1075 shows, over 200,000 park guest audience members, 358.33 hours of performing - that's 15 days of playing non-stop if you do the math!
My time with Walt Disney World, and "The Ziti Sisters" came to a close on June 14th, 2011. Thank you Walt Disney World for this opportunity and for everything that I have experienced and learned here!
Venturing out of your comfort zones, leaving your country and landing in a world that is completely upside down and backwards, from the world, as you know it, isn't easy. But, we all have dreams, and what I have accomplished over the past 9 months was a dream of mine.
This was a very exciting role for me to take, and Epcot used to have an accordionist in almost every pavilion once upon a time, and only ONCE BEFORE was there a female accordionist. I'm pleased that I am the second in line, and the first "Katia".
I’ll miss the little princesses, Minnie’s, Mickey's and Jack Sparrows that smiled up at me and danced around to my accordion, and always brightened my day. I’ll miss my "Ziti Sisters" cast mates, my buddy Lisa Sleeper - who was my first friend here in Orlando, and forever a true friend, the Fife & Drum group "Spirit of America", the "Voices of Liberty" singers, Tom Vazzana – our show director, Gina Smith – our past stage manager, and Bethany Barnhorst – my casting agent-turned stage manager, the Italian’s working in the Italian pavilion, as well as several other musicians...
I found a friend in John Kolbrich, who I quickly learned he was originally a Canadian, from Ontario, and was a very established accordionist, trumpet player, singer, and businessman here. He has lent me a lot of great advice for my Guerrini "Camillo" and has been a very kind and generous friend while I was here.
>>Check out his website for his band, The Europa Band, as well he has two schools of music, in Avalon Park and Orlando.
Another musician friend I made was Chris Johnson, who is a live sound engineer and music producer, and he was very helpful with providing information and help with various music software's and general opinions and solutions to me as a musician. We had some great chats, and I wish him well as he travels over to Eastern Europe.
Thank you to Butch Kresovich (accordionist and Mr. Big Producer Guy) and Jonita Aadland (violinist extraordinaire) for our fun get togethers of music, food, stories and laughter. It was great to check out a few of Butch’s accordions and learn that one was previously owned by THE Myron Floren.
Thank you to my new, but quickly close, friend Olga Kalpokova – who I helped train in to the “Katia” role. She taught me that smiling is good for your heart, and I believe her because I certainly did a lot of that at this job, and I can feel the effects. This is a woman, who is an established violinist, who has taught herself how to play the accordion - and has done a great job of it! During our final visit with each other, having dinner out, we saw Hulk Hogan in the restaurant. She kindly said that seeing him was a good omen for me. I ♥ Olga.
My final week of work was amazing, and my last day – beautiful. I was given cake (I love cake), and many lovely gifts from the fife & drummers, my Ziti cast mates, my stage manager Bethany Barnhorst, as well as the Voices of Liberty singing group.
|From the "Spirit of America" fife & drum group|
|A gift from "The Ziti Sisters" from the Mask Bandits in the Italian Pavilion|
|From Bethany Barnhorst|
|I cut into the cake before taking a picture... I love cake too much!|
The moment that will stay with me forever is this: having 9 beautifully period costumed vocalists walk in to the trailer and surround me. “Sit down Natasha” is what one of them said, as they all surrounded me. They then sang “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” to me, smiling at me as they sang, and I sat there sobbing like a fool! This song is my favourite Disney song, a tune that I have performed before with my friend Alex Cooper, and a song that is dear to my heart because of it’s message and meaning.
Their voices lifted, comforted and melted my heart. To get an impression of what they sound like, watch this clip:
After they finished they let me compose myself, they asked me what I planned to do next and then informed me they had one more song for me. They then pulled out their sheet music and sang “Oh Canada” to me. They had me giggling the whole time, and afterwards they told me how happy they were to sing it. Each of them gave me a big hug and wished me well.
I had a brief exit interview with the boss man. Oh yes I did. After seeing Chip and Dale, and getting big hugs from them, Mickey Mouse and I ran in to each other backstage. I let him know that is was my last day and he reacted with a gesture of shock and dismay and gave me a quick wave “goodbye”. Short and sweet was the Mouse!
From the 9 months spent in Orlando I learned what is important to me, and just how much strength I have as a person and performer. I feel so blessed to have had so many well wishes, kind hearts, love, support and good omens from everyone I worked with and met during this time.
Thank you to all my friends, family and fans that supported unconditionally during this interesting chapter in my career. I didn't always feel strong, or brave, but my friends, fans, and family helped me emotionally and mentally throughout this.
I'm excited for what's up next for myself, and who I will meet, what I will create, who will inspire me, and what I will learn. What is around the corner for you? Aren't you curious!? Life is good :)
"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." - Ralph Waldo Emerson