret Professionals via the monthly column/calendar, “Spotlight on Cabaret.”

Michael Feinstein's annual Songbook Academy, held online for the first time in 2020.

While the debates rage on over how and where—and if—our children will be learning come fall, the musically inclined among us have dived right into technology solutions. Maybe you can’t buy a bike or a chest freezer right now, but there has been no shortage of online discussions and sharing of advice on which in-home sound equipment works best or how to get reasonable audio synchronization over Zoom.

A shining example: Michael Feinstein’s Songbook Academy ( If you aren’t familiar with this amazing program, it’s an annual weeklong training camp for high-school-age singers aimed at developing the next vanguard of the Great American Songbook. Participants audition for the chance to work with top-of-the-line, nationally recognized, award-winning performers, vocal coaches, and musical directors. Chicago’s own Beckie Menzie has served as one of the musical directors for several seasons, and the experience is always as much a highlight of her own year as it is for the students.

When the pandemic came with all of its mask wearing, social distancing, no-singing-please fun, the Academy didn’t waste a moment converting to an online format. Menzie says, “One of the great things about the Academy is the relationships and camaraderie participants develop. We were concerned that that would get lost in a virtual version, but the way the Songbook staff adapted the program, it worked fabulously.”

And, as with other virtual delivery channels, the result was not only a continued opportunity for young singers, but a chance for a much larger, more geographically diverse audience to join in on the fun. Finally, I didn’t have to travel to Indiana to see the several public performances and watch green talent turn to gold before my very eyes; nor did people from Maine or New Mexico or Washington.

I may be a bit long in the tooth to apply for the Academy, but I’m not too old to learn. Opportunities lurk around every corner of every screen. Let the musical learning continue!

Keep up with the latest in Chicago cabaret news:


Tracy Adams has spent more than four decades on stages of every kind, from intimate cabarets to large auditoriums, hotel restaurants to European cathedrals. For seven years, he was the restaurant writer for Gay Chicago Magazine. He spends his days as a training manager for an accounting firm. All of these endeavors reflect his personal mission in life, which is to help people grow.

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