La Cañada High School senior Finn Sagal is starting to get used to the sound of it: 2017 Songbook Youth Ambassador.
His new title certainly has a ring to it.
“This is such an amazing opportunity,” said Sagal, who was named the top singer at the Great American Songbook Foundation’s Songbook Academy this summer at the Palladium concert hall in Carmel, Indiana.
This week, he signed a contract for three high-profile performances with Michael Feinstein, the Songbook Foundation founder, in addition to a date singing the national anthem at an Indianapolis Colts game — all part of his duties as ambassador. There also will be a handful of other yet-to-be-determined events around the nation, perhaps including stops at important venues such as Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center.
“I’ve definitely struggled with, ‘Can I sing?’ and ‘Am I good?’” said Sagal, who plans to study opera in college. “Now, this makes me feel more confidence in my abilities and that is going to allow me to move forward.”
Sagal is the 17-year-old son of La Cañada Unified School Board member David Sagal, the saxophone-playing leader of the David Sagal Jazz Trio, with whom Finn will perform the first Friday each month at Yamashiro Hollywood.
“I’m just glad I signed him before he became the youth ambassador,” David Sagal joked.
Finn Sagal emerged as the one to serve as ambassador from 40 gifted high schoolers who were invited to the Great American Songbook Foundation’s annual, intensive Songbook Academy, where professionals mentored the young vocalists, helping them hone their skills on timeless pop standards. At the end of the session, Sagal was among 10 singers selected to perform solo at the academy’s finals.
“The level of talent there, as Finn will tell you, was just phenomenal,” David Sagal said. “And he was the most surprised guy there, but he sang beautifully, it was really, really great.”
In the finals, Sagal delivered “Luck be a Lady,” and “I’ll Be Seeing You,” the latter of which was performed by his late grandmother at USO camps.
Sagal and his two older siblings, fellow performers Boris and Nora, never met David Sagal’s mother, a noted singer who performed on Broadway and was featured on the radio under the stage name Sara Macon. But her influence is evident, and appreciated.
“We attribute our singing genes from her, and also our love for music, which she passed on to my dad,” Finn Sagal said. “Her presence is still really felt within the family through music.”
Finn Sagal said he’s already incorporating what he learned at the academy into his performance: “This is a skill I’m still developing and I’m learning how to connect with an audience. You have to be sincere and you have to be yourself, and that’s something I didn’t think about when I was performing previously. So when we [the David Sagal Jazz Trio] played last Friday, I tried to be more sincere, and to have as much fun as I can.”