Many college students relish summers back home, and Ashton Taylor is no exception.
“I miss Omaha so much when I’m away at school,” says the 19-year-old who is starting her sophomore year at Brigham Young University. But the musical theatre transfer who spent her freshman year at the prestigious Hartt School in Connecticut—widely regarded as one of the top 10 conservatory programs in the nation—will be feeding her homesickness once again next summer when she heads west instead of east after finals. Southern California awaits, as does a fresh round of small- and big-screen auditions.
Taylor’s family moved from San Diego to Omaha almost six years ago at a time when the triple-threat actress/singer/dancer was deep into auditions for various Disney and Nickelodeon productions. Her relocation meant that a number of promising callbacks had to be met with a reply of “Sorry, but I now live 1,500 miles away from the epicenter of my dreams.
“But I was so surprised—and thrilled—to discover that Omaha has an amazing arts community where theater in particularly is really strong,” she explains. “It turned out to be the very best move I could have made. Omaha has been a great experience, and the people I’ve worked with and performed for here are so supportive, so wonderful.”
The Omaha chapter of her life, she says, is the silver lining of what could have been a career-ending relocation before she could even get a career fully off the ground to begin with. If you saw her name anywhere in a theater program in this town during her high school years, you could pretty much count on the fact that it would it would be repeated later when the slate of candidates was released during awards season. She was nominated for four Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards and snagged wins with both the Theatre Arts Guild (in the title role of Annie, The Rose, 2010) and the Omaha Community Playhouse (as Baby June in Gypsy, 2009).
Taylor has more recently been padding her vitae in collaborations with some rather notable names. Amber Riley (Glee, Dancing With the Stars) co-wrote with Taylor the song, “Better Than That,” which is among a growing roster of her works available on iTunes. She’s also launched a trio of music videos on her Ashton Taylor Channel on YouTube. Island Records artist Kristinia DeBarge is featured in Taylor’s “Complicated,” as is Tiffany Thornton (Hannah Montana, The O.C., etc.) in the video for “Spotlight.”
Omahans already know of Taylor’s on-stage talents. Now she’s trying to translate that gift into a life in front of a camera.
“I like to think that maybe I was born with at least a little bit of talent,” Taylor demurs. “Now I’m trying to see how far I can push myself in becoming a big talent.”