Jacob Artist remembers watching the pilot episode of "Glee" in May 2009 with his family in the living room of their Amherst home. "I loved it," he says. "It was kind of everything I had grown up wanting to do, from the dancing and the performing aspect, the acting was so great, the music and singing was incredible."
Three years later, Artist, 19, finds himself part of the cast for the hit Fox show as a new character, Jake Puckerman, the younger half brother of Noah "Puck" Puckerman.
It came fast. After graduation from Williamsville South in 2010, Artist moved to Los Angeles, where he appeared in the TV movie "Blue Lagoon: The Awakening." He auditioned for "Glee" in mid-July, which he says was "fairly late in the game, I believe. I remember talking to casting when we were all testing at the very end and they said they had started looking in like March or April."
Artist says he "got a call for my manager saying I was going in for 'Glee,' kind of like just another audition." For the first audition he sang, then got a callback for a second tryout, at which he would sing and act. "We had to prepare five songs with accompaniment - sheet music - and had to prepare acting as well," he says. "Then I found out that I was testing for the series creator Ryan Murphy and all the Fox executives."
After his last audition, the waiting began. "Our final tests for the show were on a Tuesday, [but] I didn't find out until that Sunday night. ... I literally didn't know until the night before I could tell people, which was good, because I didn't have to be harboring this secret from my parents for a whole week."
Artist, the son of Darrell and Judith Artist, said when he was able to call his parents, the family was joyful. "My sister is 12, so she lives for this show. Having watched it in the past, my parents were hysterical. I had the most supportive family anyone could ask for and they were all great, so when this phone call came in they were all just beside themselves, so happy.
"There was a lot of screaming, I'm pretty positive my mother was crying for like 20 minutes."
It was the culmination of years of work.
Artist began dancing at the age of 5 at David DeMarie Dance Studios. For a Buffalo News story in 2007, he said that he developed his true passion for dance in 2004 - when he was 11. "It just hit me," he said then. "This is what I love to do, and this is what I want to do."
Artist danced with the Infinity Dance Project for several years during high school, and participated in Chautauqua Institution's summer dance school. He added voice lessons through the Community Music School in Buffalo.
Artist's mother did not return a call seeking a comment for this story. Later, a spokeswoman for a public relations firm working for Fox said Artist's parents did not wish "to be in the public eye."
After hearing about Artist's new role, two of his former teachers lauded his talent and work ethic.
"When his parents called me and left a message on my machine at home, they said, 'We have some amazing news,'?" says Maria Goodrich, who taught Artist in private voice lessons for three years at the Community Music School of Buffalo. "I thought, 'This has to have something to do with singing or they wouldn't have called me.'?"
Goodrich says Artist was already an accomplished dancer when he started working with her. "When he came to me, he said, 'I want to be able to add singing to what I can do.' He had a voice, but he had some problems, which is why he came, because he wanted to fix them."
The first song he sang for Goodrich was, she says, "It Takes Two," from "Hairspray." "He wanted to be a Zac Efron type of singer, but he didn't have the same range; his was a little lower," she says. "He was very disappointed to find that out, but he really worked with what he had," which she describes as "a wonderful voice, a very warm, very rich-sounding baritone."
As a student, Goodrich says, Artist is "very dedicated, very driven. You can't get to where he's gotten in such a short period of time if you aren't dedicated to what you're doing. He is naturally talented, and a really great kid."
In addition to his instructors at David DeMarie Dance Studios, Artist singled out Rebecca Wind and Tracy Navarro, directors of the Infinity Dance Project, a preprofessional company for children 13 to 18. Wind also operates Xtreme Talent, a dance convention for young dancers, in which Artist participated. Infinity Dance Project, he says, "was incredible ... getting insight into that whole company lifestyle was great."
Wind says that Artist "is proficient in jazz, tap, ballet, hip-hop, lyrical, modern, contemporary - he's done it all. Personally, he is a great kid, hard worker, great attitude, comes from a great family, is always doing things for other people, is really respectful to Tracy and me, does his best to keep in touch."
In the phone call from Los Angeles after several weeks of taping, Artist says that Mark Salling, who plays his older half-brother, "was, oddly enough, one of the last cast members that I met. [On the show,] we have different moms, and our whole relationship is kind of estranged, so it would be cool to kind of explore that whole thing as the season goes on."
Will his character try out for New Directions, the glee club at William McKinley High School? "That's the thing," says Artist. "This character totally has an attitude problem, very much in the Puckerman style. So we'll have to see if that gets into his way or not in getting into New Directions."
Told that Artist's character has "an attitude problem," Goodrich replies, "That will be a test of his acting skills. Jacob is the most modest person, very easy to work with, a wonderful young man, never had an attitude of any kind. No matter what kind of criticism I had to give him, he always took it and ran with it because he knew that he was there to improve. I think that's why he did so well in dance."
Artist says while the Jake Puckerman character was not named after him, "In the past they have been so successful with molding characters based off the actors, and so I think that's kind of the approach they wanted to take with this as well. Ironically enough, his name ended up being Jake. It's good on set, because now people will be like, 'Oh, Jake!' and I totally respond."
Other new characters this season are Brody Weston, played by Dean Geyer, new McKinley student Marley Rose, played by Melissa Benonist, and Kitty, a new cheerleader, played by Becca Tobin. Guest stars reportedly include Kate Hudson and Sarah Jessica Parker.
After the graduation of several characters at the end of last season, this season's "Glee" will be set in Ohio and in New York City, where character Rachel Berry, played by Lea Michele, has moved. "The show is kind of returning to the basic idea of being underdogs, both in Ohio with the glee club and in New York with Lea Michele," says Artist. "The message of the show is so great, and it has touched so many people and become much more than just a show. I'm just super-excited and grateful to be a part of it."
He says that so far his life "definitely ... has changed a little bit," and no doubt will change more after the season premiere at 9 p.m. Thursday.
"When he starts to get people recognizing him on the street, that's when it will hit him," says Goodrich.