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On Sunday night I sang “Till There Was You” in a cabaret show, and it occurred to me that the first time I sang it onstage in public was more than ten years ago.

I don’t know if this is typical, but the show that I consider to be the most influential in terms of my development as an artist happened in high school. Maybe it’s because as I get older, the changes that I experience show by show are less fundamental, incremental rather than exponential. Or maybe it was the circumstances of that particular show–age fifteen, new city, new school, new people.

All I know is that I remember exactly what I wore to that audition–my favorite black shirt, my favorite jeans and a totally cool new pair of shoes–and what I sang–“The Simple Joys of Maidenhood” from Camelot. They say there are moments you remember all your life, and that was definitely one of those moments.

It was electric, and a week of nerve-wracking callbacks later, somehow I found myself cast as Marian the Librarian in The Music Man, a show I had been listening to my whole life.

Probably most people don’t spend as much time contemplating their high school musical experiences as I do, but consider this. Before Music Man, I had never:

1. Played a female lead.
2. Sung with a band/orchestra.
3. Been alone onstage for a solo in a musical.
4. Had a quick change.
5. Had a stage kiss.
6. Bowed by myself in the curtain call.

I mean, how HUGE is that? On top of not really knowing anybody yet and being a fifteen-year-old sophomore, I was flying by the seat of my pants every day, learning to navigate the stage.

(Recently an article was published in my high school’s magazine about the musical my junior year, Into the Woods, because a surprisingly large number of cast members are currently pursuing careers in the arts. When I was asked what I remembered about that show, my first thought was how RELAXED it felt compared to The Music Man when everything was new and confusing.)

Above all, I feel like Music Man was the show that made me think that maybe there was something in this singing business after all. I had always sung, but only in choirs, or in performing arts groups where I was always the least competent dancer (and therefore the least confident performer), or at home. But playing Marian at fifteen planted the seeds for what I’m doing today. I don’t think I can safely guarantee that I would have pursued voice in college or as a career if I hadn’t had that validation when I did.

So thanks, Schert and Tink and Mr. Burns and all of my friends in the cast. I owe you one.