Edson: Simaz is a Triple Threat for St. Francis
Competition brings out the best in Daniel Simaz.
The Traverse City St. Francis junior just concluded a whirlwind spring by:
· Winning the Lake Michigan Conference low hurdles title, qualifying for the Division 3 state finals and finishing second in the regionals.
· Was one of 21 Michigan high school students nominated for the Sutton Foster Ovation Awards. It’s Michigan’s statewide high school musical theatre awards.
· Won third place in the Verdi Opera Theatre of Michigan’s contest and also advanced to the semifinals in the national Classical Singer Competition held in Chicago in late May.
Sports and music are the forte of Daniel’s life.
“There are really some similarities between the two,” said the 17-year-old straight-A student. “When I’m onstage acting and singing, I really feed off the audience. I think when the audience responds to what you’re doing, you feel their energy and you reach back and do a little better.”
Daniel had the lead in the St. Francis production of Godspell this spring. He combined track, singing and the acting into a busy – and successful – string of performances.
Some of it comes naturally. Some of it is just plain hard work. He plays five instruments and sings in five different languages.
“On paper, it might look like a lot, but the key for me started with getting enough sleep,” said Daniel. “I made sure I got seven hours of sleep every night. I knew my days were going to be long between starting choir practice at 7 a.m. every weekday, followed by school and then my practices. There were a lot of days when I didn’t get home until 10 p.m.”
He figured once Godspell finished its run at St. Francis, he was done with acting for the school year. But he was nominated as one of 21 actors to advance to the Wharton Center at Michigan State University.
“It was an incredible experience, I learned so much,” he said. “The other actors all came from Division I schools. It was such an honor to be picked. Once we started rehearsing, it made me nostalgic for my role in Godspell. But once we got into it, I found myself doing a lot of listening from the professors and I picked up a lot of great tips I can use in the future.”
As much as he likes acting, he enjoys singing even more. It comes natural to him.
His older sister Maria attended Interlochen and studied opera singing before heading off to college for more music study.
“Maria helped me a lot. She had a big effect on me,” said Daniel.
Between his older sister and having a small local band of his own, music is second-nature to him.
In fact, between track, acting and singing, it’s singing that he enjoys the most.
“That’s what I have the most confidence in,” he said, giving credit to his voice teacher Lindsay Wills. “I get more excited than nervous before I perform. I really enjoy it.”
He has always enjoyed track, but took a big leap forward this spring.
“In our first meet, without much training, I matched my best time in the hurdles,” he said.
He eventually got his 300-meter hurdle time down to the second-fastest in the Grand Traverse region.
“But of the three – singing, music and track – I still get the most nervous about track,” he said with a smile.
Daniel comes from an athletic family – his father Mike is the wrestling coach at St. Francis and his younger brother Andrew is a three-sport standout.
Daniel, in fact, was an All-Region wrestler as a freshman at St. Francis before giving up the sport after his sophomore year to concentrate on music.
“My dad was great about it,” he said. “He just wanted what was best for me and I really appreciated that.”
His mother Caroline has also been instrumental in his development.
“She’s always encouraged me to follow what I love doing,” he said. “And she’s always with me on my trips to compete.”
He still has a year to think about going to college. But after his stellar spring, colleges are already aware of him.
“They’ve contacted me,” he said. “But now I have to start seeing where I’m the right fit.”
So far, Daniel Simaz has been the “right fit” in whatever he’s tried.
Nick Edson is a retired Hall of Fame columnist and sportswriter. He worked 25 years at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, 18 as sports editor. He is a two-time president of the Associated Press Sports Editors Association and a member of the Michigan Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.