Today we’d like to introduce you to Kathryn Lounsbery.
So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I’m originally from a suburb of Milwaukee – a city I still adore and miss very much. My father played horn in the Milwaukee Symphony and my mother was the executive director of several arts organizations. I grew up steeped in culture and rubbed elbows with famous classical and jazz artists at a very young age. Stand-outs include Philip Glass, Dave Brubeck, The Modern Jazz Quartet, Joan Baez, and Mr. McFeely from Mr. Rogers! For a time, my mother managed an African Dance Company (The Ko-Thi Dance Company) so I truly was exposed to nearly every aspect of western music, art, and dance.
I was always a creative kid – I spent hours composing, drawing, painting, and writing stories. I started piano lessons at the age of 5 with Constance Svete Kenney (we are still in touch!) and that lead me to major in piano performance at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Professor Martha Fischer guided me in the best possible way and to this day is an inspiration. For a while, I double-majored in journalism but when I realized that would mean five years of school, I just stuck to music. I graduated with honors and headed to Northern California.
My first job was as a vocal coach at Sonoma State University. I did this for two years. It was like getting a master’s degree. I learned so much repertoire and a great deal about teaching and coaching. I also music-directed and played in many shows in the bay area: Little Shop of Horrors, La Boheme, The Magic Flute. I met one of my dearest friends, Jenni Samuelson, and we gave recitals throughout Northern California.
I was making a great living and had a full life. Still, something was missing. I didn’t know what so I decided to go to grad school. I settled on USC here in LA since they had one of the best collaborative piano programs in the country. I was accepted and awarded a full scholarship. I studied with Dr. Alan Smith and learned so much about
technique, language, and repertoire.
I graduated with honors in the spring of 2004. A few days after graduation, I saw a job posting in the hallway. Alfred Publishing was looking for a marketing assistant. This lead to a seven years career at Alfred where I started in marketing and moved into the editorial department. I had several pieces published through Alfred and they were an incredibly kind and wonderful company. While there, I started gigging a lot and also playing piano for many groups at Second City. I had always loved comedy and this was a way to dive in.
Starting around 2014, I started stand-up comedy. It was VERY scary in the beginning. It is not a friendly world and the only way to “practice” is to just do it. Luckily I had some great friends who ran shows and gave me spots on their line-ups. I integrated my piano playing with comedy and that felt right.
Around this time, I started writing material for a solo show. I set a date for a workshop and from there, I performed in over a dozen times in LA, Northern California, New York City, Chicago, and Milwaukee. I called it “Kathryn Lounsbery Presents Kathryn Lounsbery” and there is a live album of it.
As a teacher, I’ve been on the faculty at AMDA since 2012. I was initially hired as a ballet accompanist but that soon snowballed into music director, group piano teacher, choral director, and ultimately a cabaret teacher. I owe a lot to Scott Conner for seeing that I could teach that. I adore AMDA. The community of teachers and students is lovely.
In 2016, I started a workshop called Authenticity & Bad-Assery. I guide singers (and non-singers) through the process of creating a three song cabaret set with custom musical arrangements and stories. We’ve had 13 shows at Rockwell Table & Stage and over 75 participants in the shows and one-day workshops. My co-pilot and music director is Mark Abulencia who I met at Sonoma State back in 2000.
In 2015, I started up my partnership with Roland, the world’s foremost manufacturer of digital instruments. I serve them as an artist, clinician, and, since the pandemic, a gal who makes videos in her apartment! I’ve always used their products so serving in an artist capacity with them is a no-brainer.
I’ve also had some fun “very LA” gigs. I recently vocal-coached Aubrey Plaza prior to her appearance at the Independent Spirit Awards. I helped Evan Rachel Wood learn a Chopin piece for a scene in “Westworld.” And I worked side by side with David Foster on his original musical “Primal Scream.”
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I’ve always had a smooth road in terms of being employed and making a living. My struggles have always been that I’m quick to boredom and constantly challenging myself to use all aspects of my talents and interests. I would say it’s a daily struggle for me to remain interested, fulfilled, and happy with my career. I’m learning to see it as an exciting challenge, though.
My wife, Helen, has been an incredible help to me. She gets me, gives me space, and then knows when not to give me space.
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
All of my training and schooling point towards a pianist and vocal coach. However, my specialty and great interest is helping performers find their most authentic selves. I’ve had some clients reach out to me more as a life coach bordering on therapists. I find that very satisfying work and it taps into my abilities as an empath.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
I’m so proud of my show “Kathryn Lounsbery Presents Kathryn Lounsbery.” I created it from the ground up and it really doesn’t resemble any other show that exists. I say that because I didn’t have anything to model it after.
I’m also proud of the “Authenticity & Bad-Assery” workshop. We have a beautiful community and the shows are always joyful, touching, and bad-ass.
- Website: ThatPianoGirlKat.com
- Email: ThatPianoGirlKat@gmail.com
- Spotify: https://open.spotify.
- iTunes: https://tinyurl.com/
Aaron Willcox Photography, Helen Berger, Rachel Brookhart Carmichael