Up and Coming: Nicholas Connell

Up & Coming: Nicholas Connell

connellA native of Las Vegas, Nevada, Nicholas James (Nick) Connell came to Boston to study Songwriting at Berklee College of Music. Some gigs music directing student shows at both Berklee and The Boston Conservatory led SpeakEasy Producing Artistic Director Paul Daigneault to hire Nick to music direct the company’s 2010 production of The Great American Trailer Park Musical.

Since that time, Nick has music directed some of SpeakEasy’s most challenging and successful musical productions, including his current stint in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, in which he sings, acts, conducts, and plays the piano.

Recently Nick sat down with SpeakEasy’s Artistic Fellow Jeff Kubiatowicz to talk about Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and his early career experience working as a music director in both Boston and New York.

Jeff: So what’ve you been up to for the last 20 years?
Nick: The last 20 years? [laughs] I grew up in Las Vegas, and went to a performing arts high school called Las Vegas Academy. I moved here for college in 2005, went to Berklee College of Music, and graduated with a Bachelors of Music in Songwriting. After music directing student productions at The Boston Conservatory and Berklee, Paul Daigneault hired me to do The Great American Trailer Park Musical. That was my first real professional music directing gig. And it was great.

Jeff: How so?
Nick: I had been music directing for years [at school], but I didn’t know on a professional level what the job was like, and I certainly didn’t realize how fast it was going to move. And the pace is definitely much quicker than I anticipated. One thing I learned from that my experience on Trailer Park was that, when a challenge comes your way on the professional level, you have to deal with it right away and then move to the next thing. There is no time to waste. Also, that first tech week for Trailer Park was crazy because there were so many different things to consider; and as the music director, it’s my job to make sure the band is ready to go, is set up, and everyone sounds great. It’s a lot of responsibility, and I love it.

Jeff: Right after the success of Trailer Park you made a move to New York. Tell us about your time there.
Nick: Yeah, that was in 2010. I got offered a really good gig in New York assistant music directing a Broadway music director on a show called Wallenberg: The Musical. It was new musical based…it was a holocaust musical. [pause]. But it was a really great experience.

Working at SpeakEasy definitely prepared me to do stuff in New York. Everybody here knows what they need to do, and we all work so well together. Music directing is such a collaborative effort, and that’s something I didn’t really completely understand before coming to SpeakEasy.

Jeff: Though you were still living in New York, you came back to SpeakEasy and music directed both Nine and The Drowsy Chaperone. Where those experiences different for you?
Nick: Yes. I think I had more time to prepare because I knew what to expect. And working with some of the same people again—once you establish good working relationships with people, you want to continue that. Paul Daigneault and I bounced so many different ideas off of each other; and I think the end result was a really great collaboration between the two of us. I think we put on good shows.

Jeff: And after that?
Nick: I didn’t find much work in New York after that, and then came back and decided I’m better off in Boston. I think New York is a great place if you have lots of money to spend, but trying to make ends meet there is a lot harder than it is here. And I was like “Why am I putting myself through hell when I could be in Boston with people that I love and a company that I love.” So once I got back to Boston, I didNext to Normal and Xanadu. And also I was recording my album this past year.

Jeff: Tell me about that.
Nick: I started writing my album last year. It’s something I always wanted to do, but because of my musical theater career, my songwriting has taken a back seat. But recently I felt it’s time that I’m really doing something with my songwriting, so I started this album. It’s a pop album, made up entirely of my own original compositions. It’s a lot of fun,high-energy dance music. It has a lot of piano in it because I’m a pianist, and so I incorporate a lot of that into my dance music. Also I’m singing all the vocals, and it’s going really well. I’m still recording it now.

Jeff: When’s it due out?
Nick: I’m planning to release it this fall.

Jeff: We’ll have to see if we can get that announced.
Nick: Thank you very much. [laughs]

Jeff: Anything you want to add about our time working at SpeakEasy?
Nick: The relationships with the people here are so important, and that’s not something you see at every company. I really feel like I have a tight family here that really supports me and I feel very comfortable taking risks. I really love everybody who works here. It’s so wonderful because the people make it wonderful.