LOCAL NEWS

How a 10-year-old SLC drummer ‘beat’ her way to the stage of NBC’s ‘Little Big Shots’

Apr 23, 2018, 6:50 PM
Steve Harvey, Milana Nigro and drummer Sheila E on an episode of "Little Big Shots," which airs Apr...
Steve Harvey, Milana Nigro and drummer Sheila E on an episode of "Little Big Shots," which airs April 29. (Photo Evans Vestal Ward/NBC, Episodic)
(Photo Evans Vestal Ward/NBC, Episodic)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (Deseret News) — Milana Nigro was doing just what she always did. Headphones on and drumsticks in hand, the 10-year-old was in her jam, practicing one of her favorite songs “Lane Boy” by the band 21 Pilots.

“I grabbed my phone … we made a (quick) video of her playing that, put it on Facebook and that went viral,” said Milana’s mother Alicin Christensen. “It was nuts.”

Nearly 760,000 views later, Milana has been busy performing on bigger stages than her practice space at home — and on April 29, she’ll be featured on the NBC variety show “Little Big Shots.”


“When I do have a hard day, it always does cheer me up. So, I would say the drum set makes me feel happy, and it just feels awesome playing it.”


For more photos and video of this story, visit DeseretNews.com

From banging on trash cans as a toddler to receiving her first drum set as a 4-year-old, Milana has had rhythm in her soul ever since she can remember. And while she’s a little more serious about the art now — Milana practices at least an hour every day — it’s not because she has to, but because she wants to.

“When I do have a hard day, it always does cheer me up,” said Milana, who has also been a top-20 finalist in the global female drum contest Hit Like a Girl now for four consecutive years. “So, I would say the drum set makes me feel happy, and it just feels awesome playing it.”

Still, performing on national television was entirely unexpected for the musician. One day, while Milana was filming for another show in 2017, a crew member recommended her to the casting director of “Little Big Shots,” who immediately got in touch.

“We returned to our hotel room after filming and I had an email from the casting director of ‘Little Big Shots’ at like 10:30 p.m. saying, ‘Call me,’” Christensen said. “Everything has just come to us. Really, it’s due to (Milana’s) hard work and her dedication to her craft.”

That commitment is also thanks to Los Angeles session player and teacher Dave Elitch — who has worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry including Justin Timberlake, Miley Cyrus and the bands the 1975 and the Mars Volta — and who has more than prepared Milana for the stage.

“I haven’t been scared ever since my first performance,” said Milana, who had to master the song she plays on “Little Big Shots,” now on its third season, in just a matter of days. Walking out onto that stage, she said, just felt right.

“I’m the one that was nervous,” Christensen said, recalling the packed auditorium as Milana did a battle with the drummer Sheila E. “She wasn’t. She had it in the bag. She felt really confident about it.”

But even Milana — who has had the opportunity to play with Neon Trees, the Dave Matthews Band, Snarky Puppy, Ndugu Chancler (Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”) and Stewart Copeland (The Police) — said she still has to work on some things, the beat being one of them.

“You’re the clock,” she said. “When you’re in a band you need to keep that tempo.”

While she’s honing that skill, Milana has since picked up the bass guitar, guitar and ukulele and even sings.

Aspiring to one day be just like her idols Sheila E., her drum teacher, Danny Carey (Tool) or Josh Freese (Guns ‘N Roses), she hopes her performing will be a positive influence on those who hear her.

“I have … goals,” said Milana. “And those goals are playing for the world and making people happy and inspiring people to play music or drums, too.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Local News

Charles Alires, 34, was stabbed to death Thursday afternoon on Main Street in Salt Lake City. (KSL...
Brooke Williams

One SLC stabbing suspect in custody, police searching for another

Police are asking the public for help in the search for a second suspect in a fatal stabbing.
12 hours ago
Man accused of exposing himself at Utah store...
Shara Park

Man accused of exposing himself to underage girls at Utah store

The owner of Rad Swim in Highland is warning Utah families after she says a man exposed himself to her associate and several young girls in her store Monday evening.
1 day ago
High school teammates play in Super Bowl...
Ayanna Likens

2 former Stansbury High School teammates to faceoff in the Super Bowl

Two former Stansbury High School football teammates will face each other as rivals in the Super Bowl.
1 day ago
HOV lanes for pregnant women...
Katija Stjepovic

House passes bill allowing pregnant women to drive solo in HOV lanes

Pregnant women may soon be allowed to drive solo in HOV lanes after a bill allowing just that passed in the Utah House of Representatives Friday.
1 day ago
(Matt Rascon/KSL TV)...
Matt Rascon & Eliza Pace

KSL+: Healing in schools after Enoch tragic shooting

In the weeks following the tragic shooting in Enoch that killed five children, the school community continues to feel the impact.
1 day ago
FILE (Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images for UNITAS)...
Madison Swenson

Two Utah county men, business charged with $11M COVID tax fraud scheme

Two Utah County men, as well as an accounting business in Provo, have been charged with a COVID-related tax fraud scheme totaling more than $11 million.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
How a 10-year-old SLC drummer ‘beat’ her way to the stage of NBC’s ‘Little Big Shots’