Thursday, October 14, 2010

Behind the Musical: Carolyn Violi

Carolyn Violi, who is the Musical Director and Conductor for Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, partakes in our latest blog! Here, Carolyn tells us about her love for Frank Sinatra, Beauty and the Beast and the piano!!

Name: Carolyn Violi

Role in the Show: Musical Director/ Conductor

Hometown: Indiana, PA (hometown of actor Jimmy Stewart)

What kind of music do you listen to? I love most types of music and of course, Broadway show tunes. If I'm driving a long distance, I love to listen to the standards of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Rosemary Clooney, etc. That music will never go away. When I listen, I marvel that these artists recorded without the aid of auto tune.

Can you tell us about your history with Disney's Beauty and the Beast? I was teaching high school music in western Pennsylvania when a former student of mine, Brent-Alan Huffman, called and asked if I was interested in joining the national tour of Beauty that he was going to conduct. I wasn't sure I wanted to leave a profession I truly loved until I went to New York to actually see the show. I fell in love with it and said yes. It was a few months later that I would start on the road and stayed on that same tour for four years. People always ask me if I ever got tired of playing the show that many times and my reply was always never. Not once did I walk in the pit not wanting to do the show. It was also a gift to be named one of the conductors and get to stand on the podium.

 What kind of training and experiences led you here? I grew up taking dance lessons from age 3 and started playing piano by ear. My first grade teacher noticed that after music class I would go to the piano and play tunes we learned that day, so she called my parents to suggest I take lessons. My parents were thrilled because it was another activity to keep me busy since I was pretty precocious (well, actually highly energized!). Ok, let's be honest--I was a terror! I never sat still so it was almost a blessing that I would sit and practice. I kept on playing and after I got my degree in Music Education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, I started teaching in schools around my hometown. As the vocal music teacher I was responsible for the school musicals that I directed. I was also musical director, conductor and, oh yes, choreographer to over 20 productions. Involvement in community and regional theatres around the Pittsburgh area led me to work on another 50 or so productions, either as musical director or onstage work.

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