Jenelle Catherina is an actor, singer and musician based in Las Vegas, Nevada. She stays very active in the local theater scene, having worked on productions with Super Summer Theater, Las Vegas Little Theatre, Vegas City Opera, and UNLV Opera. Her favorite credits include recognition as a Top 3 Finalist in BroadwayWorld’s Next on Stage; being part of the Swing It! Girls; and her role as Extraordinary Girl in Majestic Repertory Theatre’s production of Green Day’s American Idiot. Jenelle is currently in her last semester at University of Nevada, Las Vegas where she is completing her Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance and Bachelor of Science in Human Services. Her future plans and dreams include being part of a Broadway production, leading a neo-soul/jazz group, traveling the world while making music and honing her musical instrument playing skills, which include focus on the piano, guitar, violin, and cello. The talented and busy artist also has made time to give back to the community. Jenelle recently was an intern at the Garden Foundation, an educational program for special needs adults. Read on to learn more about Jenelle and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts!
Name: Jenelle Catherina
Hometown: Surrey, Canada
Current City: Las Vegas, Nevada
Finishing my last semester and getting my two degrees (BM in Vocal Performance and BS in Human Services) from University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
What are some of your favorite credits/projects:
Top 3 Finalist in BroadwayWorld’s Next on Stage, Extraordinary Girl in Majestic Rep’s production of Green Day’s American Idiot, part of the Swing It! Girls, and I carol with the Tinseltones and Lawry’s Traditional Carolers during Christmas time!
Any advice for young people getting into college arts programs?
Don’t be afraid to try something new! I definitely took the non-traditional route, specializing in musical theatre in my professional career while pursuing a degree focused on classical training. I’ve learned so much about the mechanics of the voice and how to preserve it during my training at UNLV, and I feel like that area is something that is just not as focused on enough in a traditional musical theatre degree (at least, not as intensely as in a opera-focused program), so I’m very grateful for it! It’s also exposed me to the beauty of art songs and singing in French, German, and Italian!
What are some exciting projects you have been involved in after graduating from high school?
I’ve always been a musical theatre nerd and I minored in it for a time when I was starting out in college, but something clicked in me one year and I decided to look up auditions for community plays and musicals. The first audition I went to (a play called Geek! by Crystal Skillman) I landed the lead role and the performing bug never left! Since then, I’ve been a part of multiple productions by companies around town such as Super Summer Theater, Majestic Repertory Theatre, Las Vegas Little Theatre, Vegas City Opera, and UNLV Opera as well!
Do you have any favorite moments in your career so far that you'd like to share?
When I submitted for BroadwayWorld with Gethsemane, I didn’t really think much of it but I was really proud of that cover so I thought, “Why not?.” Well, I suddenly found myself in the top 15 without any attempt to promote my voting link, and seeing notable Broadway performers in awe of it really blew my mind. For the first time, I thought “hey, maybe I will work beside them one day!” I guess it was the validation I never knew I needed, haha.
What have you found has been your biggest challenge so far?
Trying to relax, honestly. I tend to overwork myself to the point of the nervous breakdown, but especially this year I’m navigating through my bad habits and trying to find a happy medium of working productively and taking a break when I need it!
Do you have any organizations or non-profits you work with you’d like to highlight?
This past semester I interned at the Garden Foundation and it honestly changed my life. It is an educational program for special needs adults’ post-high school. They do such good things there and their CEO really fosters such an inclusive and nurturing environment. They have so many valuable and fun classes for the clients such as cooking, dancing, singing, martial arts, and financial literacy!
Who do you admire?
My parents. They were my first ever role models and I feel lucky every day to have been born into a musical family. My parents were a duo lounge act on Princess Cruises in the 80’s for almost a decade, and before that they met while performing in the band scene in Hong Kong in the 70’s.
Lea Salonga is also someone I admire very much because she was the first person I ever looked up to who looked like me and was doing what I wanted to do!
Did you always want to be in the arts or did you have another path before you got here?
I thank my lucky stars every day that my parents were, and still are, so supportive of my musical journey. I did however do my first semester of college as a Pharmacy Tech major because of the whole “backup job” concept. That didn’t last very long, haha.
Do you have any other “special skills?”
I love to paint and draw, I can also somewhat play the piano and the guitar (and plan on working on it more in 2021), and I can do pretty alright singing impressions!
Do you have any side projects you’d like to highlight?
I wanted to get back in touch with my gamer side, so I’ve recently started streaming on Twitch!
What skills did you find to be the most helpful in your career?
By far, versatility and being open to trying new things has been the lifeblood of my career so far. It has gotten me opportunities that I never thought I’d find myself doing, and I love it! Honestly, just singing anything everywhere for as long as I live is my ultimate career goal.
What are some goals you hope to achieve?
First, I definitely want to book something outside of Vegas, and then book something that tours. I hope to build more of a following on social media most definitely, and Broadway’s been my dream since I knew what performing was so that would be cool too! I’ve also always wanted to lead a neo-soul/jazz group and hone in on my piano playing and guitar skills. Oh! I also recently came across a violin and a cello so I hope to learn those too (I took a semester of both during my time as a music education major in my string methods class and I loved it!)
What do you love most about what you do?
Connecting and creating with others, both on stage and off. Being experimental and trying new things too! I love the feeling of connecting with like-minded people about things that you love and stories that you create. Connecting with someone emotionally in the audience is such an intense feeling, and I just love being able to share my perspective and interpretation of major works with other people!
Tell us about your experience in the Broadway World Next on Stage Competition! What made you decide to do it?
I saw a few friends submit for the first season in the summertime and I thought I’d try it out since I finally had a cover that I felt like I was personally proud of!
How did you pick your songs?
The first one was a submission for Ray Winters’ Vegas Valley Livestream Cabaret! It was a Miscast theme and Gethsemane is my all time favorite rock MT solo so I thought I’d do my own version of it! For the rest of the songs, I picked songs that I’ve already had in my repertoire that I consider “showstoppers.” I’ve known A New Life since high school, the song More I learned recently for LVLT’s production of Putting It Together, No One Else I’ve known since I fell in love with Phillipa Soo’s voice when I discovered her in Hamilton three years ago, and World Burn I stumbled upon recently as a TikTok trend.
How did you prepare those songs?
Since I only had a few days to make, I practiced the songs to get them into my voice and made up something to make them special and stand out (outfits, fairy lights, background, lighting noises, quick changes, and stuff like that). Then I put them together and uploaded them and hoped for the best haha! I’m so happy with how far I went, I always made sure to give each video my own personal touch.
What was it like to get to have Broadway veterans critique your videos and get to interact with them?
It really was very validating to see that I had mastered my craft enough to impress Broadway veterans like that! Seeing their reactions and support week to week while keeping in mind their critiques seriously inspired me to put my best foot forward, and I’m going to make sure to continue to do just that!
What inspires you?
Seeing other people passionate about what they do! I love seeing that sparkle in people’s eyes, and I strive to keep that sparkle in my own eye in everything that I do.
If you could name one point in time when everything changed for you, what was it?
When the fire nation attacked… lol jk. This whole year honestly. The time to reflect and rest in the beginning to going full throttle with fall semester, my internship, and the competition all while rehearsing for the Christmas season! I’ve done SO MUCH self-reflection this year and
What are your plans after you graduate from college?
Try to travel the world while making music! Or at the very least, book something outside of Vegas as soon as possible haha! Vegas will always be my home, it’s the longest place I’ve ever lived in. I graduated high school here and grew up as a young adult! But I got to see what’s out there for me too haha.
To find out more about Jenelle, please visit her at:
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