Almost Famous
Remember these names—you’ll want to say you knew them when
by Kaytie Dowling

Scotlyn Brewer

Scotlyn Brewer’s voice will leave you breathless. Her throaty renditions of “Dancing With Myself” and “Raised on the Radio” are hearty and soulful, but it’s her version of “Great Gig in the Sky”—in honor of the lyricless, generation-defining vocals by Clare Torry—that make it clear this girl is not your ordinary garage band front woman. At just 16, Brewer is proving to be Bucks County’s next big thing.

While she’s happiest singing classic rock on stage, she’s no one-trick pony. Brewer has also been known to pick up the guitar, drums, piano and flute. It isn’t really a surprise considering her parents—who she cites as her role models—play everything from the ivory keys to the bag pipes. So has she taken up the iconic, Celtic instrument for herself? “Not yet,” she jokes, but it only seems like a matter of time.

Brewer showcases her vocal and instrumental talent in a series of choirs at her high school, Council Rock South, in addition to her own Celtic-rock band Raining Hard. But it’s at the Bucks County School of Rock where she flourishes. Several days a week she fine-tunes her work with different bands and rehearsals for upcoming shows.

Ariel Burde
Ballet Dancer

For centuries, people have argued over which was more important: talent or hard work. But it’s kids like Ariel Burde who make the answer clear—you need equal parts of both. The 13-year-old ballet star has been hailed by her instructors at the Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet as “a true talent.” Combine that gift with the hard work she puts in at daily dance classes, and it’s not surprising that Burde has become a powerhouse on pointe.

At an age when most kids are thrilled to spend an evening at the mall, Burde has thrived on stage, including taking on the role of The Nutcracker’s Marie for two years. The show, at the Upper Darby Performing Arts Center, serves as an annual tradition for not just the local community, but also the dozens of schools across the state.

Amazingly, the role of prima ballerina hasn’t gone to Burde’s head. As a sign of both her age and her down-to-earth sentiment, she names some of the most practical qualities as what drives her to dance: “I enjoy all of it,” she says. “It’s a lot of fun, and I find a way to manage my time with classes.”

Daniel, Ashley and Andrew Hsu

Some things run in families—red hair, blue eyes, big feet. But in the Hsu family, it’s the piano.

It began with Ashley, who fell for the family’s electric piano at an early age. In no time she was signed up for lessons and loving it. Not long after, her brother Andrew would tinker on the keys, mimicking the sounds he heard in his head. Next came Daniel, the youngest sibling, who couldn’t stay away from the keyboard.

These days Ashley, 18, Andrew, 15, and Daniel, 12, practice accompanying each other from time to time, but it’s on the stage at the Curtis Music Institute where they shine. All three are students at the heralded conservatory, a feat that’s incredibly impressive, considering more than 100 students might audition for the one or two spots available in each department.

The three don’t seem to mind sharing the spotlight with each other. “It’s really competitive,” says Ashley, “so it’s nice to have two other people cheering you on.”
And playing other musicians’ masterpieces isn’t their only interest. Andrew has earned a reputation as a composer to watch. He spends much of time writing music, which he compares to writing a novel. “You need to have something in mind—a plot or characters—to write,” he says. “It’s just in a different medium.”

Emily DeVito
Modern Dancer

If you watch old home videos of Emily DeVito, you might catch a glimpse of a tiny young toddler, skipping in a leotard across the stage. If you do you get to watch one of those videos, make a copy: It could be worth a lot of money some day.

Fast forward 13 years, and you’ll find DeVito, a Central Bucks graduate, headed to Elon University, where she’ll study dance and early education. She’s a celebrated performer, who specializes in lyrical and modern dance—styles that allow DeVito the ability to dive into a character and explore a range on stage. “It’s getting into the emotions [of the song],” she says. “I feel comfortable doing it and expressing myself that way.”

Her hard work—and there has been much of it with daily practices—has paid off. DeVito has been recognized throughout the dance community, with awards from prestigious organizations including the New York City Dance Alliance and the Harrisburg Arts Council.

Of course, she’s turned some heads closer to home, too. Reina Faith, her instructor at the Dance Arts Collaborative, calls her “a great student and an inspiration.” Not bad for a kid who got her start skipping on stage.

Gianna Yanelli

There’s nothing like the story of a far-away love to bring tears to the eyes, especially if that story is told in the chilling voice of a young phenom. So it’s little surprise that there are few dry eyes at the Walnut Street Theater when Gianna Yanelli sings “Far From the Home I Love.” Cast as Hodel in Fiddler on the Roof, Yanelli transports the audience from 21st-century Philadelphia to the turn of a very different century in Russia.

It may come as a surprise to Yanelli’s fans, but this summer’s production of the classic Jewish musical was her first professional production. Previously the Merion Mercy grad honed her skills with the Cape and Sword Drama Society at St. Joe’s Prep. It was there that Yanelli says she lost herself in the theater. “I had never thought of myself as an actor,” she says. “I thought of myself as a dancer and a singer.”
But by studying characters, she reached a new level of performing. “I discovered how it’s an escape—being a different character, and feeling how that character would feel.”

Now that Fiddler has wrapped, Yanelli is off to study drama in a competitive program at Texas State. What’s after that is anyone’s guess, but the stage is a pretty safe bet.

Kaytie Dowling is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia.

Michael Sahadi is a freelance photographer based in Philadelphia. (