Broadway performer headlining symphony fundraising concert

A Broadway star is uniting with the Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra League for "A Broadway Bash," a benefit concert celebrating the performing arts Saturday.

The league is the orchestra's volunteer branch, which focuses on raising funds to support events, reaching out to students and working with guest artists.

Tiffany Haas is the latest such artist, and the upcoming concert is a homecoming for the Yorktown native. She grew up with a mother enamored by performance art. Her mom owns the Academy of Dance and Gymnastics, which has locations in Yorktown, Newport News and Hampton.

"I was instantly bit by the bug of performing," Haas said.

But singing quickly became her passion, and she knew she needed formal training. She joined the voice program as the Governor's School for the Arts in Norfolk.

"You're really forced at a young age to make that decision," she said. "You have to be all in."

Haas went on to attend the Cincinnati Society of Music. In 2002 she won the Miss Ohio pageant and competed for Miss America. But she never stopped pursuing her true passion.

"You can't just sit on the sofa and dream," she said. That led her to New York City, where she landed her dream role: Glinda in "Wicked" on Broadway.

When the show toured, she performed at Norfolk's Chrysler Hall, an experience she said was "better than Broadway."

Haas concedes luck plays a role in success, as does subjectivity.

"Hearing 'no' is just someone's opinion," she said, and it's a word she heard often. Haas was turned down for 72 straight auditions, including several for "Wicked," before that life-changing "yes."

But there are things within the realm of control, and she lamented the idea of meteoric YouTube sensations.

"There is no such thing as an overnight success," she said, adding that people don't see all the rejections, the bandages on toes and other battle scars of preparation.

Haas recently got married, and Yorktown has become her home base in the midst of her travels. She says she misses New York City's 24-hour, limitless food delivery, but she said it can't compete with being near her family.

"That is the greatest feeling," she said.

Haas is eager to give back to the community. She started a musical theater program at her mother's studio, and she also teaches master classes to young aspiring performers.

"I'm re-inspired every time," she said. She's also thrilled to perform here again.

"There is great pride in performing in your hometown," she said.

Reuniting with the symphony

League President Paul Try is excited to work once again with Haas, who previously collaborated with the symphony for last year's Cabaret and Cocktails Pops Concert.

"She's very personable and warm," Try said. "She's been excited about preparing for this concert."

The concert emphases donations, meant to help provide ushers for shows, transportation for guest artists and other orchestra expenditures.

"These are world-renowned guest artists," Try said. Before Haas performs, pianist Alessio Bax is leading two concerts at the Kimball Theatre on Wednesday and Thursday night.

Try said the organization's main goal remains the same as it was when it was founded three decades ago: to encourage people to appreciate the orchestra and introduce children to classical music.

They reach more than 7,000 students every year with their educational outreach, which includes purchasing instruments for students in need and offering opportunities to play with experienced adults.

Last year's fundraiser accrued more than $20,000 toward such endeavors. But it's not all about the money, and Try hopes attendees see that.

"You want to offer them an enjoyable evening out," he said.

Haas was the one who reached out to work with the symphony again; when the league offered the fundraising opportunity, she agreed to take the role right away.

Haas will recount her Broadway adventure and the trials leading up to it in between musical performances.

"It was a journey of perseverance," she said.

Haas said she is excited because the fundraiser is not a "typical concert setting," instead offering an "elegant, intimate atmosphere."

It's meant to foster relationships, between sponsors and members, musicians and the community.

She said there's something more important than ticket sales. Haas is excited to meet with the people in attendance.

"The symphony survives on the interest of the people," she said. "That is so crucial in any form of performing. It's really about the audience."

Birkenmeyer can be reached by phone at 757-390-3029.

Want to go?

The fundraising dinner concert is 6-9 p.m. April 1. Tickets are $110 per person. Seating is limited. Black tie optional. For tickets and more info, contact Marie Knuettel at 757-259-2313 or marieknuettel@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2017, The Virginia Gazette
68°