by Rey Perez
Elena Holder is a first-year student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with an aptitude for singing and acting. This past September, Elena had her Broadway debut performance after winning the Jimmy Awards, a virtual national musical theater competition in which she won the title of Best Actress. Following her win, Elena was invited to New York City to perform at an outdoor concert in Times Square called Curtain Up!, hosted by American actor and singer Norm Lewis and producer Michael Urie. Professor Marc Callahan, Elena’s voice instructor in the music department, had this to say about Elena’s performance at Curtain Up!.
“It’s a huge honor for one of our students to be asked to perform for the re-opening of Broadway. We’re so proud of Elena, her talent, and her hard work and dedication to the craft. As a friend of the event’s host, Jelani Alladin, he wrote to me afterward to tell me how impressed he was by Elena’s talent and warm personality.”
-Marc Callahan, Assistant Professor for the Department of Music
Elena no doubt has a gift for singing and acting, but she is also a driven student. Elena plans to double major in psychology and vocal performance and attend graduate school after graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill. Elena would eventually like to move to New York, where she can pursue her passion for the performing arts. I recently had the opportunity to interview Elena about her experiences with winning the Jimmy Awards, performing on Broadway, and being a student at UNC. This is what she had to say.
Rey Perez: Tell me a little about winning the Jimmy Awards last year?
Elena Holder: The Jimmy Awards is a virtual national musical theatre competition that I was so lucky to be a part of this year. Being in the Jimmy Awards meant that I got to spend two weeks online with passionate high school students from across the country, participating in coaching sessions, rehearsals, and talkbacks with Broadway professionals. I absolutely adore everyone I got to work with, and at the 2021 awards ceremony, I was awarded the title of Best Actress and given a scholarship. Winning the Jimmy Awards was so insane, and over the last few months, it’s presented me with a ton of opportunities (ex. curtain up! in New York City). Having won and been in the Jimmy Awards, I have been immersed in a nationwide theatre community that I am so grateful for.
RP: What was it like to perform in NYC at the Curtain Up! Event?
EH: Curtain Up was the coolest live event I have ever been a part of. Bryson (the 2021 Jimmy Awards Best Actor) and I, along with some incredibly talented Broadway performers were given the opportunity to sing in a concert in Times Square for the reopening of Broadway. We sang on a stage in front of the iconic red stairs, and there was such an exciting energy throughout the day. Everyone I worked with in New York was so kind, and I loved being able to perform with people so plugged into the Broadway world.
RP: How has it been transitioning from high school to college this fall?
EH: The transition from high school to college has been very smooth. I’m from Durham, so I was already very familiar with UNC when I moved in. My dorm hall has been super supportive of all of my performances (including curtain up) and having such a supportive community at UNC has really been an aid in my transition into college.
RP: What are you enjoying most about music at UNC so far?
EH: Music at UNC is so wonderful. The faculty in the department are so kind and really want the best for all of their students. I think I have enjoyed studio classes the most because I am able to hear people perform solo pieces live, which I haven’t been able to do in a while because of COVID. Overall, I love how kind everyone is, and I appreciate the positive learning environment the music department has created here.
RP: What do you hope to do after UNC?
EH: I am not quite sure what I want to do in the future, but I do think I will end up moving to New York and doing some auditions. I am also really interested in going to graduate school, and that may be a path I pursue.
WATCH Elena’s Award-Winning Performance