Quiana “Q.” Smith got her start in show business delivering Christmas speeches as part of the Salem Baptist Church drama department.
Now a cast member in a hit Broadway show, she’s back home to perform in “Joyful Noise: A Gospel Christmas,” the song, dance and drama show staged each year by the Salem choir. The program is at 4 and 7 p.m. today.
It’s the first time Smith has returned to Omaha to appear in the event. She has lived in New York City since the early 2000s.
“I cannot believe I’m a special guest,” she said. “It’s kind of crazy and exciting.”
Smith, 40, has a featured role in “Come From Away,” a heartwarming musical about the relationships formed among the townspeople in Gander, Newfoundland, and the passengers of jets forced to land there on Sept. 11, 2001.
She took time to answer questions in the middle of preparing for the concert and leading master classes at Nebraska Wesleyan University and Millard West High School.
Q. What did you get as a child in the Salem drama program that you still use today?
A. At first I didn’t do much singing. I was in the choir but no solos. I had a big voice but I didn’t know what to do with it. I was learning harmonies, learning songs quickly and learning to blend in (all things she needs to perform on Broadway). Also the confidence the church community gave me. I was always encouraged to be myself and to follow my dreams.
It’s hard — people lie to you all the time. You hear more nos than yeses — you might have one yes in 10 auditions. If I didn’t have a solid spiritual foundation I probably wouldn’t be able to survive it. You have to remember that it’s a business and sometimes you’re just not the right one. I trust God with all my heart.
Q. How do you help young artists in the master classes?
A. Students will get up and perform. I give them feedback, but I really just talk about how to live your best life and how to be a good person. That really does matter in the business. People want to work with good people and nice people. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how talented you are. It never hurts to be kind. It can get you a job.
Q. What are some of your favorite career milestones?
A. Definitely “Come From Away,” everything about it from the incubation stage to getting it to Broadway — and the story it tells, the lives it changed, including mine. People…