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My Musical Heritage Kristin Chenoweth Robert Steinke

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Robert Steinke April 24, 2013 MUS 110 Prof. Schwanda

My Musical Heritage: Kristin Chenoweth

I am doing my Musical Heritage paper on one of my favorite performers, Kristin Chenoweth. I consider her voice to be one of the most versatile voices I have ever heard, and I still remember the awe I felt when I first heard her sing. Her vocal range is phenomenal and she has the ability to switch from one singing style to the next in a single breath. She is not only a very accomplished and recognized singer, but has also performed and acted in television, film, and musical theater. I credit my musical heritage much to Ms. Chenoweth, as her style of singing greatly influenced my taste in music as I grew up, and still resonates with me today.

Kristin Chenoweth (her full given name is Kristi Dawn Chenoweth) was born in Oklahoma on July 24, 1968 to a 21-year-old flight attendant who had no original plans to get pregnant. The decision was made to give her baby up for adoption so she might have a better upbringing. Kristin was adopted by Jerry and Junie Chenoweth, who had

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one son, Mark, but were not able to have any more children of their own. Kristin never really made an effort to find her birth mom, because even though she acknowledged the fact that she had a biological mother out there, she always considered Junie Chenoweth her „true‟ mother. “Some people say we pick our parents, but God had to play some jazz to get me to the family where I was supposed to be.” (Chenoweth/Rodgers, 2009) Family was extremely important to Kristin, and she valued the relationships with her family above her career or anything else. The Chenoweth‟s were very grounded in their personal and religious beliefs, and instilled good morals in Kristin and her brother as they grew up. Her parents put their family first and never got into the „fame game‟, but always supported Kristin throughout school, as she worked toward her goals and dreams. Her first great passion was not singing and performing; the desire to be a ballet dancer came first. When she, among others, realized singing was her greatest gift, ballet took a backseat to becoming a performer. She started singing in church while growing up, and then went on to perform in school plays and musicals. After graduating high school, Kristin attended Oklahoma City University, where she earned multiple degrees, in opera performance and musical theater. Her big break came when she was in New York and auditioned for the musical “Animal Crackers”. She was given the lead in the show and never looked back. Her theater career had begun.

I grew up in the small town of Hastings, Michigan, where I lived from the time I was born until I moved to Grand Rapids about a year ago. It is a fairly nice place, kind of relaxed and not as rushed as the bigger cities can be. Hastings has that typical smalltown feel, where everyone knows everyone, and everyone knows everyone‟s business,

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which is nice, although not always a good thing! You can usually walk in somewhere and see at least a handful of people you know and chat for a bit, maybe catch up on all the news, and that gives the town a nice, feel-good vibe, I think. I was always fairly musical growing up. Even as a young child, I would walk around singing and making up songs about random items and events around me. I knew all the words to every Disney song there was and sang along, much to my siblings‟ chagrin, who just wanted to watch the movies without me chiming in all the time. My mother started me on piano lessons when I was about 12. I absolutely loved the lessons at first; I always did my practicing every week and was so excited to go to my lesson every Monday afternoon. As time went on though, and I started getting more interested in „teenager‟ things, my interest for the piano wore off, and I begged my mom to let me quit by the time I was 14. She always told me that I would regret it, and at the time, I did not care. (She was happy to know, years later, that I did, in fact, regret it, and proved that mothers are always right.) I moved away from my musical interests and became more interested in the social aspect of high school.

Things moved fast for Kristin once she began starring in theatrical productions. She was in production after production, until 1999, when she performed in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” on Broadway. She was nominated for and won a Tony award for her portrayal of Sally in the musical. Doors started opening for her, to be in other musical productions, as well. One of the musicals she is most popular for, is Wicked, in which she co-starred with Idina Menzel as one of the leading ladies. It was a

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new musical, and it was received very well by the public. Those who did not really know who Kristin Chenoweth was before now knew of her, and the public loved her. Kristin was nominated for Wicked in 2004for best leading actress in a musical, but she lost to her co-star Idina. Kristin also started taking some television roles, guest-starring on different shows, such as Frasier, Sesame Street, and Ugly Betty, between the years of 20012007. She also had her own television show on NBC for a short time, called Kristin. This show did not last long; there were thirteen episodes that were taped, but only six of the episodes were ever aired on television. Kristin was nominated for an Emmy award for her performance in the show Pushing Daisies, which aired from 2007-2009. She won the award in 2009. During the years 2004-2006, she had a repeated role on the popular show West Wing and with the rest of the cast, was nominated two times for a Screen Actors Guild award. A lot of the television roles Kristin took usually involved her showcasing her singing voice, with one or more songs. One of her biggest guest star spots was on the newer show, Glee, where she sang multiple songs and is on the showâ€&#x;s soundtrack albums. She was in three episodes, in three different seasons, and was nominated for an Emmy for her performances in 2010 and 2011. Kristin broke into the film industry in 2002, and appeared as a supporting role in 8 films. She additionally voiced a character in a childrenâ€&#x;s movie. In between her extremely busy schedule, Kristin also began recording her own albums, and between the years of 2001-2011, in the midst of doing film, television, and

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theater performances, she recorded four albums. In November of 2011, she was inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. “This business is very challenging--you must get used to rejection no matter what level you are at. Not everyone is going to like what you do or what you have to offer; however, if you can't see yourself doing anything else, and you have the drive and ambition, get the training and go for it. Because there is nothing more rewarding” (Chenoweth/Rodgers, 2009)

Things changed when I was a sophomore in high school. I went on a school trip to see Phantom of the Opera in Chicago, and I was enthralled with theater after that. I started auditioning for and getting roles in our high school‟s dramas and musicals every year. I became more obsessed with musical theater, singing, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Stephen Sondheim, and just being onstage in general, performing for an audience. In my junior of high school, I was introduced to a new musical by Stephen Schwartz that had recently opened, called Wicked. It starred Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth, both of whom I had never heard of before. This show would become my favorite musical of all time, and Kristin Chenoweth had much to do with it. I was so impressed and enthralled by her voice, that after seeing her in that musical, I became obsessed with anything that had to do with Kristin Chenoweth. I bought her albums and watched anything I could that she was in. My introduction to Kristin Chenoweth was not the start of my fascination with theater – the stage, the singing, performing in front of an audience…but it greatly accelerated it. I could not get enough. Besides performing in

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high school shows, I joined a community theater group. Theater became my life, from 2001 until about 2011. I was in numerous shows, approximately 25. Some of the roles I had were leading roles, some were supporting roles, and some of them were just chorus roles. It did not really matter what role I had – although it was nice to get the lead role- I loved being a part of the entire production. You gain a second family when you join a community theater group, everyone accepts you, and you spend so much time with your cast mates. At the close of a show, it is bittersweet because not only are the performances over, you will miss your little “second family”. However, you know that another show will soon hold auditions and everyone will be reunited. It‟s a rush of emotions and a tremendous feeling, to be a part of something like that. My dream (albeit far-fetched) is to one day be able to perform in a Broadway show and experience something like that. An even bigger dream would be to meet and/or perform with Kristin Chenoweth herself. Dreams can happen, and I hope that someday I can make mine come true. As Kristin herself once said, “This business is very challenging--you must get used to rejection no matter what level you are at. Not everyone is going to like what you do or what you have to offer; however, if you can't see yourself doing anything else, and you have the drive and ambition, get the training and go for it. Because there is nothing more rewarding” (Chenoweth/Rodgers, 2009)

My taste in music before I got into theater and show tunes was mostly just country music. It is what I grew up on, and what we would always listen to in the car on road trips. My dad would not listen to anything but country music, other than old-time

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gospel, and usually we would complain enough that he would just keep it on a country station and skip the gospel. So my siblings and I know all the old country songs and artists; it has been deeply instilled in us, and to this day, the country genre is still one of my favorites. I find that I do like the old country music better than the new songs they are coming out with now, mostly because it‟s familiar and reminds me of my roots and my father…and you just cannot beat good, down-home country music! I do like returning to my high school musical taste at times, listening to old school pop, whatever was on Billboard‟s Top 40 list at that time. It is fun to go back and listen to music you know by heart, word for word, even if you do not like it very much. I am a firm believer in certain sights, smells, sounds, and tastes reminding people of very vivid memories and specific time(s) in their lives. Music does this for me more than anything. I can say with resolution that there are songs that remind me of the past 2 summers, several that immediately remind me of a breakup or a heartbreaking point in time, and numerous others that make me feel immensely happy. Music makes so much more of an impact on people‟s lives – even if they do not think it does. I am sure this is why music therapy is so important. It seems like a frivolous thing to study, but music can have the ability to heal, and helps people communicate in ways they would never have thought of. There is a saying, something about how your group of friends changes every 5 years. You may lose some friends, certainly gain new friends, and have a whole new cluster of friends. There are also some friends who will stay with you throughout your entire life. I believe this to be true. I have seen it with my own eyes, in my own life. I apply this to people‟s tastes in music, as well. I have seen my taste in music change

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from year to year. I definitely do not listen to a lot of the same stuff that I listened to in high school. My musical taste has evolved as I have grown up and moved forward with my life. That being said, there are still some “friends� that have pretty much stuck with me throughout the years. The first is and will more than likely always be country music. The second, thanks to Kristin Chenoweth opening my eyes to theater, is show tunes and theatrical works. I have impressed it so much upon my life, that I know it will always be a part of me, and I will always love it.

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Works Cited

Chenoweth, K./Rodgers, J. (2009). A Little Bit Wicked: Life, Love, and Faith in Stages. Touchstone.

My Musical Heritage  
My Musical Heritage  

Kristin Chenoweth