Meet Amanda, our newest Student Spotlight. Amanda just got accepted into the acclaimed Academy of the Arts (APA) in Huntington Beach after spending this year participating in the national award-winning Show Choir at Isaac Sowers Middle School. She has a passion for musical theatre, but that’s far from her only hobby. Amanda is also a dancer, a Senior Cadet in Girl Scouts, a visual artist, and an avid reader. We can’t wait to see how she grows as an artist when she enters APA in the fall.
MM: How’d you get started?
AD: When I was 7, my family took me to see Wicked at the Pantages Theater. The “Defying Gravity” song really excited me, and I wanted to sing and be in musicals afterwards. I have done a couple of musicals since then, and show choir in middle school and now private lessons for getting close to a year with my teacher Michael. We were preparing for my APA audition for a good while, and I got in!
A lot of my friends from Girl Scouts went to APA last year because they’re older than me, so I’m really excited. They were in show choir with me, too, at Isaac Sower’s Middle School where I am now. That’s going to keep me really busy – it’s part of the school, but after the usual school day, an extra two hours, twice a week. I dance, too, so, yeah I’ll be busy.
MM: It sounds like you’ve not just been singing, but performing, for some time. Can you tell me about that?
AD: I definitely have been. Even at family events growing up I’d always tell everyone, “Now it’s time for a performance.” I’m an only child, so no need to compete for the spotlight either. Now that I’m in middle school we do compete – our Show Choir just went to the Music in the Parks, and the Sowers Mixed Melodies won 1st place! My school actually has a lot of trophies. But the judges can be harsh. They give you review notes at the end saying why you scored the way you did, like if your crescendo wasn’t clear enough. That performance was in Placentia, but the award ceremony was at Disneyland! It’s a national competition, so there’re a lot of kids and a lot of choirs.
I’ve done a few musicals–most recently I was Tiger Lily and a Butterfly in Alice in Wonderland. I also had the chance to sing with Isaac Sowers’ guitar class, doing U2’s “Baby Please Come Home” cover.
MM: What’s some of your favorite music?
AD: I still love musicals – Wicked of course, and Hairspray and Sound of Music are some of what I told Michael about when I first started with him. I really love “Tell Me on A Sunday” from Song and Dance. My favorite to perform would be “Don’t Rain on My Parade” from Funny Girl. If you don’t know it, all these girls’ friends are telling her not to go out with this guy, but she just doesn’t care.
I also love older music, like the Andrews Sisters, Louis Armstrong, and Ella Fitzgerald.
MM: What’s one of the hardest songs you’ve worked on, and what new techniques have you been focusing on?
AD: The very first song I did with Michael, oh, it was really so hard! I chose “The Wizard and I” from Wicked, but there was so much to think about just to know where to breathe to get through the song. And I had to learn to sing higher notes in my belt voice. Definitely tough.
Haha. Breathing, in general, Michael’s always reminding me. There’s a lot I didn’t notice before, too, like vowels. Now when I sing or listen to music I can hear what they’re doing.
MM: I know you have a lot going on outside of music. What are a few of your hobbies?
AD: I read, a lot! The Hunger Games were great. I had to read To Kill a Mockingbird in middle school, and for me the big takeaway was just not to judge people. In this society, and especially in middle school, that’s a big deal. I also like Paper Towns by John Green – they made a movie about it, it’s about childhood friends and what one does when the other runs away, but I won’t spoil it.
I’m a Senior Cadet now in Girl Scouts. That was complicated to get, too, I had to finish my Silver Award project to become a Senior Cadet. The Silver Award requires 24 hours of community service. I went once or twice a week for over three months to Newland Elementary with two other scouts, and we taught 15 kids on average how to draw. They were young, like in kindergarten, so we had to stick to sketching, but I also paint watercolor and acrylic, after my aunt bought me my first set. Now I like to draw and paint all types of subjects with watercolors & Acrylics.
MM: Keeping busy! With high school coming, what are some of your goals, both musically and otherwise?
AD: I want to work on my nerves a lot at auditions. I don’t mind being on stage, I have more confidence now, but it’s just nerves when it’s an audition. By the end of my APA audition I felt more anxious, and so I wasn’t sure how I did. I was glad to see my name on that list!
I’m excited about taking a foreign language for my elective in high school. My first choice was Spanish, but French is my backup because a teacher from Edison High School told my class that lots of companies go to Canada to film, and sometimes they’re in French Canada. I’m interested in film acting, more into the future. Doing musical theater you’re mixing acting with singing, and it caught my curiosity. I really enjoy movies, whether they’re musicals that are a bit older, or films like Pretty in Pink. Serendipity is really cute, and I love Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands.