'An Evening of Oscar-Winning Songs'

web group montage
Submitted photos
From left: American Songbook Today founder Michael Estwanik, Nichole Riffenburgh, Brett Ryback, Meredith Patterson, and Dustin Brayley.


American Songbook Today will present “An Evening of Oscar-Winning Songs” on Tuesday, Feb. 4, at 7 p.m. at the Ojai Valley Woman’s Club, 441 East Ojai Ave., in Ojai.
This concert will celebrate American songwriters and the great songs they wrote that won the coveted Oscar, such as “Over the Rainbow,” “Moon River,” “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” “The Last Time I Saw Paris,” “All the Way,” “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” “You’ll Never Know,” “I Just Called to Say I Love You,” and many more.
American Songbook Today founder Michael Estwanik explains: “American songs like these with such memorable melodies and meaningful lyrics are by far America’s most widespread cultural export. Not our films, TV, literature, architecture, plays, poetry, etc. I have traveled to 80 countries, many of which have no cinemas or American TV, but everyone listens to our songs from Sinatra to Streisand, Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, etc. That is the way many people around the world learn English.” 
Performing these songs will be Meredith Patterson, Broadway star of “42nd Street” and Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas”; Dustin Brayley, Broadway and national tour star of “Saturday Night Fever,” “Rent,” “Miss Saigon,” and now the mega-rock extravaganza, the “Trans-Siberian Orchestra”; and Nichole Riffenburgh who starred in many Ventura County shows and this summer in Ojai Art Center Theater’s “Mamma Mia!” as the ingenue lead, Sophie. 
Music director is Brett Ryback, one of LA’s most talented actor/musician/songwriters, who is also on the Musical Theatre faculty at the University of Southern California. Hosting the evening will be Estwanik.
There will be very few tickets sold at the door. All tickets are general admission and $25, on sale now at Brown Paper Tickets: or by calling 800-838-3006 with 24/7 customer service.
American Songbook Today is a new 501(c)(3) nonprofit in Ojai, but was started in New York City 18 years ago, when Estwanik served as board president of the Manhattan Association of Cabarets. He brought singers from Broadway, cabaret, gospel, jazz, folk, etc., into New York City schools, from kindergartens in Harlem to Juilliard.
After planting seeds for new American songwriters and listeners there, he moved on to Telluride to pursue his skiing habit and present concerts with Andrea (the original “Annie”) McArdle, the miraculous 90-year- old songstress Marilyn Maye, Liz Callaway, and Marissa Mulder with her award-winning Tom Waits show. Finally, he moved to his hometown of Cleveland where he presented concerts, including a Mother’s Day concert, “Songs for Mothers and Those They Love.” 
“I wanted to give something back to the town that gave my siblings and me such a great childhood and adolescence,” he said. “I moved to Ojai this past Memorial Day. I have been visiting here since the 1970s when I came annually to interview college counselors and students interested in attending the performing arts college in San Francisco where I serves as director of admissions. I always knew I would live here someday.”
Estwanik explains the mission of American Songbook Today is “to celebrate the American Songbook, to preserve this musical treasury, and to foster it for future generations through concerts and educational workshops. We define the American Songbook as any song with both an identifiable melody and meaningful lyrics written by Americans, from the past as well as contemporary, and of any genre (e.g., standards, Broadway, rock ’n roll, folk, gospel, film, Motown, jazz, country, rhythm & blues, patriotic, etc.).”
He points out that a few years ago he added the word “Today” (in red) to the charity’s title because “I wanted to emphasize that there are some really great songs being written today, but there is hardly any chance of hearing them. One of America’s greatest songwriters is Ojai’s very own Amanda McBroom who is known for writing “The Rose,” the title song from Bette Midler’s Oscar-nominated film. But Amanda has written dozens of terrific songs that people should also know. We plan to present a future concert ‘New American Songs You Should Know.’ This will help convince many people who feel ‘No one writes great songs anymore’ that in fact, they do. I want to help people know about them.
“We hope that after this Oscar Song concert“ audiences will spread the word that American Songbook Today is something to sing about” says Estwanik. To get involved contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..