A typical day for SUNY Potsdam senior Carine Kowalik involves a lot of music and long hours as a music performance and music business major at The Crane School of Music. It’s something she and her younger brother, 14-year-old Trent Kowalik, who recently won a Tony Award for the lead role in “Billy Elliot” on Broadway, have in common.
Trent and the two other young men who share the lead role, David Alvarez and Kiril Kulish, are the youngest winners of a lead acting prize at the Tony Awards, and they are the first co-nominees in a musical to win.
Carine, a Wantagh resident, has no problems seeing her little brother in the spotlight.
“It has been just as much fun for me as it has for him,” she said. “Trent and I have always been really close, and we’re still best friends. His rigorous training, rehearsing and performance schedule do not leave him very much down time, but when he gets those few hours to himself, they are that much more precious.”
Seeing him and the rest of the cast and crew rack up 10 Tony Awards was a surreal experience for Carine. “I'm not a crier, but I was bawling,” she said.
As a resident of New York City and a part of its entertainment community, living and learning in Potsdam was a completely foreign experience for Carine, which made it all the more valuable.
“My education has completely enhanced and filled out my abilities as a musician. Being able to work on two different degrees at once has let me branch out within music and has made me an even more versatile musician,” she said. “Trent and I are always helping each other along, and since Potsdam is part of me, it is most definitely a part of him too.”
In fact, Trent sported a SUNY Potsdam T-shirt when he was photographed for a story in “Vogue” magazine.
This support system, along with musical talent and the ability to make a living with it runs throughout the family.
“My mom is a piano teacher and organist, and everyone, especially on her side, in the family is musically inclined,” Carine noted. “One uncle plays saxophone for a living and another is a singer. Just about everyone can play some instrument and always has music around. I grew up in an environment rich in music and other art forms.”
Her musical influences include her family, high school teachers and Crane professors, but also branch out into rock.
“Led Zeppelin, Metallica, Queen, and Meatloaf were the artists that made me first start loving and listening to music, so I still give them credit for starting me out,” she said.
After completing her education at SUNY Potsdam, Carine wants to travel and attend music festivals.
“As for longer term goals, I'd really like to work in some sort of management or production of commercial music. I'm really interested specifically in tour management and production, especially for rock, pop, and metal music,” she noted.