Happy Wednesday! Are you ready for the next Spotlight on YOU Open Mic, coming up a week from today on August 14th? If you are not, now is the perfect time for you to start picking your song and inviting friends to come see you in the "Spotlight"!
As you are contemplating your song choice for the evening, I am sure that you were looking forward to my interview with my featured celebrity of the month, the beautiful and talented Raissa Katona Bennett!
For those of you who don't know her, here is her bio for starters: Raissa Katona Bennett was “Christine Daae” in PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, CHESS Concert. First National Tours: CATS (Jelly/Jenny), PARADE (Lizzie Phagan). Recent Off-Broadway: “Annie McGrath” in WATER FROM THE MOON, “Mother Hawkins” in DEVIL AND THE DEEP. Recent Regional: “Helen” FUN HOME. TV – LAW & ORDER, UNSOLVED MYSTERIES. MAC & Bistro Award Winning headliner: Feinstein’s, The Metropolitan Room, Iridium, Beechman, and guest star at Rose Hall at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Town Hall, 54 Below, Algonquin’s Oak Room, the Rainbow Room. At Don’t Tell Mama on Nov. 1 & 2nd, she reprises her critically acclaimed “Can’t Help Singing – The Music of Jerome Kern” CD release show - on the LML Music label, joins her first 2 CD’s “Another Kind of Light”, and “What I Was Dreaming Of” - all available on Amazon, iTunes & LML Music. Raissa lives in NYC with her husband, Dr. Garrett Bennett, and their 3 tiny rescue dogs: Otie, Molly & Tiny.
I was introduced to Raissa's music for the first time back in 2012 after thoroughly enjoying her CD release show at Feinsteins.
Through the years, we've became friends and I have since then seen many more of her wonderful performances at venues around the city as well as at her production at Tudor Green. She is kind, approachable, engaging and always encouraging!
It is my honor to have her as my featured celebrity at Spotlight On YOU Open Mic!
For this interview, I asked her the following questions:
1) Can you share with us some interesting facts that most people don’t know about you?
I'm an accomplished equestrian, and was East Coast Sharpshooting Champion in high school.
2) You are an amazing performer, philanthropist, and so much more. What kicked off your passion? How did you discover your passion for music and realized that it was what you wanted to do?
I knew from the time I was a little girl that I wanted to be on stage, so I can't remember a defining moment. I used to put on my parents Broadway show albums and pretend that the picture window was a proscenium, and I'd sing along to the albums at the top of my voice, acting out all the parts. As I became more successful in my career, I use whatever "platform" I have created to bring awareness to environmental/community issues, which is why I created the MUSIC AND ART FOR CITY GREENS concert series that ran in Tudor City for 9 years. And I also am passionate about dog rescue - a portion of all proceeds of my CD sales and cabaret shows always go to Shih Tzu and Furbabies Small Breed Dog Rescue (www.stfbr.org). My husband, Dr. Garrett Bennett and I, devote a large amount of time to fostering dogs and training them to be more adoptable.
3) Do you have a couple of particularly interesting stories that you'd like to share with the readers?
I don't know if it's particularly interesting, but even though I always knew what I wanted to do, I never had voice, piano or dance lessons until I had enough money saving from babysitting, or selling Fuller Brush door to door, to get a lesson now and then. My family couldn't afford it, so I had to find my own way. My high school didn't really have a drama department, and I only got to do chorus in 2 musicals before the stage was condemned! So no real pre-college opportunities to do theatre, etc. That all happened after college when I was already teaching public school music. I drove my then boyfriend, (later husband, then former husband!) to the NETC auditions (New England Theatre Conference) and I was able to audition myself. He and I both got job offers at all the same places, so we did Summer Stock in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, and I never went back to teaching!
4) What is your "go-to" before a show?
It can be a routine, physical or mental space. I literally walk through the whole show in my apartment, sing through it lightly, eat early and lightly and pray. I ask to be a Channel for the Light, and I remind whoever is on stage with me, that they are the Light of the world.
5) What motivates your creativity and passion for life?
Being in nature, especially horseback riding, and singing keeps me very connected to my creative self. Name three things that never fails to put a smile on your face! My husband, my dogs and music!
6) Share with us what you have in the pipeline for us to be on the lookout for!
'm bringing my "CAN'T HELP SINGING - THE MUSIC OF Jerome Kern" show back, this time for my first solo show debut at Don't Tell Mama, on Nov. 1st and 2nd. My regular MD, Jon Weber, is busy those days so I'll be joined by the incredible Mark Berman on piano and Tom Hubbard will once again play bass. And I've begun working on an all new show - stay tuned.
Are you excited to hear and see more?? Come to the Spotlight next Wednesday, August 14th to experience Raissa Katona Bennett! Bring your favorite song and sing with the wonderful Kenneth Gartman, our featured accompanist for the month of August!