He calls New York City home, but Dom Amendum is in Boise, Idaho, at the moment. He’s there to do some musical housekeeping for the “Wicked” tour.
Meanwhile, he’s preparing a musical version of “Secondhand Lions” for Broadway. Off-Broadway, he’s working on a musical version of the darkly comic ’80s flick “Heathers.”
Much like the two Oz witches at the heart of “Wicked,” Amendum, a 2001 graduate of UNCG’s School of Music (now the School of Music, Theatre and Dance), has defied gravity since he graduated. After a humbling start in the Big Apple crashing on friends’ couches, and two years of pavement pounding, he landed the job of music director for “Wicked” as the smash-hit headed out on a national tour.
“I don’t know whether it was UNCG or my supportive parents and family that gave me the idea I had something to offer the New York world, that I had any business moving there,” he says. “It really opened doors to realize I could do this professionally.”
UNCG played an important role in his story. Older alums and classmates offered housing and support while he got on his feet, and his professors enabled him to sample the musical and theatrical spectrum.
Amendum majored in classical piano performance, working closely with piano professor Joe Di Piazza. Di Piazza gave him the freedom to direct music for operas and plays, accompany singers, and generally try his hand with various roles and musical genres.
“I would literally run into his rep class, play something and run back out. He was patient, especially knowing that I was not going to pursue a career as a concert pianist,” he says of Di Piazza, “but he cracked the whip as my piano teacher.”
At UNCG, Amendum was assistant conductor for the operetta “Orpheus in the Underworld.” Another very different project had a profound impact on his future: He directed the music for UNCG Theatre’s production of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” a campy cult classic with a rock flavor. Theater professor Jim Wren directed the show.
“The experience of doing ‘Rocky Horror’ and especially working with Jim Wren was what made me go into musicals,” Amendum says. “It was a very special time, and it opened my eyes to the world of theater. It’s also when I started drinking coffee.”
When UNCG Chancellor Linda P. Brady invited Amendum to deliver the keynote address at the university’s May 2014 commencement ceremony, he immediately agreed. When he hung up the phone, he felt queasy. Stage fright.
“I was sweating from places I didn’t know I could sweat from. I am much more comfortable in the pit, letting others take the spotlight. Giving the commencement speech is something I never dreamed I’d do. It’s a great honor and I’m happy to come back, to reconnect with the School of Music, Theatre and Dance and the university as a whole.”
Story by Michelle Hines, University Relations
Photography by David Wilson, University Relations