NEW YORK, N.Y. — Actor, dancer, choreographer, music director Benjamin Rowan has performed around the world but his journey began on the stage in Brookville.
Rowan recently returned to his apartment in New York City after a stay in Punta Cana.
Rowan was working with producers at Nickelodeon to create family entertainment for their partnership with Nickelodeon Hotels and Resorts by Karisma.
Rowan has been on many national tours, including Sesame Street Live, Yo Gabba Gabba Live and Saturday Night Fever. He’s performed in Madison Square Garden as well as the Beacon Theater, two landmark venues in New York City.
However, it wasn’t too long ago that Rowan was a student at Brookville High School, a drum major in the marching band and a member of both the school choir and band. Rowan was also heavily involved in community theater and school musicals. He recalled how vital these programs were in helping him to create an identity as an artist and performer, as well as inspiring him to follow his dreams.
“That’s one thing I loved about Brookville,” Rowan said. “The Music Department. There was the band, the choir, the orchestra, and a lot of community-driven clubs that make you feel included.” The performer admits he was somewhat shy in high school, but that in the band and the choir, he felt like he could be himself.
“Those teachers, Zachary Covington, Mark Heckman and Tim Stevenson, they were really amazing teachers,” he added. “The job of a teacher is to encourage students to go big or go home. I always had the support I needed to make this a career.”
Rowan also mentioned Chris and Kristie Taylor as having a real impact on him as he learned about the theater. “They really inspired me a lot as I was growing up,” he said.
Chris, a high school English teacher in DuBois, directed the summer musical at Clarion University. When they opened up to the community for casting, Rowan took advantage of the opportunity. “I’ve worked with Ben as his director and as a fellow actor in many productions,” Chris explained. “I could see early on that Ben was serious about his craft. He took constructive criticism and wanted to get better.”
Kristie, the elementary principal for Clarion-Limestone, remembers the first time she worked with Ben when she directed Brookville’s high school show, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. “Even then he showed such depth,” she noted. “Anytime I gave him direction on something he would just go for it!” She added, “Then, when we got to perform together at the Sawmill Center for the Arts, I had the privilege of watching him grow as a fellow performer — it was magical.”
Rowan explained that these teachers and mentors made all the difference in his life growing up and that participating in a program that made him feel like part of a community made a lasting impression on him. “Those opportunities that I had helped shape who I am; it was part of my journey,” he said. “I couldn’t imagine where I would be without those opportunities. I can’t impress enough how important the arts programs are. Period.”
Rowan has spent his career travelling and performing around the world. He says he’s excited to explore the creative side of the process with a company called RWS Entertainment Group, a worldwide production company based out of Long Island City, New York. The company started in Pittsburgh and it was through them that Rowan says he had his first professional performance job at Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster.
Now, he’s working with them as a freelancer to do music directing.
“They’re keeping me busy,” he said. “They’re an amazing company. They’ve made me feel welcome and it’s a fun job.”
In particular, Rowan feels validated by the fact that he has found success in an industry that can be brutal at times and that he persisted even when others told him he wouldn’t make it. “It’s hard to break into this industry,” he admitted. “The fact that I can go about a different route and still be involved heavily is what I find to be really important for me.”
He added that none of it would be possible without the unwavering support of his parents, Ken and Joan Rowan, who still live in Brookville. “I have the most supportive amazing parents in the world,” Rowan said. “I can’t thank my parents enough for believing in me and supporting me.”
Rowan plans to visit for the holidays and says he looks forward to taking a hiatus from his life in the city to enjoy the fresh air and greenery of Northern Pennsylvania. “They say you don’t know what you have until it’s gone,” he said. “Growing up in small town Brookville, at this time I was like, ‘What am I doing here?’ But right now I crave going home just to have coffee on my parents’, back porch. So, I appreciate the little things about Brookville.”
As for the future, Rowan is looking forward to seizing every opportunity to use his talents to make a difference in people’s lives. “Not that I want to be a big celebrity,” he said.”
“But, for me, I think it’s really important for me to make a difference. The world is pretty crazy right now. It can be disheartening. I feel that if I can make a small difference and change lives or create these lasting impressions, that is the least I can do in times of sadness.”