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06/11/2014 12:00 AM

Billy DiCrosta: Singing to his Own Beat

Billy DiCrosta lets his fingers do the walking on the piano, while teaching his students to release their best voices.

The limelight came relatively early to Billy DiCrosta, who reports he was part of the first high school choir to ever be asked to perform at the White House.

Billy says, "I was chosen to sing 'Oh Holy Night' for the Clintons and their guests during Christmas of 1996."

It was one of many exciting highlights in this East Haven native's life. Billy grew up in a large Italian family living on Silver Sands Road.

He recalls mornings when his five much-older-siblings were at school (earlier than him) and his mom, Dee, would be getting ready for work in the restaurant business while listening to '50s and '60s music.

Billy says, "The music would wake me up, and I would race down the stairs to her bedroom, steal her hairbrush from her hand, and jump on her bed and start singing and dancing."

He adds, "Instead of getting mad at me because sometimes I would be making her late for work, she would jump on the bed with me and start singing all out of tune and dancing.

"My parents are cool, and my mom is my best friend-but she is not musical at all," says Billy, laughing.

He has since bought a home just a few blocks away from his parents and confides, "I had a great upbringing and some very special childhood memories.

"My mom wanted to make sure that all of us kids got individual time, she felt that was very important," Billy says. "Mom was like superwoman working full-time, cleaning the house, yet always making time for us, very supportive."

Billy started formal voice lessons at age 7 and hasn't stopped since, working in New York, on Oceanic and Celebrity cruise ships, and doing musical theater, concerts, and more.

He recalls, "I literally, no joke, fell on the floor when I was told I had landed my very first audition in New York City performing for Oceanic Cruises."

Billy says, "I have been fortunate enough to travel to almost every continent-South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Alaska, America as well as Hawaii."

The downside of the business was being away from home so much, and it began to take its toll.

When Billy started to see himself leaving the cruise world, he didn't have to look far for his next career move.

"Teaching [voice] started when a lot of the dancers on the ships began asking me for voice lessons and I started seeing huge results," he says.

He has since learned from teachers like Dr. Lewis Negri from West Haven and attended Western Connecticut State University and The Hartt School of Music.

Fast forward to today, Billy has been teaching in many different venues, and the last few years has been teaching musical theater at Dance Unlimited along with his beloved partner of many years Neil Fuentes. Together they opened up New Haven Academy of the Performing Arts (NHAOPA) in 2013.

Billy says he is the only teacher in Connecticut that is certified with a national organization called International Voice Teachers of Mix.

He teaches a technique "that is classical in its background, but contemporary in its approach." Billy says, "The organization teaches many of the folks on American Idol, The Voice, Broadway, and more."

He credits this technique with the rapid growth of his business, which started with one student a year ago to his current 50 students.

After having spent almost 30 year in the music business, Billy says, "Neal and I didn't want it to be the old-school, uptight way of learning."

Billy says, "I teach with a fun, modern twist and absolutely no recitals," which will bring much relief to many recital-weary parents.

Billy also trains voice teachers including past student Katelin Gavagan who has become his current associate teacher at NHAOPA.

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