Photo courtesy of The Pettets
By Steve Sears
“One of my real purposes in life was to pass a legacy on,” says Denise Pettet. “And not only passing on good character and purpose in life and being able to bless other people, but also to use the gifts and talents God has gifted us with.”
You experience that character, that purpose, and hear and see the usage of gifts and talent, when you meet Denise and her daughters, Ashley and Kristen, and her grandson, Todd, and see their performances.
All are members of The Pettets, a northern New Jersey based performing arts family.
Denise, from a very early age, was surrounded by music. “My dad was in the music industry,” she says. “I grew up in Alabama, and when I met my husband and moved here (to New Jersey), it was one of those things where I owned a nursery school, so music was always around.”
That influence has been passed down to Ashley, Kristen, and Todd, who is Ashley’s son. From the Wanaque area, all three ladies attended William Paterson University, and Todd currently attends school there. Sometimes the Pettets perform as a quartet, or Ashley and Kristen themselves as a duo.
“It is awesome being sisters,” Ashley says of she and Kristen. “We love it, and we’re a family first. That’s one of the values our mom instilled in us as well. Growing up together, singing in the car and at church, has been something that has continued to bring us closer. It’s like a cyclical effect, because one brings the other one around, so we’ve enjoyed doing music, and we’ve enjoyed having that sisterhood bond. We’re best friends, and we’re very, very thankful for that.”
When Ashley started in theater at age eight in the Annie National Tour, then followed that with Annie Warbucks on Broadway and The Sound of Music national tour with Marie Osmond, her younger sister was waiting in the wings for her turn. “I as a four-year-old knew no different in life,” Kristen says. “I didn’t know how fortunate I was. I got to tag along on the Broadway tours. So, for me, ever since I was born, she paved the way, and for my mother and sister and I, that was just the way life is.” When Kristen was five, she danced and sang in her first film, Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You, which starred Drew Barrymore and Goldie Hawn.
The sisters eventually got together as a duo, and perform together to this day. “We thought, ‘What a wonderful way to share our music and share what we love,’” Kristen says. “We have a show where we sing, we have tap dancing…it’s an old-fashioned variety show.” One of their “stages” has been the White House. “We really enjoy doing that as a family, and I can tell you when we are not performing on stage, we are definitely singing together everywhere we are. We just love that so much, and God has given us a lot of opportunities to do that together.”
For a period of time, it was just Ashley and Kristen as a duo, and then Todd would join them, and then Denise would occasionally make it a quartet. “It’s definitely teamwork, no matter what,” says Ashley, a graduate of the William Paterson University Jazz Studies program. “We have all these components: the sister act, the family, the individual performers. And when our mom started singing with us, we were all very excited. It made everything complete.”
Ashley’s son, Todd, who is 20, recalls when younger being around his mom’s variety show. “Just being around the whole show business atmosphere, and the older I got, the more involved I got in the show – little bit parts here and there – and then I would start to sing as well.” Todd also took up instrument playing, and his biggest embrace is for the bass guitar, and he plays with Ashley as a jazz duo and at national music festivals as part of a band. “But as far as our family goes, I love it, it’s so much fun, and it’s given me awesome life experiences that cannot come from just sitting in a classroom. It’s been really invaluable, the experiences, and the skills that I’ve learned.”
“Everywhere that we perform,” Kristen says, “everybody says about the joy that we bring, and a lot of time they’ll be crying tears of joy – and you’ve brought that by your music. It just becomes a greater God-given purpose. And to be in all seasons of life, we have that bond, no matter what.”
“This never gets old,” Ashley says of The Pettets. “Everyone’s unique. Its an incredible gift.”
To learn more about The Pettets, visit www.thepettets.com, or their YouTube channel, www.youtube.com\thepettetsisters.