The Great American Songbook Archive began when Michael Feinstein was a boy. He discovered the music of George and Ira Gershwin and began collecting; and for more than 30 years, he has amassed a collection, and encyclopedic knowledge about its contents, that is considered among the most extensive in existence.
At The Palladium, the magnificent $118 million landmark building with a 1,600-seat concert hall, over 6,200 square feet has been dedicated to the Michael Feinstein Great American Songbook Initiative, split into two areas of nearly identical size and shape on the Gallery Level.
The Great American Songbook Archive exists to preserve the original compositions, recordings, memorabilia and other important artifacts of the Songbook so that current and future generations may experience them. The Archive has a reference library, study space, and listening room for researchers who wish to learn more about the music, its creators, and the culture it inspired. We welcome high school and university scholars as well as professional musicians and historians. The Archive is the only facility of its kind solely dedicated to preserving the Great American Songbook.
Special Items in Our Collection
Thousands of early stage transcriptions, 78 and 33RPM recordings spanning decades of the Great American Songbook, the result of a generous donation from collector, jazz columnist, and frequent contributor to The Wall Street Journal, Will Friedwald. The records document the recording careers of artists such as Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Frank Sinatra, and dozens of other artists and represent a collection that spans the generation.
Added to the Feinstein Foundation archives in 2009 are the personal papers and manuscripts of lyricist Hy Zaret, who passed away in 2007. Among those papers is an original manuscript with the lyrics to “Unchained Melody,” one of the most recorded songs of the 20th century.
Also in 2009, the Feinstein Initiative acquired a premier collection from Mr. Bob Grimes, a collector based in San Francisco, who for more than 50 years, made music collecting his hobby. With over 43,000 sheet music titles in his massive collection, and more than 70,000 index cards filled with information recorded as he cataloged his collection, Bob Grimes has long been known as the man to turn to if you’re a cabaret singer in need of a long-forgotten, obscure song. Once relocated to the Michael Feinstein Foundation Museum and Archives, researchers and enthusiasts alike will again have access to revive the music of the Great American Songbook. Future digitization is planned.
In 2010, the Feinstein Initiative received what is considered the preeminent collection of Andrews Sisters music and memorabilia. We are grateful to collector and writer Bob Boyer and his wife Dottie for the contribution of this significant piece of American history.
The Gallery Exhibit Space
Through the utilization of current technology we turn our diminutive gallery into a multimedia educational center for the Songbook. A touchscreen monitor allows visitors to see and hear the music as it was performed on stage and screen while digitized images turn the four walls of the gallery into a life-sized textbook. Our current exhibit, G.I. Jive: the music and entertainers of WWII, highlights the performers who entertained the troops through USO camp shows as well as the music that unified the nation.
Nothing is more central to the mission of the Feinstein Initiative than introducing and promoting the Great American Songbook to the next generation of young Americans.
By developing an effective and entertaining curriculum-based program, including in-school performances, the Initiative intends to reach youngsters by introducing them to the music and composers of the Great American Songbook for their entertainment, appreciation and deliver cultural, and purely American historical context.
Michael Feinstein is known as the “The Ambassador of the Great American Songbook” for his commitment to American popular music through a 30-year career of live performances, recordings, and broadcasts. In addition to performing more than 150 shows a year in the U.S. and abroad in major concert halls, with symphony orchestras and big bands, in intimate jazz clubs, and on college campuses, Feinstein is a passionate collector and preservationist with an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of 20th century music and popular culture. He serves on The Library of Congress’ National Sound Recording Advisory Board, a group of artists and industry leaders charged with safeguarding America’s musical heritage; he also is Director of a new popular music series for Jazz at Lincoln Center. In 2008, he created the Michael Feinstein Great American Songbook Initiative, headquartered in Carmel, Indiana, dedicated to celebrating the artform and preserving its legacy for the next generation through Master Classes, educational programs, and exhibitions.
His Manhattan nightclub, Feinstein’s at Loews Regency, where he appears several times a year for extended engagements, presents top talents in pop and jazz such as Barbara Cook, Jane Krakowski, Alan Cumming, Nellie McKay, Ashford & Simpson, Marilyn Maye, Ben Vereen, Chita Rivera, Tom Wopat, and Elaine Stritch. Starting in 2011, Feinstein also will serve as the Artistic Director of the new Carmel (Indiana) Performing Arts Center, which will host an annual Great American Songbook festival and house an archive of Feinstein’s collection of musical memorabilia, sheet music, and manuscripts.
As a recording artist, Michael has earned five Grammy nominations, most recently for his CD The Sinatra Projectin 2009. Other CDs include The Power of Two (with Broadway leading man Cheyenne Jackson); Only One Life – The Songs of Jimmy Webb; Michael Feinstein with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (Grammy nomination); Michael and George – Feinstein Sings Gershwin; Big City Rhythms (with the Maynard Ferguson Big Band); the double-CD Romance On Film, Romance On Broadway; and The Michael Feinstein Anthology, a 2-disc compilation spanning the years 1987 to 1996, featuring previously unreleased tracks.
Michael started playing piano by ear when he was five. After graduating from high school in Columbus, Ohio, he worked in local piano lounges for two years, moving to Los Angeles when he was 20. Through the widow of concert pianist-actor Oscar Levant, he was introduced to legendary lyricist Ira Gershwin in July 1977. He became Ira’s assistant for six years, and was granted access to numerous unpublished Gershwin songs that he has since performed and recorded.
Gershwin’s influence provided a solid base upon which Michael has not only evolved into a captivating performer, composer and arranger of his own original music, but also has become an unparalleled interpreter of music legends such as Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Johnny Mercer, Duke Ellington, and Harry Warren. He is writing a new book about the songs of the Gershwins, as well as co-producing a feature film about them with Oscar- and Tony-winning producer Marc Platt.