Only two months after starting her freshman year at Northern Arizona University, Ahwatukee native Abby Dotts has made enough of an impression with her choir director that she’s scored a gig with internationally renowned singer Josh Groban.
The 18-year-old recent graduate of Desert Vista High School will be a backup for Groban and Idina Menzel when they appear at the Talking Stick Arena at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26, his only Arizona performance during a national Bridges Tour.
The daughter of Chris and David Dotts of Ahwatukee, Abby was asked to audition by her choir director at NAU, where she is a music major in vocal performance.
“He was approached by someone in Josh Groban’s entourage, someone who knows the reputation of the choral program at NAU, which I’d like to think is regarded pretty highly in the music industry,” Abby explained, adding:
“My director asked about 40 people in the program here to audition, and the audition consisted of learning the back-up vocals to one of Josh’s songs, and then we had to submit a video of ourselves performing it in a gospel style with good stage presence. Our choir director, along with two alumni, decided who would be singing at the concert.”
Abby still has to pinch herself to remind her this is not a dream, but she hasn’t let her selection go to her head.
On the one hand, she said, “I was super excited to be picked, especially because this is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of opportunity. Honestly, I am just grateful to get the experience and I feel so humbled to be singing with other talented singers from NAU.”
On the other hand, however, she said, “I do not believe that this could lead to any personal long-term singing arrangement with him, but Josh Groban’s people are very familiar with the choir program at NAU and have asked our director to bring singers for Josh’s concerts in recent years. So, I do believe that we are on their radar and they will continue to come to NAU to find singers.”
Abby will be helping to provide backup vocals for songs like Groban’s famous “You Raise Me Up” as well as his recently recorded version of “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.”
She admitted that while “personally, I have not listened to a lot of Josh Groban’s music,” he “has always resonated with me as one of the most talented and gifted voices in the music industry.
“I would say, as I have been listening to and preparing his music to sing in the past couple weeks, I am definitely becoming a fan of his soulful music.”
While at Desert Vista, she was a four-year choir student and member of its award winning Acapella and Jazz Madrigal choirs. She was also a cast member in several musicals.
“The closest I got to lead roles was when I was in ‘Hairspray!’ in my freshman year and I was the understudy to the role of Amber Von Tussle and my senior year,” she said. “I was in DV’s production of ‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying’ and I played the role of Miss Jones.”
That experience has prepared her for her big appearance Friday.
“Being on stage has never quite frightened me as much as some people,” she said. “In fact, the idea of singing on stage with an internationally-renowned star doesn’t frighten me as much as it excites me. The fact that I will be singing in a choir also eases the pressure a bit, especially because I am singing with some of NAU’s best and brightest.”
A member of NAU’s vocal jazz ensemble “Northern Voices,” Abby eventually wants to become a music therapist.
And she’s not the only accomplished singer in her family.
“My dad participated in choir all throughout high school and played guitar and sung at such events around Phoenix like the Arizona State Fair,” she said. “My brother is also very musically-gifted – although he doesn’t like to admit it much. He is a freshman at DV and is also in choir there.”
Abby herself is something of a veteran to singing. “I have been singing since I was very young, but the age I can probably pinpoint it to is about sixth grade when I first started guitar lessons,” she said.