School bond campaign seeks success with YouTube song
February 21, 2012
By Tom Corrigan
An unlikely combination of a local school bond issue and a veteran Broadway lyricist has made local celebrities out of five young girls known collectively as Listen Up.
As of Feb. 16, a YouTube video of them performing Martin Charnin’s “Pass the Bond” song had received about 2,000 hits.
“I think it’s really great that this is happening,” said Luca Nardi, 10, one of the members of Listen Up.
Fellow singer and friend Monti Fleck, 10, said having the video gain some notoriety was “weird and cool” at the same time.
The song was written to promote the Issaquah School District’s construction bond issue that’s on the April ballot. That the catchy lyrics work so well is no accident.
Lyricist Charnin is a local resident and a Broadway legend, having helped create the classic musical “Annie” with composer Charles Strouse. Charnin wrote “Pass the Bond” to the tune of “Hard Knock Life” from “Annie.”
All five members of Listen Up take voice lessons from Charnin’s wife, Shelly Burch. Burch is a Broadway stage veteran herself, also known for her eight years on the soap opera “One Life to Live.”
“They are very dedicated to performing,” Burch said of the members of Listen Up.
Besides Monti and Luca, Listen Up is Emily Rudolph, 12; Caitlin Neill, 9; and Sarah Kim, 10. Except for Emily, all attend Issaquah Valley Elementary School, of which Emily is a graduate.
Earlier this month, as a couple of the girls were practicing with Burch, Charnin overheard plans for Listen Up to sing at a bond campaign kick-off. Caitlin’s mom Patricia Neill wanted the girls to perform at bond events “just for a wee bit of entertainment to make things less boring.”
“I was just having a cup of coffee and doing a crossword puzzle,” Charnin said.
Instead of suggesting songs Listen Up might sing, Charnin volunteered to write an original song for the girls and did so, according to various accounts, in about a half-hour. By the next day, the girls had learned the song and some stage movements to go with it.
“I wish the Broadway community functioned that way,” Charnin joked.
After performing the song for the first time in public, Listen Up got a standing ovation at the bond’s campaign kick-off event. The YouTube video was a production of the Issaquah Valley PTSA, and was shot at the school.
“Music is my life and I love singing with my friends,” Sarah said.
The girls began singing together about a year ago, Patricia Neill said. Their first appearance was at Pickering Barn during one of the farmers markets held there each weekend during the summer. There was no way of knowing how many people would show up and listen, but Neill put the figure at about 150.
“We were very surprised,” she said.
Since that first appearance, Listen Up has performed at various spots, including local schools.
Burch said the girls all meet with her for voice lessons roughly every week. Two of the girls will appear in an upcoming show with the Seattle Opera. Emily has taken part in a number of professional productions, including a national touring company production of “Annie” to mark the show’s 30th anniversary. She also just came back from taking part in a touring production of “A Christmas Story: The Musical.”
“It’s just fun to sing with my friends,” Monti said. “It helps to get some of the feelings out.”
“They are all really nice,” Sarah said of the other members of Listen Up. “And we all get along really well.”
Emily also said she just enjoys singing with her friends and reached for the hand of Monti as she spoke. She said the girls’ other friends are all excited about the popularity of the YouTube video.
“It’s just fun to share our singing with other people,” Emily said.
Tom Corrigan: 392-6434, ext. 241, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.