Stories

F is for Fairytale

Once upon a time in a faraway land,
a Naz student sang with a knightly young man.
Naz profs got her this professional gig:
A Sesame Street video, sure to be big.

Watch "F is for Fairytale," and you'll likely sing along to the catchy tune.

Sesame Street's F is for Fairytale

    Video creators: Nazareth Art Lecturer David Cowles, fellow animator and co-director Jeremy Galante, artist and songwriter Alison Cowles (David's daughter), and musician and songwriter Alex Coté, who sings the part of the knight.

    Lead singer: Brittney Burgess '18 of Queens sings as the narrator, a little girl named Frannie Jones

    Burgess's favorite Sesame Street character: Cookie Monster. "I loved Sesame Street. I remember watching it with my mom every day."

    The background: Sesame Workshop contacted Cowles to request an "F is for Fairytale" song and video. Cowles has co-directed and sold to Sesame Workshop about 10 animated videos for the Emmy Award-winning Sesame Street TV show. Cowles's animation work also has included several award-winning videos for the band They Might Be Giants, and his illustrations have appeared in publications such as Rolling Stone and The New York Times.

    Cowles at Nazareth: Cowles teaches Illustration (multiple levels) and Storyboarding.

    Nazareth connections: Cowles reached out to Nazareth music professors to find a singer. Nancy Strelau, associate professor in professional practice, had recently recruited the vocal department's top sopranos, altos, tenors, and basses to sing backup for Josh Groban's upstate New York tour. Strelau recommended Burgess, one of the sopranos.

    Burgess's reaction: "I was freaking out. I had just gotten to sing with Josh Groban, which was a great experience. My vocal performance degree is going somewhere already."

    The audition: Burgess had to provide a video of her singing something childlike. In a practice room at Naz, she recorded "Colors of the Wind" from Pocahontas and "Tomorrow" from Annie, which got her the approval of the folks at Sesame Workshop.

    The challenges: No vibrato. Burgess, who is a classical opera singer, needed to sound like a little girl. Also, Burgess needed to match the song, since the lip-synced animation was already created. The recording happened the same week that she was invited to be part of the project.

    The results: "She came in and killed it," says Cowles.

    Where the video is shown: HBO Kids, which has begun a five-year partnership with Sesame Street, posted the video online. "F is for Fairytale" is part of Sesame Street episode 4615, which debuted April 22, 2016 on HBO Family East and is available online from HBOnow.com and HBOgo.com subscriptions. The show becomes available to PBS and its member stations nine months later.

    A resume builder: "A Sesame Street video will pop right out on Brittney's resume — that and Groban," says Strelau. "It opens doors."

    Burgess's goal: In addition to planning to teach, Burgess says, "By the time I'm 27, I want to have my first leading role at the Metropolitan opera."

    Brittney Burgess

    David Cowles and Brittney Burgess '18

    “It’s opportunity after opportunity,” says Brittney Burgess, a music education and vocal performance major selected by Nazareth professors to sing for a new Sesame Street video created by David Cowles, Nazareth art lecturer. “That’s why I love this school. I’m only a sophomore and I’ve involved myself in so much. I’m a resident assistant. I’m part of the music education club. I double major. I’m still getting good grades. The teachers are always there for you. How many students can say they got to sing with Josh Groban? And Rochester is so filled with music. I got to see [Broadway singer and TV actress] Audra McDonald perform at Eastman Theatre last year, who’s my idol.”