House Blend | Episode 42: Sara Niemietz with Snuffy Walden
ABOUT SARA NIEMIETZ
Sara made her Broadway debut as young Carol Burnett in Hollywood Arms, at 10, written by Ms. Burnett and her daughter, Carrie Hamilton. Its legendary director, Hal Prince, remarked that Sara “possesses an extraordinary voice and acting honesty, and a personality that leaps across the stage.” A short time later, Sara originated the title role of Pamela in “Pamela’s First Musical,” based on the book by Wendy Wasserstein, with music by Cy Coleman and David Zippel. Ms. Wasserstein praised Sara as “an astonishing performer.”
Having relocated to Los Angeles from her native Illinois, Sara started by releasing her first CD, produced by Charles Faris, “Live At The Cat Club,” which chronicled her 12-song set at the noted venue. She sang the National Anthem for both the LA Dodgers and San Diego Padres, and appeared on the “Sugar Beats” CD as a lead singer. She was the singing voice of Polly Pocket, and also recorded the end credit song in the animated Barbie DVD, “Barbie as the Princess and The Pauper.”
In addition to musical appearances, featured appearances include Providence (NBC), First Monday (CBS), and Gilmore Girls (The WB) and Polly in the hit feature film, Akeelah and the Bee, with Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett.
In 2005, noted film composer Christopher Young hired her as the lead voice in his score for “The Exorcism Of Emily Rose.” After completing the music, Young remarked, “Without Sara’s voice, there would be no score – I have never in my life seen someone at her age so thoroughly professional.” She continued her work with Young in 2008 for the film “The Uninvited,” in which her vocals were featured.
While continuing acting and maintaining an “A” average at school, Sara also managed to record an independent CD, Without A Net. Sara teamed with well-known record producer John Boylan.
Sara is also featured in the cast recording of the upcoming musical based on the film, “Teen Witch,” called “Teen Witch, The Musical,” and recorded a song for the movie soundtrack, “Moondance Alexander.”
In 2007, Sara became the toast of the Los Angeles theatre community. After appearing in the workshop production, she landed the coveted role of Patrice, in Jason Robert Brown’s new musical, 13. It featured an all-teen cast, and enjoyed a two-month run at the Mark Taper Forum in downtown Los Angeles. According to director Todd Graff, Sara was perfect for the part: “She had the vulnerability and the sweetness and the intelligence that the character needed. And she sang her butt off,” Graff added. Sara’s reviews were phenomenal: Daily Variety praised her as a “standout” that has “genuine warmth.” Curtain Up magazine crowed “Niemietz shines during her solo, and takes impressive command of the stage with only a notebook sharing the spotlight.”
In 2010, Sara graduated 7th in her high school class and began working with Emmy award-winning composer and musician, Snuffy Walden. The two write extensively and enjoy a successful collaboration. Last season, Sara joined the TV show Glee as the on-stage guitarist.
Sara appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” in May 2011, after Ellen came across a video of her singing and requested she perform.
In June of 2012, Sara appeared on Richard Marx’s DVD and television special, “A Night Out With Friends,” singing a duet of his classic, “Keep Coming Back.” Niemietz also collaborated with W.G. Snuffy Walden and released her new EP of original material, Push Play on June 14, 2012. Her work with Richard Marx continued when the two sang a duet on his album Christmas Spirit. Niemietz also released her own collection of Christmas music, titled Christmas Favorites.
Recently, B.J. Thomas invited her to record on his new record, The Living Room Sessions due out in the spring of 2013. Her writing and singing also appear in the end titles of several new films: “Mickey Matson and the Copperhead Conspiracy,” “In the Key of Eli,” and “Stetson: Street Dog of Park City.” In January 2013, Sara was thrilled to return to the Mark Taper Forum to play the role of Wanda in “Enter Laughing,” a one-night production, fundraiser, and tribute to Carl Reiner.
Sara continues writing and recording music and frequently performs in the Los Angeles area, sharing her soulful sound with unique, heartfelt shows.
ABOUT SNUFFY WALDEN
Born in Louisiana, raised in Texas, W.G. Snuffy Walden started piano lessons at the age of six before deciding after a year that a self-taught method was the better fit. While attending college in Houston on a double major of pre-med and math, he worked at a late-night radio show and played guitar in a strip club.
He continued along this path, with music in the background, until one day he dropped out of school, quit his job, and strapped on his guitar full-time. “I went from being a wannabe doctor to a rock musician. Hey, it was the sixties; it was a different time.” In 1968, he formed a blues-based rock trio, Stray Dog, who relocated from Texas to England. Snuffy recorded several albums and then moved to Los Angeles where he continued his solo career and began touring with artists such as Chaka Khan, Eric Burdon, and Donna Summer.
It was during this period that several film and television agents heard Snuffy playing guitar at regular monthly gigs in a Santa Monica nightclub. “When they asked me about scoring for film and television, I wasn’t sure what it entailed,” Snuffy confesses, “but I could see the handwriting on the wall for touring, and it wasn’t pretty. I kept envisioning Holiday Inn at age 60.”
Walden later found out that the primary reason he got the interview with the producers of “thirtysomething” was because they wanted to see the guy with a name like “Snuffy.” Regardless, he submitted a tape. “I never heard a word so I assumed they hated it. They were about to sign another composer when they popped the audio and video cassettes in and loved the music and the way it worked with the show. That was ‘thirtysomething,’ the first show I did.” Snuffy scored the pilot, the series, and wrote the theme.
A month and a half after “thirtysomething” went on the air, Snuffy got a call asking if he would be interested in a “little show” premiering after the Super Bowl. The show turned out to be “The Wonder Years.” Snuffy scored the pilot, then went on to score the series, and revamped a Beatles song for the end credits.
Walden’s work in “thirtysomething” and “The Wonder Years” brought him new attention in the composing-world and he went on to score “Ellen,” “Roseanne,” “Sisters,” “The Jackie Thomas Show,” “Friday Night Lights,” “Men of a Certain Age,” and many other television shows; more than a dozen cable films and movies for television; several independent films; and the major release “Leaving Normal.”
He has received twelve Emmy nominations, multiple BMI awards, and was awarded the Emmy for Outstanding Main Title Theme for “The West Wing.”
Snuffy’s ability to combine intricate emotions with musical simplicity has earned him a special place among the ranks of composers, as his work continues to ring with genuine warmth and truth.
ABOUT THE HOST
“House Blend” host, writer and co-producer Stephen K. Peeples is a Grammy-nominated record producer (“Monterey International Pop Festival,” 1992), award-winning radio writer-producer (“The Lost Lennon Tapes,” 1988-1990) and veteran record company executive (Capitol, Elektra/Asylum, Rhino). A Canyon Country resident since early 1988, Peeples wrote about the SCV music scene for The Signal newspaper in 2004-2006 and was Managing Editor of the My Santa Clarita community website in 2006-2007. He was The Signal’s Online Editor and social media manager from October 2007 to May 2011. In 2009 he was honored when The-Signal.com was named “Best Website” by the California Newspaper Publishers Association. A jazz and rock drummer since he was 12, Peeples was a member of the underground West L.A. garage band Peaking Duck from 1977-2008. In 2010, he co-founded the SCV-based jazz quartet RainTree.