Taylor Manns

Taylor Manns

The voice: Nanaimo student performs at musical festival

Taylor Manns performs at the Upper Island Musical Festival one last time before heading to a performing arts school in New York

Taylor Manns could sing before she could talk.

She collected awards from jazz festivals and performances from across the country, earning the opportunity to sing as part of a choir at New York’s famed Carnegie Hall.

Before she embarks on a career in performing arts, the Nanaimo teen puts her voice to the test one more time for the Upper Island Musical Festival.

“I’m working really hard for it, so we’ll see what happens,” she said.

Her first audition was at age four for a company where her grandmother was stage manager. She took up dance lessons a year later, and performed in her first musical – Seussical – at age seven.

“I was a ‘Thing’,” Manns said.

Dancing and singing continued with roles in Annie and The Little Mermaid with Kirkwood Dance Academy. Later this year, she performs in the title role in Cinderella.

Manns was introduced to jazz in Grade 9 at Wellington Secondary School’s music program.

“I was thrown into a combo with Grade 12 boys, so I was a little intimidated,” she said.

She said jazz was more difficult than the classical and musical theatre style with which she was familiar but found much more freedom of expression in its structure.

That year she went on to win awards at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in Idaho, plus other music festivals across Canada.

“It was a really good year in Grade 9,” Manns said.

2010 was also a good year – Manns’s audition tape earned her a spot in the American Youth Choir, which performed at Carnegie Hall. The program also featured a four-day intensive program in vocal work.

“I’m still in shock about it,” she said.

For the Upper Island Musical Festival, she learned 16 songs, doubling last year’s number, including a mix of classical and musical theatre songs, like Moonfall from Mystery of Edwin Drood and For Good, from Wicked, which is a duet she sings with Kiana Smith.

“I’m a little overwhelmed this year,” Manns said. “It’s my last year, so might as well.”

More than 3,600 students compete at the festival in Nanaimo in voice, dance and music for an opportunity to represent the area at the provincial performing arts festival in May. All sections are open to the public and people are encouraged to watch the students perform.

Manns graduates from Wellington this year and heads to New York to join the student body at American Musical and Dramatic Academy, one of the U.S.’s prestigious performing arts schools.

“I want to be on Broadway,” Manns said. “Basically, anything performing – I can’t see myself doing anything and being truly happy doing it.

“Nothing can compare to it, so I have to try.”

Vocal competitions begin Friday (March 9) and continue until March 15 at St. Andrew’s United Church. For more information and detailed schedules, please visit www.nanaimomusicfestival.com.