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Humans of Harker: More than just an act

Neha Premkumar takes center stage

%E2%80%9CFor+me%2C+performing+is+absolutely+magical.+It+makes+me+happy+beyond+anything+else%2C+and+if+you+find+something+like+that%2C+and+if+that%E2%80%99s+performing+for+you%2C+it+doesn%27t+matter+if+you+are+going+to+get+a+lead+or+you%27re+going+to+have+a+show-stopping+number+or+something.+If+it+makes+you+feel+that+way%2C+then+it%27s+100+percent+worth+doing+because+there%27s+so+much+room+to+grow+in+every+aspect+of+life+and+I+guess+that%27s+kind+of+how+I+approach+life.+It%27s+that+there%27s+so+many+possibilities+and+there%27s+so+much+out+there+that+we+haven%E2%80%99t+even+touched%2C%22+Neha+Premkumar+%2812%29+said.
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Humans of Harker: More than just an act

“For me, performing is absolutely magical. It makes me happy beyond anything else, and if you find something like that, and if that’s performing for you, it doesn't matter if you are going to get a lead or you're going to have a show-stopping number or something. If it makes you feel that way, then it's 100 percent worth doing because there's so much room to grow in every aspect of life and I guess that's kind of how I approach life. It's that there's so many possibilities and there's so much out there that we haven’t even touched,

“For me, performing is absolutely magical. It makes me happy beyond anything else, and if you find something like that, and if that’s performing for you, it doesn't matter if you are going to get a lead or you're going to have a show-stopping number or something. If it makes you feel that way, then it's 100 percent worth doing because there's so much room to grow in every aspect of life and I guess that's kind of how I approach life. It's that there's so many possibilities and there's so much out there that we haven’t even touched," Neha Premkumar (12) said.

Anthony Xu

“For me, performing is absolutely magical. It makes me happy beyond anything else, and if you find something like that, and if that’s performing for you, it doesn't matter if you are going to get a lead or you're going to have a show-stopping number or something. If it makes you feel that way, then it's 100 percent worth doing because there's so much room to grow in every aspect of life and I guess that's kind of how I approach life. It's that there's so many possibilities and there's so much out there that we haven’t even touched," Neha Premkumar (12) said.

Anthony Xu

Anthony Xu

“For me, performing is absolutely magical. It makes me happy beyond anything else, and if you find something like that, and if that’s performing for you, it doesn't matter if you are going to get a lead or you're going to have a show-stopping number or something. If it makes you feel that way, then it's 100 percent worth doing because there's so much room to grow in every aspect of life and I guess that's kind of how I approach life. It's that there's so many possibilities and there's so much out there that we haven’t even touched," Neha Premkumar (12) said.

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With a cheerful grin on her face and a twinkle in her eyes, Neha Premkumar (12) recounts one of her most distinguishable memories as a young child. Fifth grade Neha was enjoying her time at the Harker Harvest Festival, standing by the snow cone machine to receive her blue raspberry shaved ice. Suddenly, music and singing fill her ears, and then came the moment that implanted a spark, a dream, an aspiration, into little Neha’s head.

“I look up and see golden sparkly dresses spinning around, and I see the show choir, Downbeat, singing,” Neha said. “God, I was in luxury. It was magical. They looked like they were having so much fun and everyone in the audience was watching them amazed and so in love with it. I was utterly in love, and then that fifth-grade little girl made it the goal to be like them.”

Then and there, Neha knew she wanted to do performing arts, starting off her career with singing in Harker’s choir in fifth grade as a new student at Harker.

“I don’t even know why I went to fifth-grade choir,” Neha said. “I just knew someone told me, ‘Oh, it’s on Fridays. You should come,’ and I joined. I made some of my best friends there. It really gives you a family of people, especially at the Harker conservatory were just willing to like push you up into the sky and let you try out whatever you want.”

One of those friends happened to be Kelsey Wu (12), another avid performer at Harker. Both of the girls were new students at Harker.

“Our friendship began at the back of the choir room in the fifth-grade choir,” Kelsey said. “As the tallest girls in the choir at the time, we were always in the back corner goofing off. I remember one time we pretended one of our choir-mates was a crumpled piece of binder paper and talked to it. Since fifth grade, we’ve been really close friends through middle school until now.”

A few years down the road, Neha found herself enjoying singing more and more, to the point where she decided to join the fall play in seventh grade.

“I did it and I immediately fell in love with just what acting stood for,” she said. “You can be anyone you want, you can just step into a role of a craving crazy southern postman or a raging pill popping Senator’s wife. There’s just so much you can do with it and so much you could spread to the world.”

When she entered freshman year, Neha began acting on her lifelong goal of getting into Downbeat. However, the process of auditioning for the group was not easy for her.

“I got rejected the first two years as a freshman and a sophomore,” she said. “I was auditioning for my senior year as a junior and I was like, ‘This is my last shot. If I don’t get in, what have I worked up to?’”

In the end though, for her senior year, Neha finally got accepted into Downbeat, earning one of the two girl slots available in the vocal group.

“I was so happy when I saw my name on that list because I’ve been dying to wear that dress for so long,” Neha said. “It was my childhood dream that finally came true, and I’m so thankful because I’m in it now and I have so much fun doing what I love. There were points in time where it literally felt like it was never going to happen. So to finally know that all that hard work paid off and I got in, it was so magical.”

Kelsey, who is also in Downbeat, helped Neha make that final push during her auditions.

“She worked her butt off for those slots,” Kelsey said. “We rehearsed her piece together, practiced dance moves for callbacks, and even learned songs from Downbeat’s repertoire that she wasn’t required to learn. Her motivation and determination is so inspiring, and I wish more people could be there to see it like I have.”

Through the entire process, Neha never found herself alone. One of the biggest influences on her life was her older sister, Akshaya Premkumar (‘16), now a student at NYU.

“I don’t know what I would’ve done without my sister,” Neha said. “She coached me for my audition. She ran monologues with me. Especially when she went off to college…we got 30 million times closer, but it’s just that there’s someone at home who knows what you’re going through and I think that’s amazing.”

Akshaya remembers Neha’s journey through performing arts as well, acting as Neha’s personal vocal coach.

“Neha’s come a long way as a performer,” Akshaya said. “Growing up we both were interested in the performing arts, and the amount of time and passion that Neha puts into her work shows her dedication as a performer. She always had a powerful voice and with training and commitment she has learned to control and fine tune it.”

Following in her sister’s footsteps, Neha also wants to be a guiding light for her younger brother, four-year-old Aiden Premkumar.

“I know I’m not going to be there all the time because he’s still growing up when I go to college, but I want to be there for him,” she said. “I want him to be able to come to me, and I want to guide him through life and point him in the right direction now because I think as a child you really need that from someone who understood what you’ve been through.”

Along with guiding her brother, Neha has other responsibilities, such as directing her SDS play, “26 Pebbles.” Stepping up to directing was not an easy task, but Neha managed nonetheless, crediting her old SDS director Anika Banga (‘18) as an inspiration.

“I never really thought I’d want to be a director until last year until I was with Anika and she was directing me,” Neha said. “I was like, ‘Wow, I want to do that.’ So I just applied and we went through an interview process and I felt so confident. And then I got it and I was just so excited.”

To Anika, Neha was an amazing member of the SDS crew and already seemed to be fit to take on the role of director.

“I absolutely loved having Neha in my cast,” Anika said. “She played Mrs. Tarragon, who was one of the hardest characters in the show, and Neha truly stepped up to the challenge. Neha is super talented, but what set her apart was her work ethic. She was unafraid to take risks, took notes extremely well, and was so diligent throughout the entire process. I could definitely see her leadership potential developing even then.”

Even with the many challenges of being a play director, such as the time commitment as well as the high pressure, Neha carries on with her work and believes her play, the true story of how the people of Newtown, Connecticut, recovered from the Sandy Hook shooting, can make a difference in how the audience views the event.

“What I love about the show is that there are such bright moments because it’s about how the town recovered,” Neha said. “One of the key factors that the audience leaves with is that there is hope after darkness.”

Neha conveys this positive attitude reflected in her SDS play with her performances everywhere else. For her, nothing quite compares to that feeling of being on stage, and that feeling ultimately drives her forward.

“For me, performing is absolutely magical,” she said. “It makes me happy beyond anything else, and if you find something like that, and if that’s performing for you, it doesn’t matter if you are going to get a lead or you’re going to have a show-stopping number or something. If it makes you feel that way, then it’s 100 percent worth doing because there’s so much room to grow in every aspect of life and I guess that’s kind of how I approach life. It’s that there’s so many possibilities and there’s so much out there that we haven’t even touched.”

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Humans of Harker: More than just an act