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  • Dena Tauriello

I Dreamed a Dream

How are dreams born? How do these seeds - seemingly fleeting thoughts that become a driving motivation – get planted, take root and grow over time? Beyond this, how on earth do they finally become realized?

My initial dream was born on the day I saw Karen Carpenter perform - I wanted to play rock music to huge crowds (specifically, the Garden). Two years into this quest, a second dream - a Part B of sorts - was also born. Broadway.

My parents separated in 1978 when I was 10 years old. Shortly thereafter, my Mom began taking us into New York City, a mere 30 minutes or so from my hometown of Montville, NJ, to see shows. She had long been a fan of theater, first exposed to Broadway as a high school student in the late 1950's. She continued to venture in throughout the '60's and '70's and followed it closely, knowing what new shows were coming and when and writing to theaters to request her tickets - first four rows, center orchestra.

The impetus behind her decision to include us is unknown... to expose us to a new art form, share something she loved with us or give us something to look forward to from time to time in the midst of a difficult time? Perhaps it was a combination, but regardless, I fell in love with it - ALL of it. I loved the magic of the Big Apple, the beauty of the theaters, the grandeur of the productions, and all that talent. What an absolutely incredible art form.

My first show was Beatlemania. I had not yet developed my Fab Four obsession (which came the following year) and I loved it. Next up was Annie. A little cliché, I know, but it was magical. Then came a lesser-known production called They’re Playing Our Song, based on the true story and romance of legendary songwriters Carole Bayer-Sager and Marvin Hamlisch. This might have been the best one yet! Now I was getting just plain spoiled... this show blew my mind. As if the show itself wasn't leaving a big enough impression, I was sitting front row orchestra with a clear view into the pit. I got to SEE the drummer. I was in awe and thought it would be the coolest thing to play a Broadway show. This was 1979 and I was in grammar school - and another dream was born.

This continued for most of my Mom's life... she would order tickets in advance or she would go see a show, love it (and think I would love it) and would buy tickets for us to see it together. She had her four "girls" who would make plans to go. On occasion, one would cancel and I would get first dibs. I am fortunate to have seen many great shows over many decades, which always stoked my Broadway fire and aspiration of doing it one day.

I had begun my journey as a rock drummer, fairly late by most standards. I was in my early 30's when Antigone Rising toured up a storm and signed a record deal. Over the years, my network of musician friends - especially drummers - continued to grow, due in part to my decision to attend the NAMM convention every year in Anaheim. I had begun to hear of some friends of mine breaking in as subs on Broadway and I was so curious as to how one gets his chance. Drum pal Joe Bergamini eloquently summed it up as follows: "It's like paying your toll at the (Lincoln) tunnel. There's a pretty long line with lots of merging, but you eventually get through. You just need to wait your turn". But how do you even get yourself into that line, I wondered?

Nearly 10 years ago, I began reaching out to friends who had drum chairs, to watch their books in an attempt to get a feel for it. Three were kind enough to have me, and offer advice and suggestions: Andrés Forero (both for In the Heights and Hamilton), Matt VanderEnde at Wicked and Sammy Merendino at Kinky Boots.

In January, I received an email from a music contractor whom I had met while visiting Sammy, inquiring as to my interest and availability for a new show coming to Broadway - Head Over Heels. I nearly fainted. Some kind words and recommendations from Sammy (and Matt Beck from Rob Thomas' band) and, poof! Seeds planted years earlier were taking root all this time later. I still shake my head in wonder and appreciation, even as we approach our 18th preview at New York’s Hudson Theater.

Sadly, my Mom passed in 2011. Three months before her death, we ventured in to see Master Class with Tyne Daly. It somehow seems fitting that I was with her to see what became her last Broadway show. Head Over Heels opens July 26. As proud of me as my Mother was, this would have been - for her - the shining moment in my career, the cherry on top. Somehow, I think she'll be watching....

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