Beagle brings feminine touch to Italian-American favorites

These days, Amanda Beagle is more likely to be performing in New York, but there’s nothing she enjoys more than singing for a hometown crowd.

“There’s nothing like the love of a community for a hometown girl,” the Howland native said. “It’s always humbled me and reminds me of where I came from.”

Beagle will be back home this weekend for main stage performances Saturday and Sunday at the Warren Italian-American Heritage Festival.

Much of the setlist will draw from her 2016 CD, “Amanda Beagle Sings Favorites from the Italian American Songbook.” While “Beagle” might not be an Italian surname, the singer said her mother is “a Russo from Niles” and her great-grandfathers came to America from the Abruzzo region of Italy.

“I grew up listening to these songs playing in the background at family events and parties,” she said. “I have a personal connection to each song. When you see my show, you hear my stories that go along with each piece and why it’s important to me to put in this show.”

Many of the songs on the CD are associated with men, and Beagle credited the work of singer Connie Francis as an inspiration that a woman could sing them as well. Convincing others hasn’t been as easy.

“As a singer in New York, you do a lot of different jobs, things for money to support your artistic career,” Beagle said. “One I did was singing in an Italian restaurant in Brooklyn.”

The piano player had been there for decades and wouldn’t play the operatic “‘O Sole Mio.”

“Why didn’t you let me sing ”O Sole Mio’?” Beagle asked. “He said, ‘Only tenors can sing that song.’ Wait a minute, I can hit all of those notes. I can make that mine. It’s beautiful music and fits well in a soprano’s voice.”

Beagle recently played her first cabaret show at New York’s famed Metropolitan Room.

“That was a major milestone,” she said. “Producing something here in the city is always risky. Getting people there is priority No. 1. Being my first opportunity to prove myself, I was so proud of how everything went. We had a fantastic turnout and it was so well received by a diverse audience, not just people who relate to the Italian-American experience.”

This weekend’s concerts couldn’t be more different, going from an intimate cabaret venue to an outdoor stage in the middle of a festival with no shortage of distractions. Then again, Beagles has some experience with big stages. As a former Miss Ohio, Beagle competed for the title of Miss America in 2005 and was a non-finalist talent award winner.

“There are so many factors outside of my control,” Beagle said. “There’s the potential for so many distractions. The energy is different. I want to create intimacy in a big open space, that’s my goal, to make everyone feel they are part of a family celebrating, listening to this music passed down for generations.

“I think it’s all about energy and showmanship. I’m a girl who started at the age of 8. I’ve been performing all my life. It’s just showmanship and energy that will draw people to the entertainment area.”

Beagle already is thinking about her next album, which will focus on love songs from around the world, particularly France, Italy, Spain and the United States.

“People can look for that in probably a year. I’m still really enjoying promoting this Italian-American project.”