Two Cartersville High School performers received the thrill of a lifetime when they were chosen to perform with an award-winning actress and singer.
Seniors Kelsey Lorenzoni and Jeremiah Robinson began Friday evening with a performance at the ArtsBridge Foundation Gala at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre but ended their night singing with Broadway, movie and television star Kristin Chenoweth during her show in the room next-door.
The 16 high school performers — eight students who participated in the 2015 Georgia High School Musical Theatre Awards–Shuler Hensley Awards and eight students from Orbit Performing Arts Academy — teamed up to sing "Upon This Rock" and "I Was Here" on stage with Chenoweth at the end of her show. They also got to attend her sound check.
Lorenzoni and Robinson, two of the Shuler Award participants, had a difficult time describing their experience with the Emmy and Tony Award-winning singer/actress.
“There’s almost no words, actually, from going and watching her on YouTube, like Jeremiah and I do all the time, and just sitting there, watching her, and then a little 4 [foot] 11 girl comes out on stage,” Lorenzoni, 17, said. “It was incredible.”
Robinson, also 17, called the experience “very surreal.”
“The way she talked to us — you would think she was like the stereotypical famous person, very stuck up and snooty, but she was just like a normal person,” he said. “And she was very real and was just very sweet, and it just made her seem like an even better person than we already loved. It was just amazing.”
Natalie Barrow, ArtsBridge’s director of arts education and community outreach, said the eight students who performed at the gala and with Chenoweth were carefully selected from all the students who participated in the Shuler Awards program at the end of the last school year.
“Kelsey was in our ensemble for the 2015 Shuler Awards last year, so we knew Kelsey ...,” she said. “And then Jeremiah was nominated for one of our 2015 Shuler Awards, leading actor, and so we pulled Jeremiah from that. We kind of picked all students that participated last year in the Shuler Awards, but we were very selective on location. We wanted students from different areas and wanted some from the ensemble and some that were nominated.”
The Cartersville students found out by email in early August that they’d been selected for the gigs.
“I actually screamed,” said Lorenzoni, who had “heard so many different things” about when they were supposed to be notified that she thought she didn’t get it. “I had friends over, and they had just left — Jeremiah was over, too, and he had just left. We were going out to dinner or something, and I went on my email to check something from a school counselor, and then I saw Cara [Myler, the foundation’s arts education coordinator] had emailed me, and I flipped out.”
“When I got the email, it said, ‘You’re going to be performing at the ArtsBridge Gala,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, that’s cool,’” Robinson said. “Then I was thinking, ‘They’re having a gala, and Kristin Chenoweth is going to be there,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, is that the same one? This is crazy.’ I was very excited.”
The two performers had about five hours of rehearsal the Sunday and Thursday before the gala to learn the song for the gala and the two Chenoweth songs, according to Barrow.
Out of all the performances they’ve done, singing with Chenoweth ranks at the top, both students agreed.
“Probably up there at the top with performing at the Shuler Awards,” Robinson said.
“I would agree with that,” Lorenzoni said. “It was probably either tied with performing at the Shuler Awards or maybe just a little bit above it.”
Lorenzoni, who started performing her freshman year, thanked the ArtsBridge Foundation for “giving us the opportunity to be able to do this.”
“It was a very honoring experience and everything, just to be able to perform at the gala,” she said. “That was just fun all in itself ... and then having the opportunity to not only perform with Kristin but be able to meet her and then have her give us some advice, it was a wonderful experience that I’ll actually never forget.”
After receiving a standing ovation during “Upon This Rock,” Chenoweth asked the performers “if we felt overwhelmed,” Lorenzoni said.
“She wanted to make sure that we knew that we were loved and that this was something that was very important to her, to make sure that [we knew] she was proud of us for going through and doing the arts this young ...,” she said. “It was so sweet.”
Robinson, who has been singing all his life and doing musical theater since he was 12, said Chenoweth used the last song they sang with her, “I Was Here,” to pass on some words of wisdom to the young performers.
“She told us that we should try to find a way to make our mark in this world, and I really believe that it made us all really want to really find where we belong in this world,” he said. “ ... I know it made us all think, and I know we’re all very grateful for that because I know most of us have probably just been doing it for fun and now we’re probably all going to be doing it for a better reason.”
The gala, where the eight Shuler Awards performers did a choreographed number, raised money to support arts education programs for Georgia students in kindergarten through 12th grade, according to a press release.
ArtsBridge Foundation, formerly the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre Foundation, is dedicated to providing quality arts education and community engagement programs that motivate and inspire the next generation of artists and arts supporters.
Since 2007, the foundation has served more than 280,000 students and educators from 30 Georgia counties, as well as students from Alabama, Tennessee, Florida and South Carolina.
For information, visit http://artsbridgega.org.