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May 10, 2013
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Catch a rising star today

At the intersection of preparation and opportunity, you’ll find Angela Downs.

Downs is a Vail Christian High School senior headed to American Musical Dramatics Academy in New York City, where she’ll study musical theater.

But before she leaves, you get to watch her show off a little. Her Senior Showcase is at 6:30 p.m. Friday in the Vail Christian auditorium.

It’s a one-woman show. She sings, she dances, she tells jokes and does a monologue.

She gets to show off a little, and she’s great at it.

“It’s a good opportunity for my family and friends to see how far I’ve come,” Downs said.

It’s been a great ride so far, mostly.

Downs grew up riding and showing horses. She bought her first one when she was 8 years old. As often happens with young women, her interests shifted away from the equine and toward entertainment.

On a whim, she auditioned for the school play her freshman year, “The Music Man.” She decided the stage was for her.

Rayla Kundolf spotted her right away.

“Rayla Kundolf put the idea in my head that I could do this,” Downs said.

It turns out that Kundolf was right.

‘Determined and committed’

Downs’ voice is strong in an Old School kind of way, though her ability to get paid for a gig rests with her ability to dazzle people in the back of the room.

She looks the audience in the eye and has that performer’s knack for convincing everyone in the place that she’s singing straight to you.

For Friday’s program, her vocal coach, Maxine Graboyes, suggested “The Hills Are Alive” from “The Sound of Music.” That was Graboyes’ first role after finishing Julliard.

Downs has been studying voice with Graboyes for nearly four years now.

“Every week, she would come in for her lesson accompanied by her mother whose devotion to Angela is exemplary and so supportive,” Graboyes said. “Her mom would ask me, ‘Do you think she can really sing?’ and I would say to her that it takes time to develop a good singing technique, but if she continues to put in the time and effort, and let nature as well as maturity take it’s course, then I believe she can develop into a fine singer. Well, if you give Angela a challenge, she’s likely to take you up on it and exceed your expectations.

“Angela became a very determined and committed young lady,” Graboyes continued. “She worked extremely hard to develop her skills and talents and rarely missed a lesson. I am so pleased to see her accomplishments rewarded and acknowledged.”

‘Don’t Stop Believing’

But it’s not all happily-ever-after. Downs was devastated when the family lost her oldest brother Nate in an accident. She stopped performing, and almost everything else.

Fast forward a year or so, when the actress playing the Wicked Witch of the West in the “Wizard of Oz” decided she was going to look at colleges and would miss the last few performances. So, Kundolf turned to Downs.

The Wicked Witch was never so wonderful.

Downs had seven days to learn everything. She hit it out of the park.

That summer, Downs landed a gig as a singing waitress at The Marketplace in Vail, a great restaurant with a singing wait staff. That’s where she learned to perform for her audience, no matter how small.

The singing was great, the job was fun and her colleagues were delightful. But some of the customers could be a little cranky, she said. Still, you play to your audience and if you can get a middle-aged man to sing that he wants his steak medium rare, you’re a hit.

And that brings us to today’s showcase.

The songs sort of outline her past.

There’s “I Enjoy Being a Girl” and “Don’t Stop Believing,” a send-up to her older brother, Nate.

The whole thing lasts about 50 minutes. There’s one very short intermission, not because the audience needs it, but because she does.

These days, she dances 20 hours a week with the Vail Valley Academy of Dance and takes hours of singing lessons from Graboyes.

“She’s been a delightful student and I will miss her, but I know she is up to the challenges ahead as she pursues her musical studies,” Graboyes said.

She and her mother, Jennifer Downs, have been looking at schools. They went to Santa Fe a few weeks ago and it was fine. A little too much turquoise and southwestern kitsch for Angela. They went to New York about a week ago and that was that. Angela Downs is a city kid.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935, and rwyrick@vaildaily.com


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The VailDaily Updated May 10, 2013 03:00AM Published May 10, 2013 03:00AM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.