Beau Dixon & Kelly Holiff on My Turning Point
Spring has sprung! With a turning point in the weather and warmer days on the horizon, we are kicking off the #MyTurningPoint blog series with PORCHSIDE SONGS players duo; Beau Dixon & Kelly Holiff! Join us as we sit down with Beau & Kelly, and dive into the inspiration for their PORCHSIDE concert and journeys with musical theatre.
This year, our MARQUEE Festival’s programming follows the theme of ‘Turning Points’ – highlighting more personal artistic discoveries & journeys. How do you define what the phrase, ‘Turning Points’ means to you?
Kelly: To me, a Turning Point, is a moment in time that helped shape who you are as a person; a defining moment, big or small, that you are fundamentally affected by.
Beau: To me, Turning Points mean a rejuvenation of the mind and spirit. Now more than ever, we need to reach out to our communities and patrons of the arts to instill hope and positivity. I can’t think of a better way to do that than through music and theatre – people are desperately in need of meaningful entertainment in their lives.
Is there a particular turning point in your life that you feel set you on the path toward musical theatre?
Kelly: I was a pretty shy kid when it came to expressing myself; I took a lot of the world in by listening and watching. I happened to go to an academic high school where the arts program was minimal, and I remember – very randomly – finding the guts to audition for the school musical. I had no idea what I was doing but I landed the lead. That was the first real time I sang out loud and on a stage. My whole family was there and they were in complete shock that I had this voice. All of a sudden I had something to say, with a way & place to say it. It was that exact day that I figured out how I was going to truly connect with people. Through music and performing, I took up space that day on that stage – and not only did I shock myself, but I shocked everyone around me. I had a voice. From then on, I somehow knew how to emote on a stage better than I could in real life. It took hold and provided an outlet that I didn’t even realize I needed.
Beau: I remember doing a semi-professional production of THE FANTASTICKS (South Collegiate in London, Ontario). I was in grade 9 and wasn’t that good of an actor or singer, but the director (who taught grade twelve english) really believed in me. He asked me to audition for the lead role – so I did. I understood the acting component, but I really didn’t have a good voice, so the director paid for my vocal lessons. I remember vividly taking my second lesson and my voice just shifted. My vocal teacher leapt up from her piano just as my eyes lit up. It was a magical moment – like this musical spirit woke inside of me. It was then that I finally knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
What are some of your favourite Turning Points or memories outside of music & theatre that have helped shape who you are now?
Kelly: One of the biggest turning points in my life have been my nieces & nephew. Seeing them come into the world and being as close to them as I am, has shifted my priorities in a way that I truly never thought possible. I love what I do so much and I will never take performing and creating for granted. I take my career very seriously and I’m beyond grateful for what I get to do. However, nothing can top that feeling of being around those giggly, “drunk” little humans. Falling in love with them has been a true turning point; now the most important credit that I care about including in my bio is Kelly Holiff: Best Aunt Ever.
Beau: When I was in my early twenties, I took a road trip to California. I started in Seattle and drove along the west coast highway to Los Angeles, zig-zagged through the Grand Canyon, then Wyoming and everywhere beyond – I was experiencing pure freedom. I felt so alive. It was one of the greatest experiences. I learned more about myself in that one month than I ever had before, and that memory will stay with me forever. The other turning point – which isn’t a favourite at all – but completely changed my life; was my Mom dying of cancer. Being by her side, holding her hand until her last breath was the saddest, transitional turning point of my life – it changed me forever. Pure clarity of love.
Your PORCHSIDE concert is titled ‘Mixed Tape: The Music That Changed Me’, can you expand more on the inspiration behind your setlist and the stories you wanted to share through the music?
Kelly: Were you ever given a mixed tape or a playlist from somebody that meant a lot to you? Maybe when you were a teenager or a young adult? Now when you hear those songs; it gives you that tingling feeling of nostalgia – you know exactly where you were the first time you heard it. Beau and I are striving to bring a sense of that feeling to people’s porches. We picked songs that are connected to sentimental and life changing moments in our lives; a soundtrack of our lives if you will. Of course, we have way too many songs & moments to pick from, so we are gathering what we think may be some of the most universal tunes that audiences could connect to – in some form – as well.
One moment in my life that sticks out to me – driving through the mountains of Arizona as a kid in the backseat of my dad’s Mustang; wind in my hair and listening to The Eagles. It was a feeling of complete bliss – and a feeling that I’ll try to emulate for the rest of my life. Now when I hear The Eagles; I think about Arizona, and I get an overwhelming feeling of pure and complete happiness.
Beau: Music has been a major influence in my life. Since I was a child, there have been numerous songs – too many in fact – that have given me guidance and support through my crazy existence. Whether it’s a song that reminds you of a time or place in my youth, or lyrics of a song that I could relate to on a personal level; they have shaped who I am and taught me great lessons & stories about the human condition. I’d like to share those songs with our audiences, hoping they also have fond memories of those songs.
In the last few years, the musical theatre industry has undergone several Turning Points of our own – how do you feel about how the industry has adapted and progressed?
Kelly: Our industry is the little engine that could – nobody adapts like artists do. We are a bunch of chameleons, filled with empathy, compassion and stories to tell. Shut us down and we’ll find other routes to get the story out. Artistic directors, theatre companies and artists were looking for new, innovative ways to connect to their audiences. It was trying at times for sure, but incredibly beautiful and special to watch and be a part of – I’m truly shocked at how much I continue to learn, every single day from the artists, leaders and my friends in this industry. Even though we technically shut down and were forced to take a step back – in some ways, it feels like we’ve never grown so much as an industry.
Beau: The industry has struggled, there’s no doubt about it – we all have struggled – but with the use of today’s technology, we have found a way to maintain an audience. Mind you, I don’t think it’ll ever be as vibrant as it was before; people aren’t buying as many albums or CD’s – everyone’s just streaming music. There’s many theatre patrons that feel it’s still not safe to attend live theatre, so they stay home and watch it online. My belief is it’s no longer theatre if it’s online – it’s something else; it’s digital storytelling. You need the live audience. There needs to be communication between the audience and actors; there needs to be the pulse of the room working together.
But – I’m hoping things will pick up. It sounds like a shallow response I know, but I have no idea what’s in store for us! All I know is the arts will survive; everyone needs entertainment to be reminded of why we exist.
What do you hope your concerts can bring to audiences this summer season? Is there any message or feeling you want to inspire?
Kelly: I would love to bring these audiences an hour of pure bliss and entertainment. I want to get personal and meet more of the incredible patrons that I usually only get to see far away from a stage – taking them out of their busy lives for just a moment. Beau and I will be performing some of the most beloved and universal songs, from artists we all know and love; this concert is up close and personal.
Beau: I want to inspire hope and fellowship with audiences this summer; I want to bring pure joy and remind people that there’s a reason to push on; to believe in community and love. I want to remind audiences that music is good – all the time!
As the future continues to change and the theatre community continues to change with it – what kind of change do you envision or hope to see for artists and performers?
Beau: I hope to see more kids get involved in the arts – without our next generation stepping up & showing interest in music and theatre, we’re in trouble. You notice the numbers dropping in youth programs and post secondary arts programs because kids just aren’t motivated or convinced that their dreams can actually become a reality. We’re all getting quashed by the pressure of survival; it’s like our future generation has no idea what to do with themselves – it saddens me, and I hope we can all break out of that depression. I hope to see more financial support from private sponsors and our government, but in order to get that support, we need to show each other that theatre and music still matter.
Catch Beau Dixon & Kelly Holiff’s, ‘Mixed Tape: The Music That Changed Me’ (PORCHSIDE SONGS concert) this summer! On-stage June 14 – July 13, concerts are on sale now.
To learn more about our exciting MARQUEE Festival and its theme ‘Turning Points’, click here to read Artistic Director Ray Hogg’s, introduction blog. Stay tuned to read in-depth & personal definitions of our different MARQUEE artists, as part the #MyTurningPoint blog series.
We want to hear from you – how would you define #MyTurningPoint? Share your stories and/or photos with #MyTurningPoint and tag us (@MusicalStageCo on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter) or fill out the form below to win a MARQUEE MUSICAL PASS, which includes a ticket to both DIXON ROAD & TAKE THE MOMENT! #MyTurningPoint contest runs March 9th – May 23rd, with the winner announced May 27th.