Tickling the ivories back here where she learned to ski

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Catherine Stornetta, seated, grew up in Carson City and has enjoyed returning to the area to play with "Forbidden Broadway" at the Eldorado Hotel and Casino in Reno. Stornetta said she took advantage of her time here to hit the slopes.

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Catherine Stornetta, seated, grew up in Carson City and has enjoyed returning to the area to play with "Forbidden Broadway" at the Eldorado Hotel and Casino in Reno. Stornetta said she took advantage of her time here to hit the slopes.

If you had the good luck to see the musical "Forbidden Broadway" at the Eldorado Casino in Reno, you might not have noticed the woman at the keyboard sort of tucked away in a corner.

Of course, it wasn't important that you see her, but she is the dynamo that keeps the show moving along as blindingly rapid as it does.

You also might have seen her on the ski slopes at Mt. Rose, where she and other members of the cast from "Forbidden Broadway" got some time on the slopes.

She was at ease on the snow. And why not? She grew up in this corner of the Sierra Nevada.

Her name is Catherine Stornetta, and if you want to enjoy her playing you'll have to hurry as she leaves Reno on Sunday for Boston, where she now lives, to take on another musical journey.

This is her second time leaving the area where she grew up.

"We lived in Minden for a year when my father first took a job at the Minden Creamery. Then he got a job at the James Canyon Ranch in Jacks Valley and we moved into Carson City for a year or so, and then moved onto the ranch itself.

"I went to school in Gardnerville until the ranch was sold to Harvey Gross, and then my mother and I moved to Carson City and my father returned to Santa Maria. I went to school in Carson City and spent summers with my father in Santa Maria."

She remembers fondly taking ski lessons here at age 6 or 7 in a city ski program and was delighted to join the cast of "Forbidden Broadway" so she could ski again and took advantage, making several trips to Mt. Rose.

"We went to Mt. Rose, me, (cast members) Kristen Mengelkoch and Brian Patrick Miller. Pat is a fine skier and Kristen took an hour lesson and loved it." She brought her own skis but bought new boots at Play It Again Sports in Carson City.

Any old friends in town?

"Yes, I've been to Carson City and Gold Hill and relived old times," she said. She even got to see her old high school English teacher Leontine Bennett, 91.

Her old friends may remember that she was a National Merit Scholarship winner twice, that she was the youngest of a musical mom's five children, "and I took up piano to get some attention."

After graduation she attended Mills College in Oakland, studying music, then got her master's degree - and from there music was her life. She taught at Wheaton College in Norton, Mass., and worked as a summer theater pianist.

"I loved playing so what better job could I find?"

She went on from there, has performed "Forbidden Broadway" in many cities, including Boston, New York, San Diego, as well as in Japan and Singapore, and on cruise ships circumnavigating the globe.

She also has orchestrated and conducted the pops orchestral version of the show for performances in Hartford, Conn., Minneapolis, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, Rochester, N.Y., Detroit, and Adelaide (Australia) with the symphonies.

She composed the score for the Cable ACE-award winning documentary "Christa McAuliffe, Teacher in Space," produced for the Arts and Entertainment Network's "Biography" series.

She has written and produced two cabarets: "Intriguing People" for "People" magazine, and "12 Angry Reindeer."

"It's been a happy choice for me. I found that it was necessary to teach constantly in order to support myself when I just played classical music, and although I've loved the teaching that I've done - Wheaton College, Harvard University, Suffolk University, Choate-Rosemary Hall, Emerson College and Boston Conservatory - I prefer the option of having years when I'm just performing and don't need to supplement my income with part- or full-time teaching.

"Those kids suck the life right out of you."

"But you know what? I'm thrilled to be playing in Reno."

• Contact Sam Bauman at sbauman@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1236.

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