Today's teen stars achieve success with their ability to act and sing. Ashlee Keating, 15, of Linwood, hopes to achieve the same results by emphasizing her versatility and not focusing on only one of her artistic gifts.
Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, Ashlee Tisdale, Leighton Meester, and Raven-Symone have professional credits as actors and singers. Keating does also.
She appeared as a high school student on the Nickelodeon TV show "iCarly" and on the soap opera "One Life to Live." She also appeared with Billy Crudup, Denis Leary and Holly Hunter in the 1999 independent film "Jesus' Son." Right now, Keating's music career brings her the most attention, as two of her songs have been played on Radio Disney. She headlines two shows Monday at Morey's Piers in Wildwood.
The teenager said she couldn't say no to an opportunity to sing or act.
"I love acting, and I love my music. They are two totally different things. Performing and meeting your fans is just different than being on set in front of a camera. I know a lot of people in Disney and up-and-coming people have balanced what they've done," said Keating during an interview Wednesday. "They go on tour in the summer and tape during the year. I think I can do both."
Keating's singing was what launched her show business career.
At age 3, Keating was selected to audition for "The Al Alberts Showcase" on WPVI-TV 6 in Philadelphia. She performed a new song on the show every week and appeared at all its live events for the next five years until the show went off the air in 2002. In 1999 she made her Broadway debut at age 5 in the role of Gretl in "The Sound of Music," starring Richard Chamberlain and sang on the TV talent competition show "Star Search" in 2004.
Keating has performed with Encore Dance, based in Egg Harbor Township. She entertained in its holiday shows at the Tropicana Casino and Resort. Encore Dance owner Donna Daniels saw her play the title character of Annie in the musical in 2002 and 2003 at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia.
"She's a fantastic singer, and she dances and acts," Daniels said.
Recently, Keating has been focusing more on her music. Radio Disney selected her as an incubator artist, which means an up-and-coming act. The radio station and the Web site played two of her songs, "My Boyfriend" and "Make Me Laugh, Make Me Cry."
Keating released a six-song extended play CD and the same songs were available to be purchased individually on iTunes last year.
The teenager recorded her material with producer Eddie Galan. In 2006, Galan co-produced and vocal arranged B5's "Shining Star" on Disney's "Hannah Montana Soundtrack" CD, which achieved triple platinum status.
"He's great to work with. He's high-energy, which I love. I always have fun with him. He co-writes with me, and his team is really good together. They're really great. They're young. They're fresh. I'm lucky to be working with someone on that level. I love recording. I love being in the studio and doing that, but I think it is also important to have fun when you do it. He's great," Keating said.
When Keating received Radio Disney airplay, it helped her land gigs as the opening act for concerts by Raven-Symone and Keke Palmer and her biggest show to date, opening for Lovato for a free concert last July at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia.
Keating received a taste of what future stardom might feel like.
"I saw all the fans. They were just so supportive. They were singing along with me. They knew some of my songs from Radio Disney when I was an incubator. I was like, 'This is so cool to have people like that look up to you. I love being a role model. After the concert, they came over and were like, 'Ashlee, Ashlee, Ashlee. That was amazing,'" said Keating, who performed by herself on stage to a backing track for 30 minutes in front of more than 2,000 people.
After Keating finished performing, a thunderstorm soaked the crowd, but fans still stood in line to meet her. She sold out of all her CDs and her merchandise and was chased in the parking lot afterward by fans. Pictures of her drenched fans at the Penn's Landing show are on her myspace page.
For Monday's shows - Keating performs at 1 and 4 p.m. - the teenager will play guitar. She only started seriously playing this year, but she has already doing endorsements for Daisy Rock Guitar, which he uses in concert. She will be performing her pop-rock tunes with a live three-piece band for the first time. She will have no opening act and will perform at least seven songs during about 45 minutes.
Keating will sing songs that include covers of fellow teen Taylor Swift's tunes "White Horse" and "You Belong With Me." She will perform the songs "Some Days Are Like That," "My Boyfriend" and "Makin' Noize" from her own CD and new compositions, "Mystery" and "Feels Like A Dream."
When Keating is not performing or recording, she's a normal teenager.
Keating still takes voice lessons with Sal Dupree of Linwood, who she has been studying with for years. She stopped attending regular school after sixth grade, but she keeps in touch with friends who attend public school. She takes online high school courses.
Dale Keating, Ashlee's mom, makes sure her teenager has a childhood. She wants her to be an adolescent. Her mother is not her manager.
"You have to have balance. They have to be kids. It's what she loves, and that's why we support her, but we keep her grounded in terms of what she is required to do," Dale Keating said.
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Aspiring Disney star Ashlee Keating performs a free concert at 1 and 4 p.m. Monday on Mariner's Landing Pier at Morey's Piers, Schellenger Avenue and the Boardwalk, Wildwood. An artist meet-and-greet follows each
performance. For more information, call