The road to success â€” and back
By Robert Barlow, staff writer
MPNnow.com – Rochester,NY,USA/Penfield Post
Posted Apr 21, 2009 @ 12:23 PM
Penfield, N.Y. â€”
Penfield High School graduate and Broadway star Nicolette Hart returned to her alma mater last week to see a former teacher and talk with vocal music students looking to follow in her footsteps.
â€œI always tell people that Penfield and Rochester are unique places to grow up if you are at all interested in the arts,â€ Hart said. â€œThe teachers here and the tools that you can utilize in Rochester are great. Between the Eastman Theatre and various schools, itâ€™s a great training ground, and I would have had a completely different path if I had not had these opportunities.â€
Hart, 32, is starring in the Broadway touring company production of â€œRentâ€ along with Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp from the original Broadway cast. The show is at the Auditorium Theatre until Sunday, April 26.
Hartâ€™s trip from and back to Rochester is one filled with many twists, turns and surprises, she explained to a group of Penfield High School students.
While at the University of Buffalo, Hart took 28 credits in just one semester while shuttling between Buffalo and Rochester in order to make rehearsals at a local community theater. She took the extraordinarily heavy courseload to graduate early with the hope of moving to New York City.
â€œIt was a lot of hard work and not knowing if I was going to make it,â€ she said.
After college graduation, she accepted what would be her only 9 to 5 job, at a local modeling agency in order to save money for her move to New York. After she was contacted by a songwriter looking for a female vocalist with a country sound to record a few of his demos, Hart was thrilled to accept, as she had grown up listening to country performers of the day.
After a year traveling between Rochester and Nashville, meeting with publishers, managers and producers and honing her skills both on-stage and in the recording studio, she relocated to â€œMusic Cityâ€ to devote her energy to country music.
The rest, Hart said, is history â€” and a lot of luck.
Hart won the starring role in the stage production of â€œStand By Your Man: The Tammy Wynette Story,â€ and performed to rave reviews at Nashvilleâ€™s legendary Ryman Auditorium. She was also invited to sing backup for Bette Midler on the â€œKiss My Brassâ€ tour.
Sharing a stage with Midler, whose songs she grew up belting into a hairbrush, was a dream come true, Hart said.
After touring both the U.S. and Australia for 18 months as one of Midlerâ€™s Harlettes, Hart returned to New York and made her Broadway debut, playing Markâ€™s mom in â€œRent.â€
After a brief hiatus, she returned to â€œRent, this time playing the coveted role of Maureen for nearly two years.
In the summer of 2008, Hart was belting out songs by Pat Benatar and Joan Jett in a showcase for the musical â€œRock Of Ages.â€ After one performance, a manager sitting in the audience approached Hart in an encounter she will never forget.
â€œShe just said, â€˜Who are you, why havenâ€™t I met you and why arenâ€™t you signed to a record label?â€™â€ said Hart.
The two began working together, and despite a grueling theater schedule and blossoming TV and film career, Hart entered the recording studio.
As she began to make progress in the studio, Hart received a call inviting her to reprise her role as Maureen in the unprecedented national tour of â€œRent.â€ There was no hesitation â€” she signed on.
â€œI am so proud of her and all of her accomplishments,â€ said Hartâ€™s former voice teacher and choral director at Penfield High School, Diane Abrahamian. â€œI had no doubt in my mind that Nicolette was going to make a name for herself in the field of musical theater performance. She has natural chutzpah and drive, and wanted to learn as much as she could about music and performing different styles of music.â€
While a student in Penfield, Hart took part in the voice class program for four years and also sang in the Jazz Choir, Chorale and Show Choir.
â€œNicolette carried a sense of professionalism from the moment she walked in the choir room as a freshman,â€ said Abrahamian. â€œShe never got caught up in the typical high school dramas, but instead focused her energies on developing her performance skills as an actress and singer, as well as her musicianship. Nicolette never settled for anything less than her best. She had, and still has, an extraordinary spirit.â€
Penfield student Ricky Schroeder, 17, said he was not only inspired by Hartâ€™s story but also thankful she took the time to talk to him and the other students.
â€œItâ€™s an amazing opportunity for us to have someone from our school accomplish what so many of us dream of,â€ he said. â€œIt was incredible to hear about her journey and to be able to ask her advice about our next step.â€
Nicolette Hart will soon be releasing her own CD of original music titled â€œNobodyâ€™s Choirgirl.â€ Samples can be heard and purchased at www.myspace.com/nicolettehartmusicsite