It will be an auspicious homecoming on Saturday, April 21 at 8 p.m. for Nick Ziobro and Julia Goodwin, when they join, the five-time Grammy-nominated singer and Great American Songbook revivalist who helped discover them. Together, they will perform in “Michael Feinstein with Special Guests Nick Ziobro and Julia Goodwin” on stage at the Palladium at the Center for The Performing Arts in Carmel.
Ziobro, 21, and Goodwin, 19, first met when they were in middle school and performed in community theatre in their hometown of Syracuse, New York. Fast forward to 2012, Ziobro won the title of Songbook Youth Ambassador in the Songbook Foundation’s (founded by Feinstein) annual Songbook Academy’s summer intensive finals which target students who love the music of classic Broadway shows, jazz, and popular music. Later, Ziobro encouraged Goodwin to enter. Following in his footsteps, she earned the Songbook Youth Ambassador title in 2013.
Appearing sometimes as a duo simply known as Nick & Julia, the two are now widely known as seasoned performers. I have covered the summer intensive since its founding in 2009 and have interviewed each Songbook Youth Ambassador and followed their careers with great interest. A few weeks ago, I spoke with Goodwin, who was in Syracuse, and Ziobro, who now lives in NYC, during a three-way phone call in which we caught up and discussed their upcoming appearance on the Indiana stage where their careers were launched. Herein is an edited transcript of that interview.
How long have the two of had an act?
Nick: We have been doing it for two years.
What were some of your most recent engagements?
Nick: We did a holiday concert in Naples, Florida with the Pops Orchestra and we have done some concerts with Michael at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center and a show at Feinstein’s 54 Below with Michael last summer.
Give me an update, Julia.
Julia: Currently, I am a sophomore at Syracuse University. I am studying music industry and jazz, which has been really beneficial and fun. I am still singing the music of the Great American Songbook and writing my own music as well.
What are you writing?
Julia: I have loved songwriting my whole life. A lot of my songwriting is influenced by the Great American Songbook music and the jazz genre. I really love R&B and the singer-songwriter sort of lyrics.
How did this concert with Michael come about?
Nick: We got in contact with Jeff McDermott (CEO of the Center for the Performing Arts) and Chris Lewis (Songbook Foundation executive director). They wanted us to come out and perform with Michael, so we set up a double bill. We are really excited.
Julia: The Palladium is like a second home to us, so we are really pumped that we are going back.
Nick, give me an update on your activities.
Nick: I am currently living in NYC. I graduated early from Rider University in December, left high school with a few credits I was able to transfer over. I had a few courses and was able to condense everything into three and a half years.
What’s it like living in NYC, Nick?
Nick: It is what I thought it would be. I did not have high expectations at first. I just got here a few months ago and am on the audition track right now.
Do your impressive credits give you an advantage?
Nick: Yes. They definitely don’t hurt but it’s a pool of very high-caliber performers who have also done some really great things. It’s a tough pool to break in to.
How do your college peers, who do not have nearly as many high profile credits as you, view you?
Julia: I have been very fortunate to have had the experiences I’ve had, but am constantly trying to grow and learn. Whether it’s a TV show or in the classroom, they are all opportunities for me to learn as much as I can about what I love to do. As far as my peers, they have definitely been very supportive and think it is cool.
How was your college experience, Nick?
Nick: There were so many great experiences and such fantastic training. Being a part of the shows there was so much fun. When I entered the programs at Rider, the directors were all aware that I toured with Michael and had all these opportunities to perform that would occasionally take me out of school. They told me when I was accepting their offer that they would do anything to help me and they stayed true to their pledge. Rider was a great place for me to grow into young adulthood and the things I was doing outside of school helped me to grow professionally.
Julia, is that your experience?
Julia: Yes. College has definitely helped me grow as an individual and as a person and the things I have done outside of school have, unquestionably, helped me grow professionally.
What do you like most about entertaining?
Nick: What I love most about entertaining is being able to share music with the audience that I know is very special to them. The Great American Songbook has played such an important role in my life and to be able to share it with those around me is so special.
Julia: The best part of entertaining is the connection you make with the people in the audience. It is also a place of release where I can completely be myself and put all of my energy into what I’ve always been passionate about.
Who are your major music influences?
Nick: Some of my major influences are Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, Steve Lawrence, and Louis Armstrong.
Julia: I listen to many genres of music, but some of my influences include Billy Joel, Michael Feinstein, Ariana Grande, Ella Fitzgerald, and The Beatles.
Where do you see yourself in the entertainment industry 25 years from now?
Julia: Hopefully, I will be able to create music in some way, shape or form. Ideally, I would love to be my own touring artist, but being a songwriter in the popular music industry would also be fun for me.
Nick: It’s my dream to be an actor in Broadway shows. I’d love to be able to perform in Golden Age Musicals and share that music with everyone who comes to watch. I also want to continue to perform in concerts and share the Great American Songbook with audiences in venues all across the country and the world, preserving it for future generations.
How far would you two like to take your act?
Nick: All the way. I think that what we have is something you don’t really see at all these days. There are really not many acts like ours that pop up anymore. Especially two young people like us.
In the past, the greats were Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé who come to mind? Who else?
Nick: The Carpenters, Carole King and James Taylor.
How often do you two rehearse?
Nick: Whenever we are at home at the same time. We utilize the phone a lot. We are both from Syracuse and about 45 minutes from one another.
What is it like for you both to go back to that Palladium stage?
Nick: It always blows my mind because, really, that is where it all began. It’s beautiful there. It’s a gorgeous room. Everything about it is astounding. That venue was our first real high-profile engagement, so to be able to call it home is pretty fantastic and a great feeling.
Julia: The Palladium stage is where it all started for me as well, so going back there for me is where I learned about the Great American Songbook.
What will your program consist of?
Nick: We are going to do a few songs we’ve done before for the Palladium crowd but with a twist.
Julia: We have some old stuff and some new stuff, songs from Cole Porter to Carol King. It’s a wide range of songs. The Great American Songbook is constantly expanding and growing so it is not limited to one period of time. It’s any song that has lasted.
What’s it like performing with Michael?
Nick: Michael is such a fantastic mentor to us both. He is basically a member of our families. If you had told me seven years ago that I would still be performing on stage with Michael. I would not have believed you. It’s pretty surreal to have him a phone call away if there is anything we need.
Are the two of you represented by agents?
Nick: We have done a few contracts through a couple of agencies, but not anything official or concrete yet. We are separately managed, but as an act, we have gone through a couple of booking agencies.
How about recording? Any plans?
Nick: That would be really, really great, but it so expensive to put something out there. We are just two young people with no label behind them. It’s a wise investment, but it would be a large one as well.
How did your own CD, (“A Lot of Livin’ to Do”) do, Nick?
Nick: It’s still out there. The whole experience was fantastic. There were some fantastic musicians and Michael was pretty involved in the production of it. It was recorded in New York and now my voice is so different. I was 16 when I did it. I would love to have something out there that is updated and current.
Julia, what are you involved with at Syracuse, in terms of performance?
Julia: I am involved with a lot of jazz groups. I perform with a big band on campus, a jazz combo, and some focal jazz groups. As I mentioned before, I am songwriting a lot, so I am collaborating with a lot of people to get my music out there.
Do you two have many fans in Carmel?
Nick: Yes, every time we come back, we are always treated very, very well. People there have been following us for years now and their support for the Songbook Foundation Songbook Academy is truly fantastic.
What can the audience expect from your upcoming concert with Michael?
Nick: The Palladium is where Julia and I got our start with Michael so many years ago. So we want this show to be all about the music. We’re all grown up now and we’re so excited to come back and perform as professionals doing our own show for the people who’ve watched us from day one.
Julia: People can expect an exciting evening, with an amazing band led by Ted Firth, filled with music that has shaped us into the people and artists we are today. It’s a show you won’t want to miss!
For tickets and information about “Feinstein, Ziobro & Goodwin” call (317) 843-3800 or visit thecenterfortheperformingarts.org.