The concept of the Great American Songbook began during the six years when Michael Feinstein was working as Ira Gershwin’s assistant. During this time of discovery, he became immersed in the music of George and Ira Gershwin and developed his passion for all of the music of the great American composers who wrote during the period now known as the “Golden Age of American Popular Music.”
The “Great American Songbook” is the uniquely American collection of popular music from Broadway and Hollywood musicals prevalent from the 1920’s to 1960’s. The composers representing this “Golden Age” include the Gershwins, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, and Richard Rodgers. Singers include Frank Sinatra, Al Jolson, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, and Mel Torme, to mention just a few. Their timeless music offered hope of better days during the great depression, built morale during two world wars, helped build social bridges within our culture and rejoiced with us during economic growth. We defended our country, raised families and built a nation to these songs. The songwriters and artists of the Great American Songbook translated positive values and an optimistic spirit into the soundtrack of American life. It is Feinstein’s belief that “the Songbook reflects the passions and diversity of our country and that these values are as true and applicable today as they ever have been. It has been a large part of my life’s work to archive and preserve this uniquely American art form; and, in doing so educate today’s youth about the relevance of the Great American Songbook and its connection to current popular music.”
Michael’s collection is now housed in the new Palladium Performing Arts Center in Carmel, Indiana, (a northern suburb of Indianapolis). His collection of hundreds of thousands of pages of original sheet music and full orchestrations, thousands of LP’s, private recordings and demos, and memorabilia occupies a 70,000 square foot area in the magnificent $170 million dollar center. His memorabilia includes a snow globe that Irving Berlin gave to Rosemary Clooney after the filming of White Christmas, a ten-page telegram from Florenz Ziegfeld to Gus Kahn, a drawing of sheet music art from the original Porgy and Bess, a limited edition score of Red, White, and Blue autographed in 1937 by Cole Porter, and given to Mr. Feinstein by Bob Hope, George Gershwin’s first song contract from 1916.
Along with the Michael Feinstein Foundation for the Preservation of the Great American Songbook; plans include a museum, a library with interactive displays and digital technology for people to access the material from all over the world. All of this is meticulously cataloged. “When I started my Foundation, people began donating things because they wanted to know that it will continue to have a life. This partnership between my Foundation and the Palladium will assure that these treasures will live forever.”