Carter Bannwarth is a freshman at East Ridge High School with an uncommon extracurricular life. At just 15 years old, the Woodbury teen is already a professional musical performer and actor whose extraordinary talent and self-assured presence have earned him a slew of roles on stage and on screen. “Carter’s a triple threat,” says Michael Brindisi, artistic director at Chanhassen Dinner Theatre, who has now worked with Carter on two productions: Mary Poppins and Camelot. “He sings, he acts and he’s a great dancer. But most of all the kid’s a total professional.”
Carter most recently played a supporting role in The Abominables, a new musical that ran in September/October at Children’s Theatre Company (CTC) in Minneapolis. This was Carter’s second time performing in a debut show, after last year’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid, also at CTC. “I love being in a brand new show, because you have no one and nothing to base your character off of,” Carter says. “It’s also nice to meet the writers; we get to kind of figure things out together.”
Carter’s passion for the stage came as no surprise to his parents, Kim and Greg Bannwarth, both professional musicians. Greg is an a cappella singer with the national touring group Tonic Sol-fa; Kim is a former choir teacher who now works in finance and teaches both piano and voice in their home studio. “We are a very musical family. So obviously we exposed him to music at an early age,” says Kim, who began teaching Carter piano when he was just 4 years old.
Carter went on to take cello and drum lessons—all before the age of 10—and last year he started playing the guitar. “That’s the one I’ve been waiting to learn for a while,” Carter says, suggesting that the main impediment has been finding the time. Even attending school became difficult once he graduated from community theatre to the professional sphere, appearing on stage at the Ordway, Chanhassen Dinner Theatre and CTC within a two-year span. He’s also a competitive dancer with Woodbury Dance Center and takes on voice-acting and commercial acting gigs. “I go to school as much as physically possible,” he says, completing the rest of his school work online. The young actor found time this fall to be part of East Ridge High School’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
A large part of growing as an artist is having confidence in yourself and maintaining it, Carter says. “You can’t get discouraged if you don’t get the part you want. I started out [at Ashland Productions and Woodbury Community Theatre] with a lot of ensemble roles. People think a small part is no good, but the thing is, you still get to have fun on stage. You get to watch and see how the leads act, what they do, what you can bring to your next audition.”
Encounters with stage fright have been rare, though Carter remembers a touch of nerves last May when he traveled to New York City for a musical performance at the world-renowned Carnegie Hall. “There were all these famous Broadway actors there—people I never thought I’d be on the stage in front of,” he says.
“I think he caught the New York bug,” his mother says. “I think he may have Broadway on the mind. He’s definitely driven to be a professional performer. But he’s also such an energized learner. He’s doing college research already."
Carter Bannwarth is one of 60 kids performing at the New York Pops 35th Birthday Gala at Carnegie Hall in April.