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The Hollywood Bowl has seen no shortage of musical legends this season, from Diana Ross to Willie Nelson. But none has made the viral impact of Sarah Horn, an unknown vocal teacher from Riverside, Calif., who was pulled out of the crowd to perform a duet with Kristin Chenoweth at the first of a recent two-night stint at the legendary amphitheater.
The singer’s note-perfect harmonies on the song “For Good” from the Oz-set musical Wicked stunned the crowd and have since been viewed over 2.5 million times on YouTube. Horn, 26, has already been invited back to the Bowl for the upcoming ABBA Fest show on Sept. 8, where she’ll judge an a cappella sing-off. The Hollywood Reporter spoke with her by phone about her remarkable week.
The Hollywood Reporter: So tell us, what’s new?
Sarah Horn: Everything is new! As much as I try to maintain some normalcy in my schedule, it’s just not normal. So much that I did not expect. I didn’t expect anything to come other than the joy of singing with Kristin. I didn’t expect the video to go viral and people to start calling.
THR: Who is calling?
Horn: So far just a lot of calls for interviews. CNN, The Huffington Post, L.A. Times, Inside Edition. I never would imagine that such people would be interested in [a girl from] little podunk Riverside.
THR: Any interest from Hollywood producers or agents?
Horn: I still have to make one phone call to a producer who left a message with my youth theater, and California Baptist University, where I teach in Calabasas, has been acting as my booking agent. Phone calls come in to them and filter back to me. Golden State Pops Orchestra has asked me to do something with them, there’s [ABBA Fest at] Hollywood Bowl, and my sorority has asked me to come down to their convention next summer and be their vocalist.
THR: What do you tell people who insist you were too good not to be a plant?
Horn: One phrase: years of preparation for a moment of freedom. That’s something that’s just popped into my mind. I’ve been studying music for years, studying how to sing but also I’m very prepared with the Wicked music because that is my favorite musical of all time. I was obsessed in high school. I would sing the part of Glinda going through “For Good” and then jump back to the beginning of the song and sing Elphaba because I wanted to learn both [parts].
THR: So you had years of prep, just with the Wicked soundtrack.
Horn: I rehearsed in the privacy of my own home but never with Kristin.
THR: I read in your account of what happened that a series of random events got you very close to the stage, and when Kristin asked if anyone knew the song, you jumped up.
Horn: That’s pretty much how it happened. There was a person that she interviewed in front of me who didn’t [know the song] and then I jumped up, but she moved on. I thought my chance was gone and she was looking for a plant. So when she came back to me, I hesitated because I thought I heard her wrong.
THR: So even you suspected there might be a plant until you were the one picked.
Horn: Oh yeah! I mean, why would someone of her caliber just chance it on a random audience member? But apparently she likes taking musical risks and maybe gets a rush out of it.
THR: The next night I know she picked someone else.
Horn: Yes. Kellie [McKay] I believe is her name. We got in touch on Facebook. We’ve now bonded because we share a similar experience.
THR: What did you guys talk about?
Horn: It was a very short conversation. Just, “Hey, I was the girl from Saturday night.” “Hi! I was the girl from Friday night! Wasn’t it surreal!” I think she was still on Cloud 9. And I sort of am, too.
THR: She was wearing a green dress, as you were. Do you think she maybe thought green was good luck after you had worn it and were picked to sing the part of the green-skinned Elphaba?
Horn: I don’t know. My video by that evening had only gotten 2,000 views, so I don’t know if she had seen it yet. Maybe that was part of what Kristin had been looking for in the audience, was someone wearing green.
THR: Have you spoken to Kristin since?
Horn: No. She’s posted a link to the video on her website and a link to my diary entry but I haven’t heard from her. Although I would really, really love it. I’m hoping that the words I sang in the song, “It may very well be that we never meet again,” are not true.
THR: Have you seen your students since the big night? What did they say?
Horn: I’m in the middle of music directing a show at Riverside Youth Theater, and when I walked in after about eight interviews looking kind of ragged I got a standing ovation. That gave me a lot of energy and we got through the rehearsal. I think they already looked up to me as a teacher and now to have this viral superstar element, it was just fun to see stars in their eyes.
THR: Do you have musical aspirations beyond teaching?
Horn: I would love to perform more. If I could still manage to teach that would be a blessing, but I know I was born to sing and I don’t sing much teaching. I know that I inspire people when I perform as evidenced by the video. Even in smaller settings — when I would sing at church or weddings — I have people come up to me every time and say that something about whatever I did has touched them. And that’s why I do what I do. I don’t do it for the attention. God, I’m an introvert. I flourish in alone time.
THR: Can you share one story from a new fan that particularly touched you?
Horn: A man Facebooked me this morning, saying his young son would have been 7 recently but he passed away in infancy. The song he played at his funeral was “For Good,” and he said that he would never be able to listen to that again. But someone sent him this video and for some reason he played it and he said he had tears of joy in his eyes and said that for the first time in years, he felt his son. In reading that I just had to get the tissue box out. I’m tearing up right now just thinking about it.
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