From 'Rock of Ages' to Rod Stewart: After leaving ND, Kotte finds success on stage
HADDON TOWNSHIP, N.J. — Becca Kotte is a one happy employee, calling her boss "the coolest man I've ever met." High praise, but not all that surprising when you find out the former Fargoan works for one of the biggest rock stars in history.
Kotte, a 2005 graduate of Fargo South High School, has been working as a backup singer for Rod Stewart for about a year.
"He's an absolute dream to work for," she says. "People say when you meet a celebrity, there's an aura around them. That was absolutely the case when I met him. He's so cool."
Kotte is on a four-month break from touring the country with Stewart. It's just enough time for her to regroup, move into a new home in New Jersey with her husband James McCroan and reflect on a career that's taken some unexpected twists and turns, but always taken her to where she needs to be.
In her DNA
Kotte, who moved to Fargo from southern California when she was just 5 years old, says her love for music was passed down from family.
"I was drawn to music from the time I couldn't even speak," she says. "I think it's in my blood. Both my parents can sing. We were always listening to music."
She joined church choir and had her big break when she sang the national anthem at a Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks game when she was an "embarrassing nerdy 10-year-old (kid)," she says.
Theater was a love as well, but something she never thought would be a career.
"I remember going to shows at FMCT (Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre) but just thinking of acting and singing as a hobby," she says.
But all of that changed when she got involved at Trollwood Performing Arts School. She participated in "Totally Trollwood" in middle school and four mainstage musical productions during high school.
"I totally got the bug from it," she says. "I became more drawn to theater. I had found my tribe."
Surrounded by excellence
Kotte says it helped that so many of her counterparts in local theater from the late '90s and early 2000s pursued the arts long after high school graduation, including Broadway performers Becky Gulsvig and Ben Gunderson and New York-based director Austin Regan.
"I'm blown away that this little small town has all of these really successful people pursuing music," she says. "I'm very grateful I grew up here. It set the stage for me."
After graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in musical theater from the University of Miami, Kotte lived in New York City for just 10 days before signing a contract to perform on a cruise ship — a job she calls the perfect fit for a single, 22-year-old wanting to see the world. She worked off and on for Norwegian Cruise Lines for a couple of years before fate stepped in and changed her life.
An unexpected detour
After she left the cruise ship, Kotte was ready to settle in New York City to look for work when tragedy struck. Her brother-in-law, West Fargo native Eric Ziegler an Air Force F-16 pilot, was killed in a training exercise at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas. He left behind his wife, Kotte's sister Sarah, and a 9-month-old daughter named Anna.
"It took me about two seconds to decide I would move to Las Vegas and help my sister with the baby," she says. "It's pretty crazy for this single, free-spirited girl living in New York to move. But I remember thinking, 'We're going to make this work one day at a time.' "
Fate stepped in when Kotte met her future husband at her brother-in-law's memorial service.
"They were best friends," she says. "They were roommates at the Air Force Academy and kept getting stationed together all over the world. After the accident, we kept in touch and once I made the decision to move to Vegas, we started dating and have been together ever since."
Back to the stage
Kotte's niece Anna, whom she affectionately calls "my baby," is now "7 going on 17" and enjoys following her aunt's career — which carried on in Las Vegas as a singer with '80s bands on Fremont Street and later performing roles in the musical, "Rock of Ages."
"It was my absolute dream to be in that production," Kotte says. "I've always loved '80s music. I don't listen to showtunes. It's classic rock and oldies."
She says she "soaked in every minute" of the 3 ½ years she spent in the "Rock of Ages" production, first as a swing performer (someone who learns one or more roles in the acting ensemble of a production and steps in when needed) then in the lead role of the character Sherrie, but she says she knew it was time to leave. She was preparing to move back to New York City when a "Rock of Ages" drummer told her rock artist Rod Stewart, with whom he had performed, was looking for a new backup singer.
After an audition in Los Angeles, she landed the job and has been traveling with Stewart since November 2016. Stewart goes back on tour in January and Kotte will be right behind him. She hopes one day to be on Broadway but says she's in no hurry. She loves touring with Stewart and the rest of her "big family" on the road, she says. Once in awhile, this one-time Fargo kid, has to pinch herself to make sure she's not dreaming.
"I have those moments all the time. It's always on mind," Kotte says. "All of the things I hoped for ... so many of them have come true."