Fifth grader Mia Procaccino sings on NYC stage
At only 11-years old, Mia Procaccino has already had what many would consider the opportunity of a lifetime—the chance to perform on a New York City stage.
On May 2, Procaccino performed “I Know It’s Today” from Shrek the Musical at Symphony Space, a renowned performing arts center.
The Bordentown fifth grader won the opportunity to perform at Symphony Space by placing third in the Junior High Division of the New York Lyric Opera Theatre’s 2015 National Competition.
It was one of the first times that she got to sing while being accompanied by a piano.
“I was nervous because the song is very long, and I felt I was going to mess up the lyrics, but when I was performing it felt good,” Procaccino said.
Procaccino was urged to audition for the competition by her voice teacher, Sophie Taillefer, who runs the Rising Stars Voice Studio in Bordentown. Taillefer explained that she thought the competition would be a good learning experience for her students.
“I thought it was worth going as an experience to see the talent and what you have to do to perform in front of big companies,” said Taillefer, noting that the New York Lyric Opera is one of the greatest opera companies in the country.
She was thrilled when she learned that Procaccino was one of the finalists.
“I was really happy to see that here in New Jersey we can compete with singers in New York,” she said.
Procaccino has been taking lessons with Taillefer since she was eight years old.
“Mia is a very dedicated child. She’s very disciplined and takes direction very well,” Taillefer said.
She believes it is those characteristics that make Procaccino stand out from her peers.
“A lot of kids have talent,” she said. “I think what makes someone stand out is the passion and the time and effort they put in. Of course she has a voice that is amazing, but there’s a lot of amazing kids. She just works so much harder than the other students and that makes a big difference.”
The New York Lyric National Competition was not Procaccino’s first singing competition. In the past, she has found success at the annual Mid Atlantic Music Teachers Guild Festival, which allows young musicians from around the northeast to compete in a number of different categories.
In 2014, her first year at MAMTG, Procaccino placed in several categories. She won second in Pop Elementary, second in Duet Elementary along with her friend Katie Raynor, third in Idol Elementary (a category measuring overall performance), third in Jazz Elementary and fourth in Musical Theater Elementary. This year she came in fourth in the Jazz Junior and category and she and Raynor placed fourth in Duet Junior.
Procaccino is also an accomplished musical theater performer. Last summer she starred in the Bordentown Junior Musical Theatre Company’s performance of Annie.
“I was very excited because the play was called Annie and I was Annie,” Procaccino said.
She said she was nervous to be playing a lead role because she had to memorize so many lines and songs, but that she thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Before her role in Annie, Procaccino performed in the company’s 2012 production of Honk as a member of the ensemble and its 2013 production of The Little Mermaid as the jellyfish. This summer she will have a lead once again playing the minstrel in a production of Once Upon A Mattress.
Taillefer said she pushes her students to participate in musical theater because she believes it is beneficial to developing their voices.
“I think if you can sing musical theater and classical, you can sing anything,” she said. “If you just sing pop, it doesn’t train your voice as well. It’s a technique that all singers should have.”
To that end, Taillefer’s studio puts on several musicals a year. She also praised the Bordentown schools with making an effort to expose students to musical theater.
This summer, in addition to performing in Once Upon A Mattress, Procaccino is scheduled to sing the national anthem at a Trenton Thunder Game on July 12 and to participate in the Freehold Idol competition.
“She has a lot going on for a kid who is 11,” said her father, Greg. “She makes us proud every minute.”
Greg admitted that he and his wife Jen don’t really sing other than karaoke, so he is in awe of his daughter’s accomplishments.
“The first time I saw her in anything, it hit me that see really has talent,” he said. “I got goosebumps seeing my child up there that were reinforced when all the other parents came up and said how amazing she was.”
Greg said he and Jen don’t push Procaccino—she is driven by her own passion.
“She’s not going to win every time, and that’s OK,” he said. “That makes you better. Any part, whether it’s a lead or an opportunity to sing in front of a church, is a good experience. I love to sit and continue to advocate for her.”
He added, “Mia doesn’t care if she wins or loses. She loves to sing whether she wins a contest or just makes an audience happy.”
Procaccino said she wants to continue singing and hopes to become a professional singer or actress when she grows up. Taillefer believes that Procaccino has the talent and the drive to make those dreams come true.
“She’s a very special child,” she said. “She takes chances and I think she will be a star.”