When 11-year-old singer-actress Bobbi MacKenzie says over the phone, “Ever since I could talk, I’ve been singing,” she’s not exaggerating. Just ask her father Astor. “She always had a presence and wasn’t shy at all,” he shares. “Even at such a young age, she had a voice.”
But while Bobbi’s parents believed their daughter was blessed with talent, they also knew their opinion may be a little biased. “When she was 7, I sent her to a good friend of mine who is a composer and producer. His wife is a singer too and they understand the craft. They told me what we heard was right,” says Astor, who used to work in marketing at Nike. His wife, Bobbi’s mother, is an on-air radio personality who’s worked across the country.
With the help of new voice coaches, Bobbi was able to sharpen her striking voice. Bobbi’s big break came when she was discovered singing at a hair salon. That impromptu audition landed her a much-coveted opportunity to sing the National Anthem at an NBA game in 2012. Performing for her home team, the Portland Trailblazers, was one of the many dream goals Bobbi says she’ll never forget.
“It was an amazing experience. I started to get nervous, but I just stayed positive,” says Bobbi, whose rendition was so moving, she’s since performed for both the Golden State Warriors and the Sacramento Kings. Last year, Bobbi sang the National Anthem for the NFL San Francisco 49ers. “I really like the song,” she admits. “I don’t get bored of singing it. It makes me happy.”
But the ambitious tweener wasn’t content with being pigeonholed as a sports event crooner. The Oregon native (who now resides in New York) caught the acting bug around the same time she started singing.
“I was 3 or 4 when I wanted to act. I knew I wanted to be on TV and Broadway. I knew I wanted to try it. I got an agent and it’s going pretty well,” she says. “Pretty well” might be understatement. Bobbi currently stars front and center on Broadway’s School of Rock.
“When they told me I was going to be on Broadway, I just started screaming and crying. It’s a dream come true,” she says, adding that her father was also very emotional. “My dad was crying, but he said he was sweating.”
The cast rehearsed for two months; the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical began previews November 9 at the Winter Garden Theater and opens for real December 6. “The show is going to be phenomenal. I’m so happy to be part of it,” says Bobbi.
Being on Broadway calls for a very busy schedule for the fifth grader, who is balancing her career and school. “I wake up, go to my tutor, have rehearsal, have lunch and dinner with my dad, do the show, sign autographs, and then I crash! The cycle starts all over again the next day. I love it!”—Alexandra Phanor-Faury
COOL LIST: Bobbi MacKenzie
Singers: Ariana Grande, Beyoncé and Tori Kelly
Actors: Angelina Jolie, Jack Black, Raven Symone and Will Smith
Albums: Yours Truly by Ariana Grande, and School of Rock soundtrack
Movies: Inside Out
Broadway Plays: Hamilton, Matilda and School of Rock
TV Shows: Hannah Montana and That’s So Raven
Books: The Giver, by Lois Lowry
Blogs: “Not into blogs but I am into Instagram—mine, @thebobbimackenzie, being my favorite!”
Rappers: Kanye West and Drake