Singer-Songwriter Julianne Forte Pushes Forward With Music Career
By Doug Carroll
GCU senior Julianne Forté turns up playing piano just about everywhere: on weekends at a wine bar in Glendale, accompanying the New Life Singers in church settings, even at halftime of a football game in Tucson.
Which makes the following revelation all the more remarkable: At age 11, after playing by ear for several years, she fought her parents over taking piano lessons, thinking it would spoil the fun she was having.
“At my first lesson, I refused to play a note,” Forté says. “My mom was furious when she found out. She went and got my dad, who told me that wasn’t what they were paying for.
“Obviously, I warmed up to it.”
And how. Taught by the late Dan Hooper, a Juilliard graduate who was an instructor at Phoenix College, she learned jazz and classical pieces. Along the way, she also picked up guitar, and by her mid-teens she was writing music.
You name it, Forté probably can play it, everything from Beethoven to the Beatles and beyond. She knows four hours’ worth of cover songs and has nearly three hours of original material, which keeps the customers entertained at Satara’s wine bar on Friday and Saturday evenings.
“It’s very chill and intimate, where people go on dates,” she says of the place, which is near Bell Road and 83rd Avenue in Glendale.
Next week, she will release a new single, “Swim,” and an accompanying video on her website (www.julianneforte.com) and YouTube. Her four-song EP, “Wherever,” went up on iTunes last July.
“With the Internet, you can be everywhere at once,” Forté says. “That changes the old saying of needing to be in the right place at the right time.”
Only fairly recently has she envisioned music as a career. After being home-schooled in Phoenix, she attended Yavapai College in Prescott and played basketball there. When she heard that GCU was reviving its fine-arts program in the fall of 2010, she auditioned and won a music scholarship. Last spring, she was named GCU’s Musician of the Year.
“Two things about her: She works hard but she also rolls with the punches,” says Dr. Juan Hernandez, assistant dean of the College of Fine Arts and Producton. “She has such a great attitude. That will take you a long way in the music world, which can be a difficult road.”
In December, Forté performed at Alice Cooper’s annual “Christmas Pudding” concert, winning a spot in the show — and rave reviews — after surviving three rounds of competition. That led to an opportunity to play at a college football all-star game in Tucson earlier this month.
“It was weird,” she says of performing at the game, “but the opportunity to play for thousands of people was really great.”
Forté isn’t shy about working the connections she has made, knowing it’s an important aspect of the life she is building for herself. She keeps her many notes and contacts on her smartphone, which she jokingly calls “God’s gift to mankind.” She’s in the process of hiring a manager.
“This is how I work, with a number of irons in the fire,” she says. “For income, I teach as well. I’ve worked at my craft, and I think my singer-songwriter career will take hold. I’m willing to move to a place like Nashville if I need to.”
No, the lessons didn’t spoil the fun. But some things never change.
“My favorite thing,” she says, “is just sitting at the keyboard or with the guitar and writing.”
Reach Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or [email protected].