Eddie Carney

Ashland University graduate touring the country as music director for Broadway shows

Published on March 19, 2024
Ashland University

When Eddie Carney went to the first rehearsal for his first Broadway national tour, the Ashland University graduate wasn’t intimidated for very long.

“I quickly realized how prepared I was for the process,” he said. “One of the biggest benefits I got at AU were the many performance opportunities it provides its students.

“I would not be the music director I am today without my time at AU,” he added.

Since graduating from AU in 2013 as a music major and theatre minor, Carney has served as the music director for several Broadway national tour productions.

“The Cher Show” is his latest. It started in November and will wrap up at the end of June. Among the stops on the tour – San Francisco, Boston, Miami, San Antonio, etc. – are three in Ohio. The first two were Akron and Dayton in January and the third will be Toledo in June.

“It was very exciting playing EJ Thomas Hall in Akron,” Carney said about his band of nine for “The Cher Show.” “The audiences seemed to really enjoy the show, and it’s always fun to have family and friends in the crowd.”

Seeing every region of the country and how they react to the show are two of the things Carney said he enjoys most about touring the country as a music director.

He credits Ashland University as the place where he truly honed his music direction skills.

From formal concerts with Ashland Symphony Orchestra to theatrical productions to fraternity lip sync performances for Greek Week, Carney said he was able to do it all at AU when it came to musical and theatrical opportunities.

“So much of my time there was spent entertaining in some form,” he said, “and I made even more wonderful memories while doing it all.”

Originally, Carney, who grew up with a love for music, theatre and dance, had been accepted to another school for piano performance. After quickly realizing he wouldn’t have any opportunities in theatre, Carney decided to leave and take a gap semester before going to Ashland University.

“Fabio Polanco, associate professor of Theatre at AU at the time, was connected to an arts organization near home, so I reached out to him and expressed my goals in music direction,” said Carney, who grew up in Madison in Northeast Ohio’s Lake County. “The department seemed excited to have me there, and I knew I had made the right decision.”

While he used to wonder what it would have been like to attend a larger university, Carney said he always came back to liking the size of Ashland, especially its music and theatre programs.

“You get to know your professors well and they, you,” he said. “I always found the faculty and staff at AU approachable and helpful.”

Teresa Durbin-Ames, Ph.D. (theatre chair) was one of the many people at AU who helped him reach his career goals, Carney said.

Carney said he was lucky enough to serve as the “official unofficial department pianist” at AU for musical theatre performances, was the music director for many performances and also acted in a few.

“He was so committed to both the theatre and music departments when he was a student,” Durbin-Ames said. “He shared his passion for making music and his amazing piano skills with both departments in so many ways while he was here.  A student like Eddie does not come along very often - our programs were better for his being here and sharing his talents.”

Since AU, Carney has shared his talents in a number of shows besides “The Cher Show,” including being the music director for “Legally Blonde,” “South Pacific,” “A Chorus Line,” “An American in Paris” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical” and a number of other productions.

During his time at AU, Carney said he was torn between music education and pursuing the theatre.

He eventually leaned toward teaching music, graduating with a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Education degree.

But Carney hadn’t totally ruled out theatre, so, he minored in theatre.

After graduation, Carney taught elementary music education for two years at Loudonville-Perrysville Exempted Village Schools in southern Ashland County.

“I would not have gotten my job in Loudonville had it not been for AU,” Carney said. “The teacher I replaced was an AU alumnus whom I had already done field experience with. They had become a mentor in the field for me, so it was almost a seamless transition for the students when I took over.”

As much as he enjoyed teaching music, Carney said he still felt the pull of musical theatre, so he decided to move to New York to give it a try.

“Moving to New York was a dream of mine in college that was put on the backburner to pursue my major, music education,” Carney said. “A friend of mine inspired me to make the change and I am so glad I did. I am glad I got out of Ohio and got to experience a different way of life in New York.

“I booked my first tour, Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical,” shortly after moving and I got my foot in the door,” he said.

His foot has been in the door ever since, and he doesn’t see it getting out any time soon.

“I’m currently riding out this opportunity to tour while my body can handle it,” said Carney, who now lives in Louisiana with his fiancé and returns to New York for a few weeks to rehearse for a show before going on tour. “This job is what I set out to do when I was in high school, so I’m enjoying where I am right now.

“As for the future,” he added, “I do see myself returning to teaching, but perhaps not in the classroom. I would like to work at a community arts association one day to continue to pass on the opportunities given to me.”