Friday, March 20, 2015

5 Questions with Shana Mahoney

Shana Mahoney (B.M. ‘93) studied Music Theatre at Hartt from 1989-1993.  She is currently living in New York City.

What have you been up to since you graduated from Hartt?

Right after I graduated from Hartt I got my first job at a summer-stock theatre in the Catskills doing 7 musicals over the course of 5 months.  I actually couldn't even attend my graduation ceremony from Hartt because I had already started rehearsals, and was working, which I thought was a great sign.  I was lucky enough to work non-stop performing in musicals for several years after graduation.  I performed in summer stock, regional theatre and national tours including: Forbidden Broadway, and Evita.  

While on tour with Evita, I auditioned for and booked the European tour of Cats playing Gumbie/Griddlebone.  I was lucky enough to perform in Switzerland, Italy, France and Austria.  While in Austria I auditioned and booked the European premiere company of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast in Vienna, which I performed in for a year.  After that I was also cast in the world premiere of Roman Polanski and Jim Steinman’s Dance of the Vampire, which I also recorded the original cast album for. 

After a year’s run of Dance of the Vampire, (and getting married to an Austrian), my husband Andreas and I moved back to New York after several years in Europe. I booked a job that summer as the lead singer in the Supper Club’s Andrews Sisters and Swing Dance show in Manhattan, which was a lot of fun.  After that, I booked the Broadway 1st National tour of Cabaret starring Teri Hatcher and Norbert Leo Butz.  I toured for several years with Cabaret- and I even took a leave of absence to give birth to my first daughter Sophia and returned to the tour just in time to spend a month in Tokyo, Japan with the show.  We also performed on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and us Cabaret-girls recorded a National commercial for Degree deodorant, which was a lot of fun!  Why they wanted to feature girls with hairy armpits for a deodorant commercial is beyond me, but I was happy for the opportunity to have a national commercial!

After landing back in New York, and having a second daughter, I tried to station myself in the city and not travel as much, doing local off-Broadway shows, and singing concerts and church jobs.  I was hired as a professional cantor at St. Barnabas Church, and did several concerts with them over the years.  I also started a voice studio, which has grown so big now that I have a long waiting list.  My vocal studio is one of my biggest joys of my career, and I enjoy it immensely.

I am also a teaching artist at the Riverdale Children's Theatre.  RCT was just named in Backstage Magazine as "one of the 12 Great Children's Theaters Across the U.S."  It is an amazing place to work.  I am currently the music supervisor of Annie, and playing the role of Grace.  I love being able to share my love of music theatre with children.  I was also hired last year to be the music director of The Saint Barnabas Church in Bronx, NY.  It’s the largest Irish-Catholic parish in the country actually, and I direct 4 choirs there, as well as plan the music for Masses, weddings and funerals. 

Next year, our Saint Barnabas children s choir is invited to perform in Rome for Pope Francis in the Sistine Chapel with the Sistine Chapel Choir.  This is a huge honor for us, and I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to take the choir there for the Epiphany Mass.

I am also currently attending the Saint Cecelia Academy of Music at The Saint Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, NY pursing a Master’s Degree in Theology/Sacred Music.

What are you involved with right now?

A few years ago, in a Manhattan restaurant, I happened to meet a platinum award-winning record producer by chance.  I convinced him to listen to a demo recording of my voice.  After several meetings and discussions, he offered me a recording contract under his label.  For a few years, we developed a concept for an album, and wrote songs together.  He helped me to develop a unique style of classical-type vocals, combined with electronic pop production.  I am happy to say that I just finished the album entitled Beyond The River under my artist name “Shalyma”. The album is available as a special “friends and family pre-release sale” before it becomes officially released in the late Spring/Summer.  I’m very proud of the work I did on the album.  I am especially proud to have some of the pieces that I composed featured on it.  I also featured the Children’s Choir of St. Barnabas on Caccini’s Ave Maria, which I wrote a children's choir part to accompany Caccini’s vocal line.  I think it’s a really unique twist to a traditional sacred classical piece, being that it is produced in a pop-style.  I am hoping that my friends and colleagues will purchase a copy of the album, and give me their feedback and support before the album is officially released and on iTunes. The album can be purchased on my website

What is one of the most memorable things about your time at Hartt?

The amazing training I was lucky enough to receive at Hartt was the most memorable thing about my time there.  I can still hear the voices of my teachers, my mentors, in my ears every time I step on stage to perform.  For example, I can still hear my late acting teacher, Peter Flint’s voice say: “First time every time,” before each show - especially when I was on tour for years performing the same show every night, and needed to remember that live theatre is a new experience- every time you grace the stage you need to give that new experience to the audience.  Peter also had a mantra that I now teach to my students.  We spoke it together before every acting class.  It went something like this:

“I am an artist.  This is my body and I own it.  These are my emotions and I own them.  My talent comes from something other than myself but I am solely responsible for it.  I will dare to be bad so that I can be good.  I am an artist.  I am that I am.”
 -Peter Flint

I also was lucky enough to receive excellent vocal training.  I studied with Brenda Lewis, and she was the most amazing teacher and mentor I have ever had.  I loved her and I loved everything she taught me at Hartt. All of the voice teachers at Hartt were excellent, and the vocal excellence was apparent in the students who trained there.  Although I was a music theatre major, I still studied with a classical technique that has stayed with me my whole life.
What did you learn while at Hartt that you did not appreciate or recognize until after time passed and you had some time to reflect?

I think one of the most valuable things I learned at Hartt was how to be a “versatile” musician.  I studied and learned about SO MANY THINGS AT HARTT!!  I studied voice, dance- (tap, ballet, jazz, modern), acting (worked on monologues, and scenes), music business, jazz with the legendary Jackie McLean, I sang in jazz trios, recorded jazz standards, learned how to “trade 8’s” with Mr. McLean's saxophone players in his class.  (I hear now there is a vocal-jazz major at Hartt, but when I was there, that didn’t exist yet- but my professor Jackie McLean let me take every single one of his classes anyway, including his amazing African History class, which I will never forget!)  I learned about sacred music, music history, music theory, composition, theatre, wigs, stage makeup, lighting and stage design, I played violin, and viola, took piano lessons, took a wide array of general courses at the University of Hartford in all subjects, studied and learned languages - German, Latin, Italian, and French, and performed in all of them, I did small black-box productions, main-stage musicals, operas, choral concerts, cabaret shows, I sang original songs composed by my talented classmates, I attended weekly concerts and recitals given by my classmates and professors, and went to Tuesday “musicianship” class (we loved that - I hope Hartt still has that class!) where the whole Hartt school came together, and I learned from watching my friends and classmates make music together, grow and learn as musicians and people.  [Editor’s note: Musicianship class still exists and was renamed Paranov Performance hour.]  I cannot say enough good things about my years at Hartt.  I used each and every one of the skills I learned at Hartt in my professional career, and I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to study there.  I am convinced that my success in my career is due to the training I received at Hartt.  It is not easy to make a full-time living as a musician in New York City, but I am lucky enough to have achieved that due to having training in versatile fields of music.

 What is next for you?

The next step for me is to promote my album.  I hope that all my friends and colleagues from Hartt will consider purchasing my album, and to help me spread the word.  I would like to continue to pursue my newly found passion for writing music.  I hope to continue developing my private voice studio, to work with the choirs at Saint Barnabas Church, and to pursue my studies in sacred music at the Seminary.  I would also like to encourage my voice students to consider applying to Hartt.  My oldest daughter Sophia is a very serious cellist who studied at The Special Music School in Lincoln Center since she was in Kindergarten.  She was just accepted to the La Guardia High School of the Performing Arts, and I hope that she will also consider The Hartt School Music when it comes time for her to apply to colleges in a few years.  My youngest daughter Chiara also studies piano.  I hope my daughters will be lucky enough to receive the kind of training I did, if they choose to purse music in the future.

 How can people get in touch with you if they have any questions?

If anyone would like to get in touch with me, please email me at:

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