Hardwick began performing at an early age, participating in minstrel shows in Brownsville, Pennsylvania. She sang, danced, played the piano, and was known as "Brownsville's own version of Shirley Temple." She later formalized her talent at Juilliard, studying as a keyboard artist, and earning a master's degree in piano performance. In 1975, Hardwick became one of two keyboard players in the Saturday Night Live band, wrote song sketches for the show, and later became Musical Director in 1986.
Hardwick took a hiatus from SNL to write songs for Sesame Street beginning in the late 1970s. She had previously composed music to lyrics by Alaina Reed (who would go on to play Olivia in the TV series) which were performed by Reed in the 70s at the Reno Sweeney nightclub in New York City. She was part of the team of Sesame Street musical personnel that won the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction and Composition in 1990.
As a performer on Sesame Street, Hardwick provided the voice for one of the Oinker Sisters. She also played keyboard on several 1970s Sesame Street record albums, including Let Your Feelings Show!, Signs!, and Aren't You Glad You're You?.
Her other credits include playing keyboard on The Wiz, writing songs for Big Daddy, Billy Madison (both with Adam Sandler), Stuart Saves His Family (with Al Franken), and It’s Pat (with Julia Sweeney), and she appeared as a member of the SNL band in the Andy Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon (with Jim Carrey).
- Copyright.gov Database
- Ancestry.com "Brownsville Minstrel Show Performers Went On To Successful Show Business Careers" by Glenn Tunney, December 10, 2000
- New York Times "Alaina Reed, Bold And Earthy, Sings At Reno Sweeney" by John Rockwell, July 20, 1975