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Great American Songbook Foundation names new leader

The Great American Songbook Foundation has selected a seasoned staff member to serve as its new vice president.

Christopher Lewis, who had served five years as the foundation’s director of programs, assumed the lead role effective January 1. He replaces Karen Kelsey, who retired after five years as vice president.

Founded in 2007 by five-time Grammy nominee Michael Feinstein and housed at the affiliated Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, the Great American Songbook Foundation offers education and outreach programs and maintains archives, a library and an exhibit gallery dedicated to the timeless jazz standards, Broadway and Hollywood tunes and other classic popular music of the early- to mid-20th century.

Under Kelsey’s leadership, the Songbook Foundation has increased financial contributions by 70 percent, hosted over 10,000 visitors to gallery exhibits and expanded the archives from 44 collections to 190.

Lewis, as director of programs, has been responsible for the development and execution of the Foundation’s public programming. In his new role as vice president, he will oversee all activities including collection management, gallery exhibits, educational and outreach programming and the annual Songbook Academy®, which selects top high school vocalists from around the country to experience a week of workshops and master classes with Broadway performers, music industry professionals and educators from respected university music and theater programs. Lewis also will collaborate with the Center’s development staff in building a diverse fundraising base to sustain Foundation activities.

“Chris’ dedication and expertise make him the ideal person to take over direction of the Songbook Foundation,” Feinstein said. “We’ll always be grateful to Karen for her important leadership through the early years. She leaves the Foundation in an excellent position for the future, and we expect a seamless transition.”

A Carmel resident with experience as a professional vocalist and voice teacher, Lewis holds a master’s degree in education from Mercy College and has worked as a history teacher and special education liaison for the New York City Department of Education. He also holds an Indiana teaching certification and is pursuing a certificate in nonprofit executive leadership through the IUPUI School of Philanthropy. He is a member of the National Association of Music Educators, the National Association of Teachers of Singing, the Jazz Education Network and the Recording Academy.

Replacing Lewis as director of programs is Cathy Burton, formerly the director of education at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. She previously worked as an educator/curator at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis and the Autry Museum of the American West. She holds a bachelor’s degree in art history and a master’s degree in cultural anthropology from California State University.

About the Great American Songbook Foundation

Five-time Grammy nominee Michael Feinstein founded the Great American Songbook Foundation in 2007 with a mission to inspire and educate by celebrating the Great American Songbook. The Foundation is housed at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, led by Interim President/CEO Jeffrey C. McDermott. The work of the Foundation includes:

· The annual Songbook Academy®

· Library, archives and gallery exhibits

· Great American Songbook Hall of Fame

· Educational and outreach programs

· Perfect Harmony, a music therapy program for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia

For more information, visit

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