Rising Star

Summerland teenager Tiana Ferlizza tickles the ivories as her mother, Shannon, looks on. The singer/actress/dancer is one of the valley’s most-prolific performers.

In the wonderful world of show business, Tiana Ferlizza is what is called a “triple threat,” excelling at acting, singing and dancing.

When you throw in the fact she’s also learning how to play the piano, has competed at the national level in voice and musical theatre competitions and is a straight-A student, the talented Summerland teen is one gifted young lady.

Ferlizza, like so many others, dreams of one day performing in the bright lights of Broadway in New York City.

For now, the 18-year-old is focused on getting ready for her first year of studies at Capilano University in North Vancouver this fall, where she will be majoring in the three-year musical theatre program.

Ferlizza has been heavily involved in the musical theatre program at Summerland Secondary School the past three years and was particularly busy this past school year as she landed the lead roles in the program’s two major productions — “Rock of Ages” and “Legally Blonde.”

She was also cast as the female lead in Penticton’s musical theatre Soundstage Production of Disney’s “Newsies.”

Ferlizza said her passion for musical theatre began several years ago under interesting circumstances.

“Initially I got into it when my elementary school in Summerland was putting on a production called ‘Moosical,’ about a moose that wanted to fly,” she said. “I ended up auditioning for the lead role even though I was told I wasn’t old enough. I ended up getting the role … and that’s where it all started.

“My mother then put me into singing lessons and I just loved it and kept carrying it through.”

While extremely confident singing, acting and dancing on stage, Ferlizza is adding to her artistic repertoire by studying advanced theory in piano over the past several months.

“I understand the music, but I’m not exactly great at playing yet, but it’s coming,” she said. “I can play ukulele and I fiddle around on guitar, so I do love music.”

She has been a member of the Summerland School of Dance the past five years and captured many honours as a dancer over the past couple of years and was a competitive gymnast for several years.

She is confident her musical skills will improve, as will her many other talents, when she starts studying full-time at Capilano.

Ferlizza admits to being “super nervous” before every single performance.

“I need to do meditation before I step on stage. It’s not even just nerves, but excitement and adrenaline all mixed together. But as soon as I step on stage, it all disappears and I’m just in the moment and it’s totally an adrenaline rush and you’re just totally focused on what you need to do to put on a great performance.”

Ferlizza credits her two mentors — Summerland Secondary drama teacher Heather Ayris and longtime vocal coach Lynne Leydier — for much of her success.

“They both pounded into me” the concept of hard work and knowing the meaning of the words she conveys and lyrics she sings on stage. “I wouldn’t be where I am right now without them.”

If there’s one performer she admired most at her young age, Ferlizza said it would be acclaimed American stage, screen and television actress Kristin Chenoweth, who won a Tony Award for her performance as Sally Brown in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” in 1999.

“I’ve really enjoyed her work because she’s such a diverse actress and performer,” she said. “She got her start in classical voice, then branched off into musical theatre, so she’s so in-depth and understanding of what she’s doing and has so much control of every second she’s on stage. She has the audience under her spell every second she performs.”

As a teenager with her whole life ahead of her, Ferlizza doesn’t know exactly what the future holds, but dreams of making a living from performing once she graduates from university.

“I’m really hoping to be able to perform for a living,” she said. “That means being able to be stable financially, but having fun every night or second night doing shows, because that’s what brings me the most happiness.

“I don’t have any great aspirations to be on Broadway (right away). I just know I want to be performing, no matter where it is. As long as I’m on stage and making a living, I will be happy.”

If she continues to shine, Broadway would be the ultimate goal, she said.

“My final goal is Broadway and I won’t be disappointed if I’m not there in say five years from now,” she said. “I just want to be performing and be making a good living and hopefully I can get to where I want to be after that.”

No matter what happens, Summerland will always be home, she said.

“I would love to come back to Summerland no matter where I’m living and help with (high school) plays and Soundstage in Penticton,” she said. “I would hope to help the local arts council and teach young children and that kind of stuff.”

Off the musical stage, Ferlizza was involved with Summerland’s royalty program as a princess for one year.

Leydier said Ferlizza is a remarkable young lady.

“She works very very hard … she’s easily one of the hardest-working young people I’ve ever worked with in all my years of coaching,” Leydier said. “She’s also exceptionally positive with a great deal of energy and she basically wants to do it all when it comes to performing.

“To audition and land two lead roles in high school productions, study for and compete in national competitions in classical voice and musical theatre, apply for bursaries and get great marks in her final year of school is a testament to her hard work and talent,” she said.

The daughter of Claude and Shannon Ferlizza, Tiana is the middle child in a family of three sisters.

“She’s just a really cool person,” Leydier said. “I really think she’s going places and it couldn’t happen to a nicer young lady.”