By Addi McDaniel

Natalie Weiss

I recently had the great pleasure of joining my long-time friend and Penn State classmate Natalie Weiss on part of her international tour. I spent ten days in London co-teaching musical theatre performance classes at the top universities and music schools. Natalie also made her London solo-concert debut performing to sold-out houses at the St. James Theater, which was packed with adoring fans. It was an experience, she said, that made her ask, “How did I end up here?”

Well, it all started in Musical Theatre program head Cary Libkin’s living room, during his annual holiday party in 2009. Natalie’s performance of “And I Am Telling You White Girl Can Blow” was recorded by 2010 alum Delius Doherty, and the video was posted to an 18-month-old website called YouTube. Since then, nearly 500 videos of Natalie’s live performances have been posted, totaling over 3 million views.

Her YouTube presence has led to invitations and opportunities that she never in her wildest dreams could have imagined.

When working with eager students, what struck me the most was the assumption that Natalie’s voice had always been like that. I find myself doing the same with artists that I idolize: “Oh, they’re amazing and have always been amazing.” It’s comforting and important for young artists to remember that it takes a combination of natural gifts and an incredible work ethic to bring the kind of success that someone like Natalie has had. She is hands-down one of the hardest-working musicians that I know, and it was exciting to be able to encourage young people who have the potential to be relentless about honing their craft.

“My teacher and mentor, Mary Saunders, taught me how to essentially make my voice ‘one.’ Going into college I had all the right tools but had no idea how to use them to connect sound through my registers. Trust me, it took MANY lessons of cracking and sounding like a dying cow, but after trial and error, it finally clicked for me around the end of my sophomore year,” Natalie shared. I couldn’t agree more.

In August, Natalie completed a 2 ½-year run performing multiple ensemble roles on the Les Miserables 25th anniversary tour. In 2010, she made her Broadway debut understudying the Menonettes in Everyday Rapture, starring Sherie Rene Scott. She also performed in the ensemble and understudied Elphaba in the second national tour of Wicked. Natalie was an American Idol season 4 semi-finalist and has performed the National Anthem at Cowboys & Shea Stadium, but is most well known for her YouTube videos. She has gained an international following from her performance videos and popular web series, Breaking Down the Riffs. Natalie released her self-titled debut CD in early 2011 and has been giving sold-out solo concerts and master classes internationally.

More on Natalie Weiss at Contact her directly at

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