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Bundy hosts Christmas at Belmont

Country singer, songwriter, actress, dancer and Tony-nominated Broadway star Laura Bell Bundy wants the world to know something: She’s a work in progress.

“When I stop learning or I stop feeling challenged, I have to do something else,” she said. “As long as I’m continuing to learn from my work experiences, I’m on the right path.”

And the next stop on Bundy’s path is Belmont. The performer, who describes herself as “360 degrees of entertainment,” will host the upcoming “Christmas at Belmont” celebration, which this year will return to the Schermerhorn Symphony Center.

The holiday concert will broadcast on PBS and feature Bundy’s collaborations with a mass 600-student choir, University Symphony Orchestra, Belmont Chorale, Percussion Ensemble, Musical Theatre, Jazz Ensemble and Bluegrass Ensemble.

“Having Laura Bell Bundy as host of ‘Christmas at Belmont’ is a tremendous coup for the event,” Dr. Cynthia Curtis, dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, said in a press release. “She … serves as an outstanding musical role model for our students.”

And that’s why Bundy is most excited to host this year’s event: to have the opportunity to work with some of Belmont’s most talented students.

“I am a big supporter of education in arts and young people following their dreams,” she said. “To be able to work with Belmont and work with young people who are on the precipice of figuring out who they are as artists…I’m excited to be apart of that.”

A lover of Christmas music and the holiday season in general, Bundy’s gig as host of “Christmas at Belmont” is one in a long line of varied jobs for the all-around performer.

“There’s a divine timing in everything,” she said. “I do believe, in a weird way, that one project leads to another.”

Several projects on the small screen and on Broadway helped her land the role that would bring her national attention and a Tony nomination. That career-defining role was Elle Woods in Broadway’s “Legally Blonde.”

The Tony-nominated role, Bundy said, prepared her for where her journey would take her next: country music.

But Bundy was on the road to Music City long before she landed roles on Broadway. In fact, Bundy’s beginnings were in country music. Her family surrounded her with the music growing up.

“After I did ‘Legally Blonde,’ I decided to move to Nashville because I wanted to finally pursue my dream of doing country music,” she said. “For so long, I had been very split, giving the acting opportunities first choice over music.

In the end, it was the right decision, though.

“I’m glad I did because I wasn’t a fully realized musician at that time,” Bundy said. “I wasn’t a songwriter at that time. I needed more life experience. I wasn’t a fully realized performer. My theatre experience helped me to become a better performer of my own music.”

That music would come to fruition in her 2010 Mercury Records debut release “Achin’ and Shakin’,” a two-part album of up-tempo contemporary country music and slowed-down traditional sounds.

“If Tammy Wynette hooked up with Dusty Springfield, that would be ‘Achin’ and Shakin’.’ It has like an old, soulful 60s sound,” she said, “but it also had this torchy country thing as well. It’s just what I like.”

Bundy also likes comedy, which her fans see play out in “Cooter County,” a website portraying a made-up “twisted small town” that is home to her characters Shocantelle Brown, Euneeda Biscuit and many more.

“I needed to start ‘Cooter County,’ or I would have needed to go somewhere for multiple personality disorder. I would have to get treatment or start taking medication. I don’t know which. But I have this world living inside my head,” she said.

Bundy hopes to put all of her talents to use one day in what she calls a “one-woman Grand Ole Opry.” It’s what she’s striving for, she says. And she won’t have it any other way.

“I choose to entertain you. And I can’t entertain you properly singing my music unless I’m moving at the same time or emoting at the same time,” she said. “If you look at performers, like Tina Turner, James Brown or Dolly Parton…They’re singers. They have a great sense of humor, a swagger. They can dance. They are not just one- or two-dimensional performers.”

For Belmont performers, Bundy’s advice is to boldly pursue your dreams.

“Fifty percent of it is getting over your fears,” she said. “Whatever it is, scare yourself. That’s what it’s about. I believe when you can scare yourself, you’re not afraid to be in the moment.”

Hear the bells (and more) Broadway star and country singer Laura Bell Bundy will perform a new Christmas tune when she hosts “Christmas at Belmont.” The special will air on PBS stations nationwide beginning Dec. 22.  Bundy also has new music set for an early 2012 release.

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