FutureStars Profile: Pioneer senior Ella Maki grew up in a house filled with music

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Music echoes through Ella Maki’s family. Always has. Probably always will.

“My family is very involved with music and both of my grandparents taught music so it’s a very big part of my life,” says Maki, a senior at Pioneer HS. “I have been doing music since elementary school and it has always been my passion.”

Maki’s “passion” will hit center stage this month as she performs in the Pioneer Theatre Guild’s FutureStars 2020. The 18th annual citywide talent search for Ann Arbor’s next star is Jan. 17-18 with the finals on Jan. 25 at Pioneer High School’s Schreiber Auditorium. The event features students from Ann Arbor’s public high schools as they sing, rap, and play music.

Maki, who performed in band and choir in middle school, continued her musical path with choir in high school. Then, she took a slightly different step.

“When I got to Pioneer, I decided to join Pioneer Theater Guild because I had always wanted to try theater and I saw PTG’s production of ‘Grease’ and ‘Rock of Ages’ which really sparked my interest in the program,” she says. “I’ve now been in a total of 14 shows in my time at Pioneer. My favorite shows I’ve been in so far are ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’ during my freshman year and ‘Matilda’ where I played Lavender during my senior year.”

Maki also has been in FutureStars all four years. She was in Rising Stars, an underclassman ensemble that performs group numbers in each of the themes, for the first two years. Her favorite number with Rising Stars was 21 Guns by Green Day during her freshman year.

Last year, as a junior, Maki sang “We Got the Beat” by the GoGos in a girls group; “Goodbyes” by Jorja Smith with Natalie Michelson; and “Material Girl” by Madonna with Freya Benson.

“I had a lot of fun last year,” she says. “It was my first year actually competing in Future Stars so it was somewhat overwhelming, but I enjoyed it enough to do it again this year. I wanted to do Future Stars this year because I love performing.”

This year, Maki is singing “Love Song” by Sara Bareilles as a solo and “7 Rings” by Ariana Grande with Zoe Resendez, Simone Mahler and Shyanne Wilson.

“I like performing because I love to sing and I like to be a part of a community,” she says. “I definitely get nervous sometimes, especially when I’m alone on stage which I haven’t had a lot of experience with. When I’m with a group, my nerves tend to disappear. When I get nervous, I focus on my breathing and think about all of my friends backstage rooting for me.”

Maki loves the collaborative part of FutureStars and how everyone cheers and supports everyone.

“This year is a little different from previous years because we get to work with two coaches instead of one,” she said. “For the first few weeks, we just work with our music coach learning the music and memorizing it.


“During the last week before tech week, we begin to work with performance coaches who help us with the performance aspects of our number like what to do while singing and what to wear. During tech week, we move our numbers to the main stage and begin to put all of the aspects together with lights and sound and our live band.”

Ella, the daughter of Bruce Maki and Rachel Naasko and stepdad Nate Canvasser, is an excellent student. She had a 3.99 GPA and also is in the Acapella choir at Pioneer and is the President of the school’s Choir Council.

She will attend the University of Michigan School of Nursing in the class of 2024.

“I can’t wait,” she says.

And she also can’t wait for Friday night – because music is in her DNA.

By Terry Jacoby

“Matilda the Musical” photos courtesy of Sean Carter Photography.