For this blog post, my friend, Skylar Hansen-Raj, and I set out to do a feature post on Briannagh Dennehy, a junior in our school who juggles both her rigorous academic course load and a rapidly growing career in the entertainment industry. Briannagh is a 17 year old singer, songwriter, and actress from New York who has produced various songs, with a personal favorite of mine being Feel the Beat — the song draws from her Caribbean-American roots and hit #1 in 24 countries. She has gone on to perform in various festivals, parades, and schools, and has also appeared on shows such as Disney’s “Bizaardvark”, Golden Globes and Emmy Awards nominee and winner “This is Us”, as well as several Nickelodeon shows and television commercials.
I think that this is an important blog post, especially for readers in my country, Kenya. We tend to place a lot of emphasis on academics and ignore children’s talents, in the colonial mentality that succeeding in academics is the only way to make something of oneself. Briannagh is an example of a girl who adamantly follows her passion and proves that one can handle a demanding and successful career while still making time for academics. Skylar and I were curious as to how she’s able to do just that, as well as the roots of her career and any advise that she has for young, aspiring artists:
Where and when would you say it all began?
My entertainment career began with piano lessons, which began when I was five years old. I would have frequent piano recitals when I first started, which put me in front of audiences for the first time. I also performed in my church’s choir around that age where I first learned about different vocal techniques. I have always enjoyed performing in front of audiences from as far back as I can recall.
What motivates you to make music?
I love the creative process. Just being in the studio and knowing that you are about to create something that is uniquely your own is so satisfying. I love being able to tie in a motivational message to my lyrics as well. I hope that I am able to inspire others with meaningful lyrics that they can connect to.
What have been some of the most rewarding moments in your career thus far?
In terms of performances, the 2017 St. Kitts Music Festival felt extremely rewarding. This annual multi-day concert is the biggest in the Caribbean and over the years has had artists such as John Legend, Ciara, Chris Brown, and Toni Braxton. It was an honor to have even performed at the same festival as such world-renowned artists. Seeing myself on the news and hearing myself on the radio during the days leading up to the festival was even more special because I knew the stage was awaiting me.
I also felt that appearing on Disney Channel’s “Bizaardvark” was a very meaningful moment for me. It was really fun. The cast was really nice too.
Recently, my song and video for Feel the Beat has been my most successful yet. It hit number 1 on the Tempo Caribbean Charts and there was a lot of buzz about it in many different countries. I’m looking forward to my upcoming single which I know will be an even bigger hit with the rap battle king himself, Cassidy, who has performed and released music with Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Lil Wayne.
What has been your most challenging setback so far in terms of starting your career?
That would have to be my appearance on the Emmy Award winning NBC drama series “This Is Us.” Last Summer, I auditioned and was selected to be the little sister of the Pittsburg Steeler’s Franco Harris as part of a flashback episode. After being on set for many hours and putting in a lot of hard work to make my scenes the best that they could be, I was a bit disappointed to find that the majority of my long anticipated screen time had been cut. It just goes to show you that nothing in Hollywood is promised. It’s only set in stone when it’s done.
How has being at a rigorous prep school such as Choate Rosemary Hall influenced your career as an artist, both positively and negatively?
Participating in Melatones, a student acapella group, and Chamber Chorus, a music program that allows for performance opportunities, has challenged me to perform music that I typically don’t. I have learned a lot in the process and it keeps me sharp. I have also been able to perform on my steel pan, a type of drum, with Yale’s own Pan Jam and Lime Steel Band, which has been a lot of fun. I don’t believe that Choate has influenced my artistry in a negative way at all. If anything, it has helped me grow.
How have you managed being both a student at Choate with a taxing course load and an artist?
It is quite challenging, but I believe that if you truly love something it doesn’t feel like “work” at all. Of course there are times when I have felt stressed or tired but I treat my artistry like a hobby or an activity. It’s meant to be fun. During the summer and school breaks, I try to be as productive as possible, whether it be recording new music, auditioning, performing, or filming a music video.
Where do you see yourself in the next, let’s say, 10 years?
I hope that in 10 years I will either have won a Grammy, sold out an arena, or been the leading actress in a hit movie. I think that if I could accomplish any one of those things, I’d say “mission accomplished Briannagh.” It’s good to dream big.
Do you have any advice for aspiring artists, especially those trying to juggle high school, or just school in general, like us?
Make sure to be efficient with your time. Work on your artistry whenever you have a free moment.
I hope that you are all inspired by Briannagh’s hard work and determination because I certainly am amazed and look forward to her future work. Please comment below or click here to let me know if you know of anyone else who deserves a feature because of their dedication to a passion, talent, or career while still young, and possibly, juggling schoolwork as well. This was a collaborative project with Skylar Hansen-Raj, so make sure to follow her website so that you don’t miss when she publishes her own feature on Briannagh, and make sure to check out her other posts as well. It’s also finally summer, which means that I’m back to a regular uploading schedule, so stay tuned for a new blog post next Friday!