Feature Story for The Philadelphia Inquirer

As part of a custom special advertising section for Bryn Mawr Day 2014, I wrote this profile on a bright and talented young performer. (Full text below image)feature story

Hometown teen Elise Dadourian to perform with the Dan May Band

Most people don’t remember life’s early moments, such as learning how to walk, talk or ride a bike. For 16-year-old singer-songwriter and aspiring actress, Elise Dadourian, it’s her first gig that she can’t recall.

“Honestly, I don’t remember it,” said Dadourian, a Bryn Mawr local. “I was 5 and I faintly remember twiddling with the edge of my dress.” It was the first of many stage experiences she has accrued as both a singer and an actress. Although at first, she was on a slightly different path.

“I started taking piano lessons and I never practiced,” Dadourian admitted. Every time her instructor, Lisa Willson DeNolfo of Willson Vocal Academy in Bryn Mawr, arrived for a lesson, Dadourian would pull out her toy karaoke machine and start singing. Recognizing Dadourian’s talent and passion, DeNolfo stopped being her piano teacher and became her vocal coach instead.

In the 12 years since, Dadourian has recorded two studio albums (“Simple Truth” in 2012 and “Gold Brick Road” in 2014), and performed both locally and in Ohio and California alongside Philadelphia-area singer-songwriter Dan May. Though their age difference is 40 years and his background is in opera, the two have become frequent collaborators.

“We have a similar ear and connection,” Dadourian said.

She first met May when she was 10. “He had this new song that he had written, it’s about growing up, and he thought it would sound better in a child’s voice,” she said. They hit it off as musical partners and became friends. She sang back-up vocals on one of his albums, and he has continued to write songs with and for her.

Influenced by Adele, Michael Bublé and The Four Seasons, Dadourian said her sound varies, “mostly from jazz to pop, but my new album has songs from many different genres. Some are goofy; some sound like the 1950s.”

She also listed May as one of her musical idols. “Not because I feel obligated to,” she said. “He inspires me every day. Dan and Lisa are the two most talented people I’ve ever had the honor to work with.”

Despite her young age, she’s worked with many. From festival slots and local gigs to star turns in high school musicals, Dadourian’s curriculum vitae is already impressive.

About to start her junior year of high school, Dadourian is a member of The Shipley School’s Shipley Singers select choir group and an actress in school plays. She plays varsity soccer, takes vocal and guitar lessons, and performs with Dan May and his band, all while earning straight A’s. Well, almost straight A’s.

“I have to admit something,” she said. “This year I got one B+ and it was very frustrating. It was in English class and it was a long struggle.”

She said chemistry is her favorite class, and it’s likely she inherited this scientific aptitude from her parents who are both physicians. Post-high school plans include going to college for “maybe a science” and perhaps graduate school to study the arts or acting. But for now she’s enjoying pursuing music.

“In the Stevie Wonder song ‘Sir Duke,’ he says music is the universal language that connects us,” Dadourian said. “It connects us on a deeper level. The psychological effects of it are fascinating and I’d also like to study that one day, too.”

See Elise Dadourian with the Dan May Band performing live on the Bryn Mawr Day Stage on Saturday, Sept. 6 at Bryn Mawr Day 2014.

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