Founder and CEO - Wurrly.
Sometimes there are seminal moments in our lives, often at a young age, that flick a switch and we just know we have found our calling.
For Nadine Levitt that moment came when she was just seven and watched a performance by the legendary opera singer Dame Joan Sullivan.
“My jaw literally dropped when I heard her voice. It was then and there that I decided I wanted to become an opera singer and be able to sing like THAT! She is still my hero today.”
Born in Switzerland and growing up in Germany before emigrating to NZ with her family, aged eight, and not speaking English when she arrived, created its own set of challenges. Not that Nadine felt daunted in any way. Within three months she had mastered the basics of English adding to her existing languages of German and Italian.
It didn’t take long for her talents to be recognised landing parts in professional productions including ‘The King and I’ and ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’ and very soon her dream career began to take shape.
“I started taking singing lessons at about 10 years of age. I’m not sure I ever really thought about whether I could sing; I just knew I really loved to sing and wanted to do it all the time.”
Joining an Opera NZ programme for emerging talent Nadine was soon hooked and even more determined to pursue the career she had set her heart on and there would be no deviating from that path.
But it was her father who encouraged her to study law.
“He really wanted me to study law or business or something I could fall back on if the singing didn’t work out. At the time I felt like he didn’t believe in me, but as it turned out it was really good advice.”
So the decision was made. A conjoint BA/LLB degree in music and law.
“And while my first love was music, I have to say Scott Optican's Evidence class was definitely one of the highlights of my week when I was at law school.”
After graduating it was off to Minter Ellison for a short period before an opportunity arose to move to Los Angeles where Nadine would work for a client based there.
And what aspiring singer wouldn’t want to be based in LA; the home of music entertainment and where those unexpected opportunities sometimes come along that can make or break careers.
“True story. I was in a restaurant one night and who should be there but Tommy Lasorda, the long-time manager of the LA Dodgers and a huge opera lover. He asked me to sing an aria for him, which I did, but what I didn’t realise was that siting very close to him was Randy Bernard, the then CEO for Professional Bull Riders. When I finished singing, Randy leans in and he tells me that they just had a cancellation for the national anthem singer, and he’d love me to step in for her - at Madison Square Garden in three days’ time! Despite not (yet) knowing the US national anthem I figured I could learn it in time so I jumped at the chance.
From there I was introduced to the legendary Canadian songwriter and record producer David Foster who had discovered the likes of Michael Bublé, and been instrumental in the careers of Chicago, Josh Groban, Andrea Bocelli, and Celine Dion. What you hear about LA really is true, opportunity is all around you. It’s the American dream.”
After becoming pregnant and deciding not to tour with a baby, Nadine looked around for her next move and it wasn’t long before opportunity came knocking once again.
With a lifelong interest in music education, particularly introducing children to music, the idea of building a technology platform that would really connect with students began to take shape and WURRLYedu was born.
Nadine first built an app that she personally needed, that she describes as “karaoke on steroids” and when she saw that it was being used in schools, she built another solution specific to music education.
“Music is one of the only subjects that is still inherently collaborative at school, so it lends itself really well to teaching the social and emotional skills that you need to live a happy healthy life! And kids love music.”
Never imagining she would end up in music education technology, Nadine is the first to admit that every twist and turn of her career has been a wonderful surprise.
“I like it that way. I’ve always believed you can only be open to opportunity if you don’t assume outcomes.” So what does she hope is next? “I still hope to perform at the Hollywood Bowl someday!”