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Inspiring Young Alumni: Catching up with John De Simini ’06

Even before John De Simini ’06 started his St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) journey in Grade 7, he was aware of what the school could offer thanks to his family ties.

“Some of my earliest memories of the school are of watching the Italian play with my father, Vito ‘73, directed by my uncle, former SMCS teacher, Clemente Grassi (1963-64). I also fondly remember attending music concerts under the direction of my teachers, mentors, and family friends, Mr. Paul Pietrkiewicz and Mr. James Oatt,” shares De Simini.

Throughout his high school career, De Simini was actively involved in various after-school music programmes along with leadership and volunteer opportunities. He participated in the choir under the direction of the late Fr. Cecil Zinger, CSB, OSM, concert and jazz bands, and several musicals. De Simini was also an active student volunteer at the annual SMCS Parents’ Association fashion show, school dinner dances, open houses, and more. In Grades 11 and 12, he served as a school prefect under the moderation of Fr. Patrick Fulton, CSB.

John De Simini Kaleigh, Rosie
De Simini with wife, Kaleigh, and dog, Rosie.

Over the past eight years, De Simini has worked on several Broadway productions including Jersey Boys, Moulin Rouge, A Bronx Tale, and many others. He has performed at Radio City Music Hall, working with artists such as Hugh Jackman, Robert De Niro, and Diana Krall. De Simini has appeared twice on CBS’s Tony Awards Broadcast, with the cast of Ain’t Too Proud: The Temptations Musical in 2019 and with the cast of Tina: The Tina Turner Musical in 2021.

After recently finishing work on The Wanderer, a pre-Broadway show about Rock and Roll Hall of Fame singer, Dion DiMucci, he now finds himself working on the Broadway production of the musical Mrs. Doubtfire. He is the co-founder and music supervisor of The Uptown Boys, a Billy Joel revue-style concert, incorporating singing, dancing, and music.

De Simini currently lives in Union City, New Jersey, with his wife, Kaleigh Cronin, a fellow Broadway performer, and their dog Rosie. As a musician, music supervisor, and producer, he has performed world-wide throughout the music and entertainment industry.

Read on to learn more about John De Simini and why he is one of our inspiring young alumni.

How did SMCS prepare you for life?

I made life-long friends during my time at SMCS and felt prepared for life beyond the yellow bricks. As students, we were given all the necessary tools to succeed in the world, regardless of our career choices and I could not be more thankful for my time at the school. I was able to develop a strong sense of self through the many experiences afforded to me during my time at St. Mike’s.

Do you continue to be involved with SMCS?

After my graduation, I continued to perform in the pit orchestra for several musicals at the school. As a student, St. Mike’s allowed me to have my first experience playing in a musical and, even after graduating, the school continued to play a significant role in sending me down the path to becoming a Broadway musician. I also taught in the school’s private music lesson programme from 2008-2010.

How do you live out the Basilian motto of Teach me Goodness, Discipline, and Knowledge?

The motto is so much more than words; it is the formula to a successful, fulfilling life. Whether in the workplace, with my family and friends, or with people I meet for the first time, I always apply those three fundamentals in all my interactions.

How has your Catholic faith supported you?

Like so many others during the COVID-19 Pandemic, I lost friends, loved ones, and my livelihood. I did my best to maintain my faith and recognize that God’s plan and Will are always at work. It was my faith in God’s plan that kept me positive during the difficult times. I thank God daily for everything with which I have been blessed and strive to continue to maintain a strong faith through reflection and prayer.

How do you stay connected to SMCS within your community or industry?

In 2017, I was working on a production of A Bronx Tale on Broadway. I received a message from SMCS teachers, Mr. James Oatt and Mr. Dan Douglas that the music department and choir from Holy Name of Mary were taking a joint trip to New York City. The students attended a Saturday evening production of the show, and I was able to organize a question-and-answer period post-show. The students were fortunate enough to meet Chazz Palminteri as well as the star of the show, my friend Nick Cordero, who we lost due to COVID-19. Fast forward to an email exchange with Mr. Oatt during the pandemic, when I was asked to share with Amanda, Nick’s wife, that the entire school community was praying for Nick’s recovery during his battle. THIS is what makes the St. Michael’s community unique; we are an ever-growing family that supports one another.

How do you demonstrate through work that you are being the best for the world?

Music and art have always been conduits for creativity and self-expression while serving as an emotional escape for audiences. I believe that the pandemic magnified the need for arts and culture. The positive effect that the arts have on audiences and performers alike has never been more evident. In my current show, Mrs. Doubtfire, we are giving people an opportunity to come to the theatre, to leave their daily stress outside, to laugh, and most importantly reflect on the importance of family and love in their daily lives. With everything happening in the world, I am thrilled to play a small part in bringing joy to our audiences.

John De Simini with Promane
De Simini with professor, Mark Promane at Massey Hall after a concert with Diana Krall.

What advice would you like to share with current SMCS students?

You are attending so much more than a school. You are not part of a St. Mike’s network; you are a part of the St. Mike’s family. Take the time to enjoy every experience that SMCS has to offer. Go on trips, try a different course, and use the opportunity to get out of your comfort zone. Your experience at SMCS is shaping who you are and who you will become. Take advantage of the vast family of alumni who are members of all walks of life. We were in your shoes in one way, shape, or form and are here to help you establish your place in the St. Michael’s community and beyond.

We are pleased to feature John De Simini as a member of our inspiring young alumni. More inspiring young alumni can be found on the featured wall located across from the main office. These young leaders represent a variety of fields and industries and continue to change their communities by living and leading their lives through faith, character, and service.

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