"I want her to grow up backstage and learn what this life is," Hilty told Playbill.com backstage following her soundcheck at JTF. "It's like a family."
Hilty (along with Oscar-winning songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, Tony nominees Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, "Glee" star Darren Criss, "Into the Woods" actress Lilla Crawford and more) greeted thousands of young students from around the world in Atlanta — and was thrilled to partake in the experience.
"I'm so excited," she explained. "I keep saying, 'I wish this was around when I was a kid.' It gives me hope that when you hear that all these arts programs are being slashed across America, things like this actually give kids an outlet for their passion for theatre [and] music."
She added that, with being a new mother, "It hits home in a completely different way now."
Hilty, who has been seen on Broadway in Wicked and 9 to 5, gave birth to Viola Philomena Sept. 18, 2014, in New York City. Her favorite parenting moment thus far? "There's little things every day!" she said, beaming. "There was the one day where… Oh, God! When she started to laugh, that was it! Hearing her laugh — I'll do anything to hear her laugh. You should see me. I do dance parties for her. I do all kinds of silly noises and faces."
As a new mom, "Everything's totally different," she said. "Everybody told me that it would be — and in the most amazing ways. I mean, we don't really sleep anymore, but that's okay! She's actually really great. She's four months. She's amazing. She's here. She travels with us everywhere.
"She has no choice but to be surrounded by a lot of incredibly talented, intelligent and smart and artsy people. I'm very envious of her already because she's already got so many cool people around her — not myself, but my friends are awesome!"
It's evident that Hilty and motherhood go hand in hand. At her concert, which closed the festival Sunday night, she welcomed a student (hand picked from thousands) to sing Wicked's closing number, "For Good." A teary-eyed teen took the stage and, with encouragement and support from Hilty, delivered a flawless performance and brought over 4,000 to their feet.
"I would say music is the universal language, right? It kind of bonds us all, and it's the ultimate teamwork," said Hilty. "A lot of people think, 'Oh, it's all about the star…' It is so much more than just one or two people. It is like a huge group of very talented people, both on and off stage pulling together and making people laugh and cry."
Check Playbill on Twitter and Instagram for clips, performances and footage from #JTF15, and look back for more coverage from this year's festival.
(Playbill.com staff writer Michael Gioia's work appears in the news, feature and video sections of Playbill.com as well as in the pages of Playbill magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @PlaybillMichael.)