St. Helena High School senior Mia Pelosi fulfilled her dream on Wednesday, May 1: She signed a letter of intent to attend New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts this fall.

“I’m very excited,” she said during a brief ceremony at the high school’s Performing Arts Center, “It’s kind of terrifying but it is one of those good terrifying feelings. It’s like the fear of the unknown, but it’s exciting. I’ve been talking about NYU since I was 11, when I wrote in my yearbook that I’m going to NYU to be a Broadway actress.” She allowed that it “was crazy” to see her dream come true.

Pelosi was on stage with Patti Coyle, SHUSD drama director and her parents, Paul and Lisa Pelosi, who were both thrilled for their daughter.

“I couldn’t be prouder as a parent, seeing the work she has put in since she was a little girl and the commitment,” Paul said. “I always tell my kids, I have no problem making sacrifices to further your passion, as long as I see it back. Mia was always 110 percent into everything she did. She deserves everything, she’s worked hard, but now the real hard work begins.”

Lisa added, “I think it will be hard, but (New York) is a great environment to be in as well to pursue something you love, in the city where it feels the heartbeat of the theater. That’s always exciting. I’m thrilled, I’m so ready for the next chapter to start for her, it’s going to be great.”

Coyle earned her master’s degree at NYU’s Steinhardt in its Educational Theater School before she moved to California. She has been the school district’s drama director since 2008 and first met Mia Pelosi three years later. Pelosi was in the fourth grade and was in the cast of “The Sound of Music.”

Number one school

The Pelosis were notified of NYU’s selection on March 28. “At first, I thought Mia had gotten into Steinhardt, which I was so thrilled about,” Coyle said, but when she got home, Pelosi sent her a copy of the letter. “I can remember, I was upstairs and (husband) Nic was downstairs and I yelled, ‘Mia got into Tisch!’ The kids were already in bed and I’m screaming and everything.”

Coyle said NYU takes very few performing artists and added, “It is the number one school represented on Broadway.” She said Pelosi worked “incredibly hard” for the last eight years to gain entrance into NYU. “Not just here at our school, but during summers with special voice lessons. Her parents drove her everywhere for dance classes, voice lessons and acting camps.”

Pelosi is the first St. Helena High School student to be accepted at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, although many have applied, Coyle said. The school of drama accepts only 250 students each year. Pelosi follows Gina Vosti and Grace Hendricks (both SHHS Class of 2011) in attending NYU. 

The director added Pelosi’s story is so inspiring. “I’m just incredibly proud of her.”

Lisa Pelosi said Coyle’s program nurtured her daughter, who blossomed at St. Helena High School and added it was “a huge part of Mia’s success.”

“The support (Coyle) has given to her as a teacher has been nonstop. And I think that is a testament to the school, it’s a testament to Ms. Coyle and her commitment to her students, who want to pursue their passion. She’s been an invaluable asset in the whole entire process and we couldn’t have done it without her,” Lisa Pelosi said.

Most recently, Mia Pelosi portrayed Donna, one of the leads in the SHHS’s spring production “Mamma Mia!,” which was presented in March.

Excited to be in New York

The actress said she’s excited about being far away from home in New York. “I’ve been very grateful to grow up in St. Helena, but I feel like I’m more of a city girl than I am a small-town girl,” Mia Pelosi said, adding that St. Helena “is a nice place to come back to for the holidays.”

She has always wanted to go to school on the East Coast and added only one of the schools she applied for was in California. “I expect a lot of homesickness in the beginning,” Pelosi said, “but I fell in love with the city when I first went there. It will feel like home quickly.”

Since she was a freshman in high school, she has gone on drama trips each year to New York and said she has been to New York City six or seven times, including twice this past month: once to visit the school and the second time for the drama trip.

NV Jazz Society

Pelosi will perform with Mike Greensill as part of the upcoming Napa Valley Jazz Society’s program, “The Art of The Duo,” which will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday, May 19, at the St. Helena Performing Arts Center on the St. Helena High School campus. Pelosi and Greensill will open for vocalist Tierney Sutton, who has been nominated for Grammys eight times in the last decade and pianist Tamir Hendelman, a favorite of NVJS audiences.

Bill Hart, president of the NVJS, said, “The jazz duo provides a perfect format for showcasing the virtuosity of these wonderful musicians as well as their creative interaction.”

The Pelosis have another connection to the Napa Valley Jazz Society, because they offered Mia a $5,000 scholarship. In announcing the scholarship, the board said, “It is a great pleasure for us to be able to help someone as talented and accomplished as Mia Pelosi to achieve her educational and, eventually, career goals. Anyone who has attended her performances in musical theater — Millie, Fiddler and Mamma Mia! — can appreciate Mia’s exceptional talent and potential.”

NVJS scholarships are awarded each year to musicians graduating from Napa Valley high schools to help them continue their musical studies as an important part of their college experience. Recipients are selected based on talent, dedication and need. Scholarships are awarded for one year and range from $500 to $5,000.

Coyle called NYU a “very expensive” college and added Mia has applied for a lot of scholarships. “If anyone is interested in helping St. Helena High School students with scholarships, they can contact the school office for the Saints Scholarship Foundation,” Coyle said.

Last year, the foundation and other organizations in St. Helena gave away almost a half million dollars in scholarships, Lisa Pelosi said, “which I think is great.”

After the four-year program at NYU, Mia Pelosi said she will leave with a bachelor’s degree in Fine Art in Acting, go on auditions and find work.

Lisa was more succinct: “You get a job and you pay your parents back.”

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St. Helena Star Editor

David Stoneberg is the editor of the St. Helena Star, an award-winning weekly newspaper. Prior to joining the Star in 2006, he worked for the Lake County Record-Bee, the Clear Lake Observer American, the Middletown Times Star, The Weekly Calistogan and st