Like many in the audience who have followed them since they first appeared on the entertainment horizon, I was thoroughly pleased to see how much Nick Ziobro and Julia Goodwin have grown since the time I first saw them perform. Winners of the 2012 and 2013 Songbook Academy vocal competition, respectively, the duo appeared alongside their mentor Michael Feinstein Saturday on the Palladium stage at The Center of the Performing Arts in Carmel.
Ziobro, 21, who recently graduated from college and Goodwin, 19, who is still working toward her undergraduate degree, have already earned their stripes through appearances at renowned venues such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, The Kennedy Center, Feinstein’s/54 Below, and in nation-wide concerts with Feinstein, the American Songbook Ambassador himself. During Saturday’s concert, their development and stage experience showed.
A nearly full-house audience, representing a following developed by the Songbook Foundation since its founding in 2009, was clearly enamored with Feinstein, who gave his usual appealing performance. Impeccably interpreting songs from the American Songbook which he champions so passionately, Feinstein opened the show with a mash up of “L-O-V-E,” “Almost Like Being in Love,” and was beguiling in “Memories,” which was one of the songs in a medley that inspired pure nostalgia. Other songs from the American Songbook that he lovingly conveyed included “You and Me Against the World,” Cole Porter’s “Night and Day” and “I Only Have Eyes for You.” Accompanied by pianist Tedd Firth, his music director and a dynamic four-piece band, Feinstein also played for himself during songs, which he delivered in his signature voice, distinctive for its velvety tone. Not known for canned commentary, Feinstein peppered his performance with always-interesting facts about songs and their composers and jokes that showed off his devilish sense of humor. Most drew laughs, but a few elicited some groans.
After introducing Goodwin, Feinstein and his protégé sang a duet of “How About You?” after which Ziobro joined them. Ziobro and Goodwin, both Syracuse, New York natives, then sang a duet of “This Could Be the Start of Something.” Goodwin, who is studying jazz in college, showcased her affinity for that genre when she sang a version of Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind.” Revealing a stage presence, maturity and poise beyond her years, Goodwin, a photogenic beauty, displayed a richly commanding voice and artistry that are destined for great things.
Tall, lanky and fresh-faced Ziobro, in possession of a distinctive vocal tone unlike any other, turned in a performance that illustrated he was clearly born to be an entertainer. A gifted stylist and showman in the tradition of his idol Sammy Davis, Jr. as well as Tony Bennett and Old Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra, the affable Ziobro was delightful in a duet of “Me and My Shadow” with his obviously proud mentor Feinsten. Demonstrating his dramatic talent (Ziobro aspires to perform in Broadway musicals) was deeply affecting, as he powerfully connected with the audience in a poignant rendition of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” a lament about love obsession.
Ziobro and Goodwin, known as “Nick & Julia,” an act they formed a few years ago, sang in pitch-perfect harmony and showed musical and personal chemistry that hearkened back to the iconic duos of Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé and Richard and Karen Carpenter when they sang a duet mash-up of “Stormy Weather” and “When The Sun Comes Down.”
I have thoroughly enjoyed following the emergent careers of Ziobro and Goodwin ever since first seeing them perform during master classes, showcases and the finals of their respective Songbook Academy vocal competitions and interviewing them several times within the ensuing years. To see them return to the stage that rocketed them into careers that may someday mirror that of Feinstein’s couldn’t have been more satisfying. I can only imagine that Feinstein must have felt elated that his mission to promoting and preservw the music of the Great American Songbook was exemplified in their engaging performances and if anybody should feel like a proud papa, it is surely him.
For information about The Great American Songbook Foundation and The Songbook Academy visit thecenterfortheperformingarts.org.