Kennedy Center announces ‘Songbook,’ an online series starring young people

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts announces the debut of Songbook, an exciting and innovative new three-episode online series featuring young people and a professional musician. Filled with music, literature, comedy, and plenty of surprises, all episodes of Songbook launch January 21, 2023, on the Kennedy Center website, the Center’s YouTube channel, and Kennedy Center social media.

In each 10-minute Songbook episode, a different middle school student comes to the Kennedy Center with her own original poem, based on a book, to set that poem to music with professional musician Randy Preston (The Kennedy Center’s Acoustic Rooster’s Barnyard Boogie Starring Indigo Blume). They meet for the first time on camera, and their collaboration is filmed without interruption.

A young poet has her original poem set to music by professional musician Randy Preston in an episode of ‘Songbook.’ Photo by Sean DeWitt.

This is the latest digital offering for all ages through the Kennedy Center’s Digital Stage, but the first reality/scripted hybrid format, with Preston and host Vaughn Ryan Midder (The Kennedy Center’s The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 and Bud, Not Buddy) largely scripted, while the young people are not.

A young poet in ‘Songbook’ with host Vaughn Ryan Midder. Photo by Marc Tyler Nobleman.

Songbook was created, written, produced, and directed by author Marc Tyler Nobleman (whose book Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman corrected a 76-year-long cultural injustice and inspired the Hulu documentary Batman & Bill), executive produced by the Newbery-winning author of The Crossover (soon to be a series on Disney+) Kwame Alexander and New York Times bestselling author Mary Rand Hess, and made possible by the Education Programs and Productions department at the Kennedy Center.