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Students sing alongside Broadway legend

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Area students got a taste of the Great White Way Saturday when they trained under professional Broadway singer Franc D’Ambrosio.

Mr. D’Ambrosio, the star of Broadway’s The Phantom of the Opera and The Godfather III, held a master class Saturday for area students, offering lessons learned from a lifelong career on stage.

As a young performer, Mr. D’Ambrosio was invited by Luciano Pavarotti to take opera lessons at his Italian villa. As a way of paying Mr. Pavarotti’s kindness forward, Mr. D’Ambrosio now offers free master classes for students in each town he performs in. Two students from each class—one boy and one girl—are then invited to sing “All I Ask of You” from Angel of Music: the Songs of Andrew Lloyd Weber alongside an all-Broadway ensemble.

Seven students attended Friday’s audition.

SUNY Potsdam student and English literature major Zachary Kelly, Gouverneur, was selected to play Raul.

“I was extremely nervous,” Mr. Kelly said. “But the vibe set by the four performers including Franc was so warm. Once I got on stage, it was like being at home. I felt comfortable performing and standing in front of all of those people.”

Mr. Kelly said the opportunity gave him a renewed sense of self-confidence.

“It really just helped solidify who I was as a performer,’ he said. “I go to a school that is connected to highly accredited music program, so that often makes me second guess myself. It was encouraging for me to go there and feel good about my performance.”

Mr. Kelly, like Mr. D’Ambrosio, said he would one day like to give back with the help of his music.

“I am looking into elementary teaching or something along those lines,” he said. “My friend and I always talked about having our own theater company so that we could bring experiences like this to students. Growing up in Gouverneur, we don’t often get opportunities like this.”

SUNY Potsdam student Michaela A. Pawluk Mount Sinai, Long Island, was selected to play the part of Christine.

“It was amazing to see how kind and talented Franc was,” Ms. Pawluk said. “Some stars when they become famous have that air about them. But he is so kind, real and humble. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet him and the rest of the Broadway performers.”

Ms. Pawluk, who is expected to graduate in 2015 with a degree in early childhood education, said she would like to incorporate music into her classroom.

“Sometimes students can learn better and much faster with a song than by staring at a black and white page,” she said. “I’d also like to continue performing and singing as part of a community church choir or theater.”

Although she was not chosen for the part of Christine, Mr. D’Ambrosio was so impressed with Cecilia E. Snow’s rendition of George Gershwin’s “Summertime,” he asked her to sing the number during Saturday’s performance.

“It just kind of happened, like a moment from God,” she said. “I was so blessed the music happened to be there. It was really amazing. I learned so much in just 15 to 20 minutes.”

Ms. Snow, a vocal performance major at the Crane School of Music, said she will take Mr. D’Ambrosio’s advice to heart when she begins auditioning for Broadway next year.

“I think the biggest thing I took away was something Franc said,” she said. ”The people with the best voices wind up in the ensemble, while the people who can tell a story get the lead roles. It doesn’t matter if you are the best singer in the world; you have to be able to communicate with your audience.”

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