Molly Gandler began singing in the fifth grade choir at Upham Elementary School, and since then she has considered herself a musical person and approached everything from the angle of music. Even her interest and passion for acting comes from a musical perspective, leading her straight into the musical theater field.
This year, Gandler is a music leader and soloist in Renegade A Cappella, along with performing in the Rice Street Singers and Song Sisters. She was cast as Sophie, a dream role of hers, in the high school’s winter musical, Mamma Mia! The show premiered for audiences in March. Gandler also played Margo in Bright Star and has performed in MMEA district festivals. Most recently Gandler was awarded a special citation “in recognition of outstanding musicianship” at the MAJE jazz festival (where the Rice Street Singers were also awarded a gold medal).
Despite her impressive resume, Gandler says, “I was really, really shy when I was a freshman and I had a really hard time talking to people. Over the past couple of years, I feel like I’ve become super confident, and I’ve found myself within the performing arts community. I’ve also become a mentor for the younger kids and I never thought I could have seen myself becoming that. Now I have a lot of kids who look up to me, and I’m really grateful to have that,” said Gandler.
Gandler’s courageous attitude coupled with her fierce determination to succeed drives her in every aspect of her life. She admits that she enjoys challenges because they make her a better person. “In my sophomore year, I ranked high enough to audition for this festival called senior districts. But, my choir teacher ended up sending a junior instead of me because he thought she would probably go farther, and I would have more years to keep trying for it. I remember being really upset about that, and thinking that I worked so hard for that audition. Just last year, I finally got my chance to audition. And I ended up getting into senior districts and then into All States, and then Nationals, and I went really far. I remember being really proud of myself and how hard I pushed myself,” said Gandler.
Gandler also has a passion for playing the guitar, which she has been doing as a hobby since she was in sixth grade. “I have this beautiful red acoustic guitar that I bought when I was maybe 13 or so. I actually did maybe ten or so gigs at farmer’s markets. One of them was a porch fest and I think I learned a lot about myself performing through that. I had performed in a group before with the support of others around me, but then I was just in my own place in front of a crowd. It was really scary at first, but I found a lot of confidence through that,” said Gandler.
Gandler’s peers in the performing arts community admire her talents. “Molly has an amazing ability to switch between styles, whether it be singing classically for a district audition, musical theater for the show, or jazz with Rice Street. I wouldn’t even say she has the main style since she’s equally amazing at singing all of them. It’s not something that’s very common in high school singers or any singer for that matter,” said Alexandra Hoskyns ‘22.
Gandler has been inspired by a number of performing arts pieces over her years as an artist, but one that uniquely stuck out to her was the Broadway show Come From Away.
“I think I was just really amazed by it because it was so much more of an ensemble piece than any other musical I’d seen. That’s kind of when I realized that shows and the world don’t always revolve around one person. It’s a whole collaborative effort. I think that show just really enlightened me on that and kind of made me find a new love for theater and also kind of helped me delve into my love for bluegrass and that style,” said Gandler.
As for someone she looks up to in her everyday life, Gandler immediately thought of high school choral director, Dr. Kevin McDonald. “D Mac is probably my greatest mentor. He’s always super encouraging and pushing me to do stuff and I’m just so thankful that I have such a strong mentor in my life like that. Someone I look up to musically is probably Sierra Boggess. I’ve never known how to say her last name, but she’s on Broadway. And I think she and I have a very similar voice type and character type. So I’ve always looked up to her and the roles that she plays and like seeing myself like, hopefully, in her shoes someday,” said Gandler.
Another of Gandler’s close peers, Nick Ashraf ’22, respects her commitment to her craft, her kindness and overall what a joy she is to work with. “Molly brings a kind of personality to the table that nobody else does. That personality that she has makes every performance feel more sincere in a way. When she’s in a play, her characters feel real, and you watch a person living their life rather than someone playing a character. In concerts, she sells every solo like she wrote the song herself. It feels like she feels the emotions that are being showcased in the song.”
Gandler will attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison next year and plans to double major in theater and business, with a minor in music. She hopes to continue performing in musicals and plays, and is looking forward to auditioning for Madison’s a cappella groups and choirs.
“I mean, everyone’s goal is to change the world in some sense and if I can do that with my passion, through music, that’s kind of the goal,” said Gandler.
Article written by WHS Bradford staff: Eva Wall ’22 and Madeleine Merowitz ’23.