Video: A Stage Star — Starr Busby used to think that success in music and music theater only happened to "special" people. With her voice and stage presence, she's starting to realize that she may be one of them. See more videos from Northwestern magazine.
Starr Busby used to think a career in music only happened to "special people." After professional appearances in two Chicago stage productions (Knute Rockne: All-American and Caroline, or Change), Busby is starting to realize that maybe there's something truly special about her.
Busby grew up in a suburb of Houston and was one of very few African American children in school there. She struggled to fit in, and music helped her find her way.
"Through music I found out I could connect with whomever I wanted to," she says. "It wasn't about the color of my skin or where I grew up or how much money my parents made."
Her love of music brought her to Northwestern. After a summer in Evanston as a "Cherub" with the National High School Music Institute, Busby made the decision to attend Northwestern.
Four years later she's one of the most recognizable faces across campus. She's performed in major Northwestern musical theater productions, from her very first role in Reckless in fall 2006 to 2008's smash hit Hair. In each and every roll, Busby dug deep to portray challenging characters, including several sexy, sultry ones, such as the role of the courtesan in Boys from Syracuse. She says these seductive roles were the most fun but also the most challenging.
"Theater is about embracing those parts of yourself that you may not always get to express in day-to-day life," she said. "So it was fun for me to able to stretch myself a bit."
Busby has been active offstage, too. She was on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day planning committee in 2009. She had sung at the day's events for the past three years, but this year Busby performed and then handed the mike to living legend Mavis Staples, the keynote performer for the celebration.
Busby says she's not prone to nerves when she's onstage, but this time was different. She interviewed her idol in front of a sold-out crowd at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall.
"Mavis conveys so many feelings of having pride in your people and striving for something better, so that made me even more nervous to meet her," Busby says of the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and soul and gospel star. "She's just a powerhouse."
In late March Busby took part in the School of Communication's New York Showcase Program, and that helped her secure an agent. After graduation she will move to New York City.
Despite Busby's big voice and fun-loving presence onstage, she carries herself with humility and an appreciation for everything that's come her way.
"It's been a long journey," she says, "from being someone who really didn't think they deserved that much to being someone who finally realizes you can value yourself and that's OK, and if you have goals, you can achieve them no matter how big they are."