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The Top 10 Artists Who Inspire Me: Part 1

Allison Schwartz details why these amazing people have impacted her artistic life.

Me with Tyler Hanes, Atlanta Broadway Dreams Foundation Intensive, 2011
Me with Tyler Hanes, Atlanta Broadway Dreams Foundation Intensive, 2011

If you read my blog post from last week, you know that I am striving to open myself up to the beauty and inspiration that surrounds me. So, for this week, I decided to make a list of people who have helped me to grow as a person and artist — and I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to be so positively affected by so many. This list is filled with only individuals who I personally know and have worked with, for they have impacted my life in the most direct way.

This is the first of two parts, so come back next week for the other 5 amazing humans. Also, I want to stress that narrowing this list down to 10 people was difficult enough, and the order in which I share them with you is completely random, so please do not think I have ranked them. That would have been nearly impossible to do.

1. Tyler Hanes– Tyler is one of the most incredible triple-threats I have ever witnessed. When he is on stage, I dare you to take your eyes off of him. Growing up in Atlanta, he trained at Rhythm Dance Center (where I danced), and because of our Atlanta-based connection, Tyler has watched me grow up. He has an incredible way of challenging me each year with a new task, and every time I see him, he adds a new layer of challenges and motivation to my artistry.

Tyler genuinely cares about spreading his love for the arts. I have spent countless late night car rides and post-audition meltdowns listening to his wisdom, and his extensive resume speaks for itself in the credibility he has as a mentor. Tyler has taught me that loving myself must always remain separate from loving my work. This lesson, extremely difficult for artists to grasp, is one of the most important things we can remember to retain our sanity in this industry.

2. Nikki Snelson– Nikki’s energy is absolutely contagious. I have worked with her for years through the Broadway Dreams Foundation, and every time I take her classes or watch her perform, I am mesmerized by her incredibly unique sparkle and charm. I cannot help but gawk at her unrelenting energy, even in the most exhausting of hours.

Because of our huge, super fun personalities (if I do say so myself), Nikki and I really click, and she graciously has taken me under her wing. She has never been “too cool” for a little amateur like me, never forgetting to send me audition opportunities and post my latest blog entries on her Facebook page. The friendship we share excites me to continue that relationship with an aspiring performer when I am older, wiser, and making it big on the Great White Way (it’s fun to dream).

3. Allison Schultz– I do not know if I became obsessed with her in first grade because our names were so similar, or if even at such a young age, I just had an attraction to her energy. From dance mentor to friend, Allison’s effect on my life is monumental. She was the first person to tell me she believed in me and my talents as a dancer, and I credit her as the first person to begin my transformation from a competition dancer to a real artist.

Allison has toured the country with New York City Dance Alliance (NYCDA) and Jump Dance Convention as a choreographer and videographer extraordinaire. With intellect and emotion in perfect harmony, her wisdom far exceeds her age. Allison’s bonding exercises, choreography, and perception of the world make her one of those rare humans with the ability to embrace the parts of life most people are scared to access and acknowledge. I urge you to view her YouTube channels and her blog. When you see her magic, you’ll catch my drift.

4. Quentin Earl Darrington– I have never seen Quentin without a huge, electric, magnetic smile. At Broadway Dreams Foundation intensives, his dynamic, alluring energy lights up every stage and room. I participated in one of his “Journey Through a Song” classes this summer, and by the end of it, the entire class was in tears from the work he was able to get out of the students.

Quentin has this extraordinary appreciation for life and art, and has an amazing gift for never losing sight of what truly matters in life. He quotes, “this gift that we have as artists is not just for a stage. It’s not just for Broadway. It’s not just to perform—that’s just part of it. But there’s a greater part: the gifting of other people…and right now you have the opportunity to use your gift and share it with somebody else.” I give Quentin credit for reminding me to stay humble and to love sharing what I do.

5. Ryann Redmond– When I was a measly freshman in high school, Ryann sat behind the table of my first audition for the Broadway Dreams Foundation Intensive. A few summers later, I spent my summer interning for the foundation with Ryann, and we quickly befriended one another. I helped her with her dancing, and she returned the favor with tips on how to achieve her golden voice. Regardless of our age difference, I never felt belittled or looked down upon, and that speaks volumes about the amazing person she is.

About three years ago, I shared the stage with Ryann at a Broadway Dreams Thanksgiving Benefit Concert in New York City, where Bernie Telsey was a member of the audience. Shortly after, Telsey+Co cast Ryann in her Broadway debut as Bridget, a supporting lead in Broadway’s “Bring It On”. Every night, audience members fall for her underdog charm and undeniable talent. I admire Ryann’s unprecedented ability to take risks and stand out, never losing sight of who she is and where she came from.

If you do not know who any of these people are, I HIGHLY encourage you research these individuals. Learn, steal, and be inspired by their magic… and get pumped for the remaining 5 artists that complete my list!