“IT’S HONESTLY NOT ABOUT THE MONEY. We’re 15 and 16 years old and we wouldn’t be getting money anyway,” reasoned Dream’s Holly Arnstein of the group’s motivating factor to succeed. “If we were going to school, we wouldn’t be making a lot of money. Even now, we get free clothes or free this and I couldn’t really ask for anything more.”

While such rare comments in the music biz usually come out of the mouths of babes, what emerges from an interview with the inaugural pop signing on Sean Combs’ Bad Boy Entertainment label are young women who are committed, supportive, smart and realistic.

“If we do blow up really big and people are talking about what money we could be making, I’d say, right now, the record company is putting money into this new group to make it happen, so they’re the people taking the risk, not us. So they get their money first, then us. You have to try to understand that as an artist.”

The group’s debut album, It Was All A Dream, has spawned two Billboard hits. The first, “He Loves U Not,” peaked at No. 2 and the follow-up, “This Is Me,” is currently climbing the Top 40. And Arnstein,15, Diana Ortiz,15, Melissa Schumann,16, and Ashley Poole, 16, are determined to live up to their end of the bargain.

Eric Podwall of New York-based Evolution Talent Agency has been working with the foursome for about a year long before “He Loves U Not” or the album was released. Starting with Nickelodeon’s All That & More Tour with LFO and B*Witched, Dream has toured with pop music’s biggest acts such as Britney Spears, *NSYNC, and 98 Degrees.

“Dream really started working it hard and worked their way up doing tour after tour,” noted Podwall, who remained a constant figure in the Dream camp as the teen-agers switched management to Afterplay Entertainment earlier this year.

“We try to keep our acts always on the road so that as the singles break, they have the opportunity to play in front of thousands of fans.

“Dream has gone from playing Nickelodeon and Britney side stages to being the special guest on 98 Degrees, and now opening *NSYNC’s stadium tour and then going out on the MTV TRL tour. Now that the second single is happening as well, their positioning in their tours is getting bigger.”

Dream is the brainchild of the group’s original management, 2620. The Los Angeles- based company held local auditions as well as in New York City and Utah. Poole, Schumann and Arnstein were chosen from about 1,000 hopefuls.

Melissa Schumann
Diana Ortiz
Holly Arnstein
Ashley Poole

“When we first got the part, it was almost six months before anything happened. Then right after Memorial weekend (1999), we just started recording some things and we met Puffy and that was when Diana came in (January 2000),” recounted Arnstein, breezing quickly through Dream’s history.

Dream had already showcased for various record labels, singing a capella while performing choreographed dance moves. The labels had also heard the recordings of such tracks as “Back To You” and “I Miss You” (without Ortiz).

“Puffy kind of came out of the blue,”Arnstein said. “We thought we were going to sign with another label and all of a sudden, we went to Tahoe for the weekend and our manager (at the time, Kenny Burns) was like, ‘Well, Puffy heard six of your songs and he really likes them,’ and all of a sudden, it was like, ‘Whoa! We’re going to meet Puffy.'”

The showcase took place at the Beverly Hills Hotel and the CEO was sold, reportedly signing the group on the spot. The next step was recording the album, selecting material both submitted for consideration and written specifically for the girls. As well, Dream was given its first co-writing credit on “Pain” for coming up with lyrics by ad-libbing to the track.

Podwall said Evolution came on board early, as soon as he saw the vision for Dream.

“I saw something there that was exciting and so did (Evolution Talent’s) David Zedeck. We saw the music video and we saw the marketing plan that Bad Boy and Arista were putting together and we thought that this was something that could really be happening and now it is.

“They want to make it,” he added of the girls. “On the other hand, everyone their management and our agency keep their age in mind because they need time to be who they are. They need time to be Ashley and Holly and Melissa and Diana. They need their time to be their age and to go home and see their friends and family, so we try to schedule that in as much as possible. It only makes them better when they’re back on the road.”

Flying to see friends and family on days off is the main thing. Dream agreed it would welcome a fortune to go with the fame, but the girls do recognize that they’re leading a pretty incredible life at the moment and such sacrifices must be made for the greater good.

Arnstein points to the Dream song “When I Get There.”

“This song really speaks to the message that we want to get across to set goals in your life and there are things that are bigger than now and this moment. Sometimes, you have to give up something for what you’ll gain later.”