Alex Zickafoose, Star of Manatee Players' Pippin, Joins the Club

Alex Zickafoose, Star of Manatee Players' Pippin, Joins the Club

He is a homegrown talent whose path to musical theatre began at Braden River High School, continued at the State College of Florida, ventured to the University of South Florida, and landed him as the choir director and department chair at the Visual and Performing Arts program at Booker High School
Now, Alex Zickafoose continues his creative expression outside of Booker VPA by being the musical director at Spotlight Theatre Production and performing community theatre productions at the Manatee Players. Catch him as the lead role in the Manatee Performing Arts Center's production of Stephen Schwartz's Broadway hit Pippin August 12 through August 29.
Take a listen as Alex tells us about his love for community theatre, his students' experiences during Covid, and the best gelato place in town!
All that and more on this week's episode of the Suncoast Culture Club! Come along and Join the Club!

• Alex Zickafoose Facebook & Instagram & Twitter

• Manatee Performing Arts Center Website & Facebook & Twitter & YouTube

• Rick Kerby Facebook & LinkedIn

Booker VPA Website

State College of Florida Music Program Website & Facebook & Instagram

Spotlight Theatre Production Website & Facebook

The Pops Orchestra of Bradenton and Sarasota Website & Facebook & Instagram

• Michael’s on East Website & Facebook & Instagram

• Lido Key Beach Website

• St. Armand’s Circle Website & Facebook & Instagram

• The Columbia Restaurant Website & Facebook & Instagram & Twitter & YouTube

• Settimi’s Gelato Website & Facebook

• Kilwins Ice Cream Website

• Crunch Gym Website Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

• Cortez Seafood Festival 

• Bradenton Blues Festival Website Facebook

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 Robyn Bell: Today I have the pleasure of visiting with one of my all time. Favorite SCF alumni and musical collaborators. Mr. Alex Zickafoose Alex came to SCF from Braden River High School in Manatee county. And while here at SCF, he played bari saxophone in the symphonic band and jazz band. He sing in the concert choir and chamber choir. He performed in the musicals directed by Melodie Dickerson. Most notably to my heart. our Harold Hill in the Music Man, he then went onto USF in Tampa, where he got a bachelor's degree in music education and landed a real job as the choir director and all things musical at the visual and performing arts magnet program at Booker High School. He has amazingly found time to keep up a performance career. He's performed with my Pops Orchestra on two occasions and in many local musical productions, including starring in the Manatee Players, productions of Pippin that runs the Manatee Performing Arts Center, August 12th through 22nd, which we are going to hear all about Mr. Alex Zickafoose. . Welcome to the club. 

Alex Zickafoose: Hi, how you doing? 

Robyn Bell: I'm doing great. Now that you're here. I feel like I haven't seen you in forever. 

Alex Zickafoose: was just walking the halls of SCF and 

Robyn Bell: It's not the same place when you were here. 

Alex Zickafoose: It is definitely changed for the better, for the better. Definitely. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. We got this new, yeah. In addition the $7 million addition. So the choir has their own choir room. Now we have a recital hall, they just carpeted the band room as we call it. 

Alex Zickafoose: I got new carpet smell. You know, 

Robyn Bell: it's kind of stinky in here today. So Alex, I gave a brief rundown of your career thus far as I know it. But do you remember when like the music bug hits you when you decided I'm going to do this for a.

Alex Zickafoose: Wow. Well, my parents like to tell me this story of when I was an infant that I, I saw the Titanic, 

Robyn Bell: the movie,

Alex Zickafoose: the movie, not the, not the boat, I'm not that old, but I saw the movie, the Titanic in the theaters. I was a little kid and my mom always likes to tell me about how I. Sobbing at the end credits because of the music because of James Horner's score. And I love movie scores and that's kind of how I developed a love for music in general. And then once I saw my first Broadway show, it was Lion King. Nine when I saw it. 

Robyn Bell: And was that in New York? 

Alex Zickafoose: In New York? Yes. That was the first show I've ever seen was the first Broadway show I've ever seen. And I, and 

Robyn Bell: you were hooked. 

Alex Zickafoose: I was hooked. , I remember the taxi ride back to the hotel and I was like, yeah, I want to do this for the rest of my life. I don't care what I do. I just want to be a part of it. Yeah. Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: And you, you had that experience, like I said, you came to us from Braden River High School at Braden River, you were very active in the music program there. 

Alex Zickafoose: Very active, but I didn't start being really active until I decided that I wanted to be active in there. I remember as a freshman, I was a really awkward freshmen. Yeah, we were. But the first year cheer at Braden River, I was only in the theater, because I was on my musical theater high as a little person. And then I ended up in the marching band because one of my best friends at the time was in the marching band. And I just wanted to spend more time with him. So I. Picked up a tenor sax, and I started learning and all of a sudden I was in the marching band. And then what, what do you know I'm hooked in the marching?

Robyn Bell: Well, it very theatrical and of its own 

Alex Zickafoose: very much so. And when you watch like DCI and you watch so many other drum corps, it's like, wow, this is basically a new kind of theater in itself. 

Robyn Bell: It's an eight minute theatrical production. 

Alex Zickafoose: Exactly, exactly. And and again, Way to fall in love with music.

Robyn Bell: Well, I know you, of course, here at SCF is a very talented instrumentalist playing the bari saxophone, but your true love of music making is more in the vocal realm, right? 

Alex Zickafoose: Yeah. Especially now, because. My time is so much spread everywhere else. I can only focus on the facets that I am strongest with, and I feel strongest with my voice. 

Robyn Bell: And do you have, like in your head, a quick listing of all the shows that you've been in?

Alex Zickafoose: Oh my goodness. 

Robyn Bell: How many would you say you've been in, 

Alex Zickafoose: Musical theater productions. I've probably been in 20 to 25 throughout all my life. All especially the last five years, as far as being behind the scenes, as far as being, you know, either a music director or director that number probably doubles. My principal, Dr. Rachel Shelley just kind of got onto me today about being a yes, man. I, feel anytime someone, comes up with me to an opportunity to just be a part of something. 

Robyn Bell: Like when I text you and say, Hey, come on my podcast, you wouldn't turn me down, Alex, 

Alex Zickafoose: of course. 

Robyn Bell: Well, and I, like you, I have trouble saying no, I say yes to everything. Cause I, like to be, in the middle of the action and stimulated and I think you and I share that. I think we have a lot to offer other people in our certain skillsets. And so you were here at SCF or Harold Hill in the Music, Man. What else were you in? 

Alex Zickafoose: Here I was in Children of Eden. That was my first one. And that was probably the first time. I didn't know the musical that I auditioned for. But now it's one of my all time favorite it's I'm on a show. It's a fantastic show. The Steven Schwartz music. Beautiful. And it's very underrated and not many people know it. It's not one of the big Broadway. I call it the big, but there's always like a fifth one. It's not Lion King, Wicked Phanton Les Mis or Hamilton. It's not like. Once that gets you hooked on Broadway, but I love it a lot and actually I'm directing a production of it. Now with my second job Spotlight Theater production directing it.


Robyn Bell: tell me about Spotlight Theater Productions. I don't know about this. 

Alex Zickafoose: I started with spotlight six years ago. Six years ago, I was in a production of Little Mermaid at Manatee. I got involved with a bunch of other people in the production and they started me on Spotlight and Spotlight is this after-school program. It's headed by Cynthia Ashford who is another faculty member at Booker High School. And we take a production. It's a junior production it's if you didn't junior, but we take that production to the junior theater festival in Atlanta. And then. Headlined byI-Theatrics and MTI. And it's a wonderful way to be adjudicated by people who write these shows and put it on them is 

Robyn Bell: kind of like an afterschool program 

Alex Zickafoose: afterschool program out of a summer program in this case 

Robyn Bell: is housed at Booker 

Alex Zickafoose: It's housed by Spotlight. It's its own 

Robyn Bell: their own facilities. 

Alex Zickafoose: Yes, we have our own hall. It's the national little carriers building it's on 17th street. It's very, it's, it's, it's very quaint. Definitely. 

Robyn Bell: And you do performances there.

Alex Zickafoose: Occasionally they actually do summer camps, there, and every summer we have like a week where, we invite kids to go ahead and spend the day we put on a production. I actually saw a cool production of Legally Blonde junior there 

Robyn Bell: what is your specific role with the Spotlight? The musical? 

Alex Zickafoose: I am the official music director. 

Robyn Bell: Okay. So you rehearse the, singers and prepare the music? 

Alex Zickafoose: Definitely. I do, you know, cuts music. I sometimes change keys for sure. We have developing voices all the time. But this is my first time at spotlight directing. And, Fits that it's Children of Eden because Children, it was just a special show in my heart. 

Robyn Bell: It is now you were getting your feet wet now. I mean, you're a seasoned performer. You're getting your feet wet as a director music director, but maybe also you want to direct your own show. 

Alex Zickafoose: I definitely feel like that's something I want to do. And it's my first time with spotlight that I've done this, but I've done it before and I do it now at Booker. Oh my goodness. The music productions. I do my best to make sure that my music concerts, that I direct are more than just a regular concert. Pause number, pause, applause. Maybe it's a show. I rent lights. I make sure that the audience is involved. If there's any theatrical elements like me dressing up as someone 

Robyn Bell: okay.

Alex Zickafoose: Me dressing up for. Oh, well I was a nun at one point I had my, 

Robyn Bell: That does not that fit you? 

Alex Zickafoose: I made it fit. We did a Sister Act number and all the girls were rocking out, rocking out and I surprised them in a nun costume and oh yeah, we have fun at Booker High School Music. 

Robyn Bell: Well, you know what I see, I like social media stuff. I see that. And I think man, he is having a great time there and those kids are too. 

Alex Zickafoose: It's a real sense of belonging at Booker. I love what I do and I love to, share what I love with the students. And, we have a great time., 

Robyn Bell: you know, it's very seldom that someone comes straight out of high school and kind of lands their dream job, but it seems like you're in your dream job, Alex.

Alex Zickafoose: Very much. That's that's actually, I, my father just said that to me probably about two weeks ago. He's a very smart man. It's very, yeah, exactly what you just said. 

Robyn Bell: Well, of course you were a huge hit with our Pops Orchestra audience and the Jersey Boys, California Girls, I guess three years ago now three and a half years ago. Can you believe that cOVID that time stood still 

Alex Zickafoose: the last year and a half? Probably. Oh, yeah. Sometimes I, wake up and I'm like 2020 maybe. Oh no. It's 2021 up there. Yeah, 

Robyn Bell: it just disappeared. So it was so much fun listening to you hit those high Frankie Valli notes. Do you find it hard balancing having this full-time teaching job, you know, conducting a high school choir program and then fulfilling your need to also perform as an individual?

Alex Zickafoose: Well, to say it's easy would be a lie. I definitely have had those days when I'm in the middle of doing a show outside of school and then doing school on top of it, there are definitely hard days, but Their rewards far outweigh the tribulation that gets let's do it.

Robyn Bell: And you have to be someone. And I know this because you and I, you know, walk this same tight rope. You have to be totally in control of that calendar. Then when you say yes to something, you got to look and say, okay, what's one week before. And once one week after that, because you don't know if you cut a big show coming up, either at Booker, or you got a big show coming up that you're performing and you just can't. Do both. Right? 

Alex Zickafoose: Definitely. And my students will be the first to tell me that anytime that I mentioned dates, I point to though I have a calendar on my my stage left wall. 

Robyn Bell: Okay. Yeah. 

Alex Zickafoose: For, to my, my classroom 

Robyn Bell: is . 

Alex Zickafoose: I have a calendar on the wall. Well, and it's, probably the size of me and it's that month. And anytime that I referenced a day, I just point to the calendar. And sometimes when I don't point to the calendar, my students just veer left a little bit. They'll they're looking at the calendar, making mental notes, like, okay, cool. This Thursday, there's a rehearsal two to three. Okay, cool. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. Well, I remember when we did the Pop show, the Jersey Boys, California Girl. So you had a lot of students come to see you perform. 

Alex Zickafoose: Yeah. My students like, to poke fun at me whenever I do something, that's not quote unquote normal. The nun costume is one thing, but when they see me. Or like, 

Robyn Bell: I didn't know how to edit it. 

Alex Zickafoose: So, so, and I'm sure there'll be some students that come to Pippin as well. And yeah, it's nice to see them in the audience. Give them a show. 

Robyn Bell: Now Scott Keys at Booker High School. He kind of ran the musical theater program there and he has just retired. So what is that going to look like going forward for Booker? 

Alex Zickafoose: Well, right now we just went through a summer of change, especially after this really crazy year. And then Scott retiring and we had a lot of other teachers on the academic side when it go ahead and move on to other programs. I went to the first faculty meeting and I'm looking around at all these new faces and I'm like, wow. A lot has changed this summer 

Robyn Bell: with Scott's retirement. Is that going to open some doors for you to do more with their musical theater program? 

Alex Zickafoose: Well, me being the yes, man, that I am probably. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah, but that's good for you. I mean, you're excited about that. 

Alex Zickafoose: It's exciting. It really is exciting. There's like a threshold that, if there's. There's some great opportunity, like, something along those lines. Then again, I have to weigh all my options. Like I'm always good to say yes for production or something like that, but you know, when it comes to, getting myself more involved in Booker and more involved in everything there I have to sit down and think about that one. Because we already do a lot in the side of music. And we have six incredible departments that Booker VPA I'm heading the music department with Ms. Sung Cho. And, I love working with the staff over there and it's, a great team effort that we do to make the entire VPA department function. 

Robyn Bell: Right. But one thing I'm sure, because I think about the same thing for myself is you also enjoy doing these community theater programs and starring in musicals. And so you. As a creative outlet, you have to make sure you leave enough time for that. Yeah. Yeah. That's the balancing 

Alex Zickafoose: and my mother, if she's listening to this, she will know she says the word balance and all of a sudden I'm like, oh no, I'm saying yes to too many things.

Robyn Bell: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, but everything I've seen you do and everything I've seen you perform in. Yeah. It's always top quality. So 

Alex Zickafoose: thank you. 

Robyn Bell: And yeah, I mean, it's really enjoyable. You're a great entertainer and a great educator and a great performer. So, when it starts to slip, that's when you know, you're overdoing it when you can't get to your best level and all of the things you said yes to. So as long as you're there, I think you're good. 

Alex Zickafoose: And I definitely feel the same way. We all have our performances where we don't think it's the best quality that we could have done. It's those times where I reflect, okay, where did I go wrong? What could I have done better? And again, we function as creative beings. We function as evolving beings. And so we're constantly changing the things we do and the way we do them. 

Robyn Bell: Right.

Alex Zickafoose: I feel there's part of me, that's lacking, I try my best to make sure that I'm developing that.

Robyn Bell: , I referred to it as fertilizer in our gardens. You know, like, like if I've got a garden or a flower bed, it's not to them. Well, I've took all my attention to it. I put the fertilizer and I water it and it starts to do it. Then over here, I haven't been paying attention to this one. And so now I've got weeds over here, so then I got to go there. So it's just making sure everything stays in check.

Alex Zickafoose: It's like that scene in Ice Age, where the little rat creatures like has its holes and all the plugs in the dam. And then like all of a sudden the dam breaks because they had too many plugs in the holes. 

Robyn Bell: I know, I know that the dam is not going to break for you. 

Alex Zickafoose: I don't believe 

Robyn Bell: so. Speaking of your Booker VPA job. And we already mentioned COVID, but tell us, because this is part of the podcast is because it started during the pandemic and we are talking to performing arts people and visual arts people. Talk to us about what COVID looked like for you personally and professionally. 

Alex Zickafoose: Well, I had to start dealing with the pandemic right away. Funny story, a little tangent before I go into the serious stuff. Before the pandemic about three weeks before the date, March 13th, March 13th, 

Robyn Bell: Friday the 13th, 

Alex Zickafoose: Friday, the 13th 2020. That was when everything went to crap. Three weeks before then I had a gig as a little MC slash auctioneer at Michael's on the East. And I remember I had to auction off. Cruises for people who just wanted to buy cruises. 

Robyn Bell: And at this point we kind of knew the virus is going down the cruise ships 

Alex Zickafoose: and so like, 

Robyn Bell: he didn't do a very good job of selling those. I bet 

Alex Zickafoose: I tried my best, 

Robyn Bell: not your fault, 

Alex Zickafoose: the awkward silences. I will never. Boom. 

Robyn Bell: That's a tough gig, Alex. 

Alex Zickafoose: It was a tough gig. It was a tough gig, but going up to that point I had to deal with the pandemic right away because we had a New York trip scheduled for Friday the 13th to the 16th 

Robyn Bell: For my VPA, 

Alex Zickafoose: for my vocalgroup. Yes. Um, And so. Literally the day before we were supposed to leave on the trip and we were in spring break at this point. And so I was on the phone with my principal and I was getting hourly updates from her saying, okay, the district hasn't said that we can't go on this trip yet. So the trip's still on. And then I had people dropping out of the trip and at one point I just woke up that morning and. Guys, we can't go on this trip and for good reason, because over that weekend, Broadway shut down. We probably would have been stuck in New York for a lot longer than the trip was. But then, we went for spring break, everything was going down and I was sending remind messages to my kids, little motivational things here and there. Saying, Hey, just checking up on you guys. I know things seem bleak right now, but we're gonna make it through and 

Robyn Bell: well school. I mean, you never really got back together for spring. 

Alex Zickafoose: Not really after spring break. No. There was one time where we had to cancel the rest of our season and I'm sure you had a similar thing to do 

Robyn Bell: for us. And I've talked about those with several people, it was almost like this deep breath kind of like, oh yeah, everything's been canned. I'm going to sit here and some peace and quiet for a little while. Did you have that same feeling? 

Alex Zickafoose: There were multiple moments of epiphany with me throughout the entire pandemic. There were a couple of moments when beaches opened again, I went to the beach and I just walk the beach and I'm like, if I. Wasn't in the middle of this right now, I would probably be at a show. I would probably be at a concert at a dinner. I would be helping to be doing something for all my multiple things that I do. One of the very few things that I'm thankful for, that the pandemic kind of made me realize is that I have to sit and breathe every now and then. I had a multitude of things to take care of during the pandemic, but for a few moments, I had time to breathe. I had time to relax. I had time to focus. I had time to read a book. I 

Robyn Bell: imagine that it's yeah. In that aspect of the pandemic was nice. 

Alex Zickafoose: Yeah, it was 

Robyn Bell: short-lived 

Alex Zickafoose: well, it was short-lived. Yes., I remember. Around May, June of 2020. We started doing some stuff for our seniors that didn't get a graduation, didn't get a prom. And then over the summer was just a summer of confusion because we didn't know whether we'd been a start. We didn't know if we were going to be doing all in-person all online. And then we started hybrid learning. If you want to make a teacher cry, just say the words hybrid learning or zoom or 

Robyn Bell: e-learning. 

Alex Zickafoose: Yes. And this past school year, we had a motto. Survive and thrive, be safe, but make sure what we're doing to be safe is ensuring that we can be successful in everything we do. We did outdoor concerts. We did Zoomzicals. We adapted ourselves to make sure that the students doing nothing during this. And I asked my students at the end of the school year, last year, do you think we had a successful year? All of them raised their hands and said, yes, 

Robyn Bell: Isn't that great.

Alex Zickafoose: We put on our performances, we, recorded ourselves. We did. Virtual concerts. And at the end of the day, we thrived 

Robyn Bell: you thrived, you survived and survived, and we thrive. All. I asked you on the podcast today to tell us about your latest project with the Manatee Players you are starring and the fabulous musical Pippin that runs at the Manatee Performing Arts Center from August 12 through August 22nd. So tell us what made you audition for the part and how this show has come together for you and Rick Kerby 

Alex Zickafoose: Well, me and Rick, we go way back back to right after I saw that one production of Lion King when I was a kid I went to a Broadway bootcamp. He was directing it. And then from there, we've just been doing shows together. But this production. I saw that Manatee, as he was putting on Pippin. And I love the music from Pippin. It's one of those, it's a great show. And the revival specifically I remember seeing like videos from like the ending. And then I saw a Booker production of it before I was at Booker. And I remember the show fascinated me. Essentially it's about this 20 something in medieval times, but it's the circus for some reason I'm going through it. Existential crisis. He's trying to be fulfilled. He's trying to find something to do with his life that is meaningful and that he finds fulfillment in and. I'm not going to lie. I saw a lot of that in myself. 

Robyn Bell: Yes. I can see them. 

Alex Zickafoose: And so I auditioned and as the cast came together a lot of my old friends from old shows some of my Booker students are in there as well. And it's it's oh, that's nice. It is really nice to have the students at Booker and Spotlight, like it's like kind of like, you know, work with them and be a colleague on top of being an educator. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. It's that transformational role where I was your teacher. Now we are doing this together as colleagues, but the kids. Know what to call you. You see that they don't know in this situation. Are you still Mr. ? 

Alex Zickafoose: Well, I'm kind of in the clear, because my last name, Zickafoose is kind of like a name onto itself. So even as a teacher, people could call me Zickafooseand I'd be like, Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: What are the kids? Did they call you Mr. , 

Alex Zickafoose: Mr. Z, what they call me. And if my father and I are ever in the same room, it's very confusing because he goes with the same name, but 

Robyn Bell: because he's a teacher as well. 

Alex Zickafoose: Yeah. He's a assistant principal at Mona Jane Middle School. 

Robyn Bell: That's right. That's right. That's a new middle school in Manatee County 

Alex Zickafoose: yes. Yes, it's beautiful. But this production it's very high quality. The performers are all at the top of their game. All of them performers, 

Robyn Bell: how, how many people are in the cast, 

Alex Zickafoose: I'd say the cast itself is probably around 20 or so. And then we have additional circus performers who are accompanying us on this. Journey. 

Robyn Bell: They all want to be there. They're all really giving lots of effort and 

Alex Zickafoose: yeah. And some of them haven't performed since the beginning of the pandemic or some of them haven't performed in a show. No masks, no. Like without the restrictions that we've been having to live with until now, and they're putting their all into it, we all are putting our all into this show and promise you, if you come see Pippin, you will. Definitely not be disappointed. The cast is on the top of the game 

Robyn Bell: and are there's some great dance numbers.

Alex Zickafoose: Oh my goodness. Incredible dance numbers, the opening number Magic To Do one of the greatest musicals. Opening numbers of all time. And the choreography by Rick Kerby. 

Robyn Bell: He's great. He's a great choreographer. Yeah, 

Alex Zickafoose: he's incredible. Yeah. And there's a lot of work and a lot of talent in this production.

Robyn Bell: Very good. And how long does it show run on this first time? 

Alex Zickafoose: As far as time goes, it is a two hour show. So there is an intermission and it's actually one of the shorter shows. That I've actually done there. Because I did Les Mis. Is there? Yeah. Three hour show. But two hours shows there's a lot of story packed into those two hours. It's very fast paced. we're never leaving the stage. That's cause it goes by really quick. But it's a lovely ride. 

Robyn Bell: It's such a neat place to perform too. It's a great hall. The, acoustics, the way the seats are set, you know, it has a really cool vibe to it. 

Alex Zickafoose: Definitely. Yeah, me. Cast members who always do shows at the Stone Hall. We went on stage for the first time, a couple of weeks ago, and we kind of got emotional because it was the first time that we've even set foot on that stage since our last production there and 

Robyn Bell: almost two years.

Alex Zickafoose: Yeah, exactly. And so like, we were getting a little emotional. I was like, wow. Happening. Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: I had Rick Kirby on the podcast several weeks ago and, you know, because I conduct a community orchestra and he's the artistic director for community theater. We shared with each other, our philosophy on the importance of community music, making, not just for the performers, but also for audience members and patrons. Yeah. Who loved to support the efforts of performers who. giving their all, not for a paycheck, but for the love of performing and you, Alex are a prime example of this, I think. So. Talk to us about your feelings about community theater and the role it plays in the cultural lives here on the Suncoast. 

Alex Zickafoose: So from the beginning of all of my endeavors into community theater, one thing that all performers have to think about is do I want to do this as a career and some people, can honestly say, I love doing this just for doing it. And as an educator and someone who performs at the community theater, I can honestly say that this is something I love doing. This is something that yes, I have. Professional. I have been paid to do this before, but I love doing it as I am doing it. Now I'm doing it with my colleagues. I'm doing it with my students. I'm performing with my friends, and I'm performing for a community that knows me. And I know them 

Robyn Bell: And they root for you. They're like in your corner, you know, you're like, look at this cheerleader.

Alex Zickafoose: Yeah. And part of the reason why I was, I love that is because there's an element of the quote unquote professional theater world is 

Robyn Bell: it's kind of ugly. 

Alex Zickafoose: It gets a little ugly sometimes. And the star power. It's the beautification of it. The one person singing the solo and not the awe of an entire cast coming together and performing a unit of a show, 

Robyn Bell: the ensemble, 

Alex Zickafoose: the ensemble. And that's something that, I love to emphasize with all of my students, the ensemble is the most important part of any show you will see.

Robyn Bell: I love that explanation. I had never thought of it that way, that professional theater can be more about the individual and community theater is all about. The whole, yes, the whole, and not just for the performers on stage, but the audience members that come, they are a part of that whole as well. Because like you say, they're here, they know you, they love you. They follow your career. It's not like they've gone to. Broadway. And they just watched some show where they don't know anybody.

Alex Zickafoose: I've grown up and seen the community grow as a, theater community, as a music community, as an arts community. I've seen the community grow and hopefully there've been some audience members who have been, seeing me grow into what I do 

Robyn Bell: totally. talked about the garden earlier, but you just like this huge. You're not even a flower. I think you're more like a, like a bird of paradise, you know, it's just getting bigger and bigger and more flowers on it. And it's, it's beautiful to watch Alex and you have lived here in the Bradenton and Sarasota area for a very long time. Now, your whole life. 

Alex Zickafoose: I am born and raised in Sarasota-Manatee. 

Robyn Bell: So team, you have someone coming from out of town to stay with you for the weekend and you you're going to take them. You're going to show them a good time for the whole weekend. So what are your must do places, events, arts organizations, restaurants. How are you showing your guests a great time here on the Suncoast?

Alex Zickafoose: Well, you kind of got me in a corner here because you know, I do all this stuff, but as far as the social life, I ain't got none, but 

Robyn Bell: you're providing the entertainment for people. 

Alex Zickafoose: Yeah. Let's watch, a movie and popcorn, you know? No as far as, taking people out in the town, I love, to just go for walks, you know? The beach is always a place like, even though like the sunset, the nighttime, 

Robyn Bell: what's your favorite beach? 

Alex Zickafoose: Lido. 

Robyn Bell: Okay. Yeah. So do you do the St Armand's circle stuff? Okay. 

Alex Zickafoose: If it's a Friday or Saturday, St. Armand's is always, a place that I like to go to, just to kind of like people watch to kind of enjoy Florida because 

Robyn Bell: it has a vibe. 

Alex Zickafoose: It definitely has a wow. I am in Florida vibe. And downtown Sarasota is a very, very beautiful place. That Ringling Bridge around the sunset, if you're ever going for a walk or if you want to go ahead and go for a really brisk run, that whole area, that Marina Jack area. That's my favorite area to go 

Robyn Bell: totally. now, if you're on St. Armand's where's your favorite place to eat 

Alex Zickafoose: Columbia? Aw. Yeah. The Columbia restaurant it's very natural and it's not fake. Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: No, it's it's real. 

Alex Zickafoose: It's definitely like you, there it is. There's the word tradition. 

Robyn Bell: All right. What about the other several ice cream places down on St. Armand's? Which one? 

Alex Zickafoose: Ooh, the one that sells gelato, I don't know the name, but there's one place that sells gelato specifically. 

Robyn Bell: How could you not vote for Kilwins? What's wrong with you? Oh, I'm just kidding. 

Alex Zickafoose: Kilwins always has a line. That line is a monster. I don't want to go there. There's Kilwins everywhere. You don't get a lot of everywhere you get Kilwins 

Robyn Bell: yeah. I've see you at Panera Bread sometimes, but do you have a favorite little coffee place, a breakfast place? 

Alex Zickafoose: You know, I'll be honest. I've been working on home, cooking my meals a lot.

Robyn Bell: Good for you. 

Alex Zickafoose: Because I'm the best at making breakfast. I have my protein smoothie. I have my avocado toast and I have. To over-easy eggs. 

Robyn Bell: You have really buffed up. 

Alex Zickafoose: Thanks, bye. So I'm perfect. Is it on purpose? Yeah, the shows very physically demanding too. So it's probably attributed that as well.

Robyn Bell: We say, do you have your tickets to the gun show? 

Alex Zickafoose: Do you have your tickets too? The gun show 

Robyn Bell: that's you Alex? Cause there's not, maybe not always the case. You've really worked on your physical endurance and your physical being 

Alex Zickafoose: Definitely um, Like I said, I whenever I can, I run the bridge I go to Crunch fitness and, during the school year, I don't really. Time to do that. There was one year where I dedicated myself to wake up at 5:00 AM to go to Crunch. I did it probably for the first three months. And then once November hit, I was like, no, 

Robyn Bell: I need some sleep. Can we go to that gym too? Yeah, that's good. It's a good gym. We have, we have a men's during the pandemic, but I pay every month for it. So one day I'm going to go back. Okay. Alex, we've reached our rapid fire section. I got a couple of questions for you. 

Alex Zickafoose: I'm ready. 

Robyn Bell: If you get them all correct, you win a trip. As I say to Cancun, the restaurant in Bradenton. Yeah. Chips and salsa after your workout. Okay. Number one, I think this is going to be really hard. Star Wars or Disney. 

Alex Zickafoose: Star Wars or Disney. Yeah. Why not? Both because I got to choose. Oh, I got to choose, well, I have a tattoo of Star Wars on my arms, so I'm going to choose Star Wars. 

Robyn Bell: You don't have a tattoo of It's a Small World down there. Yeah, no, that's it's at the VA. What was 

Alex Zickafoose: it? It's the forest theme. So I have a treble clef, like with a lightsaber on the back of my arm. 

Robyn Bell: I'm trying to make the notes.

princess layers thing. 

Alex Zickafoose: It's the scene where um, Luke is looking at the binary sunset. Yeah. Yeah. Beautiful. 

Robyn Bell: You have to have a pretty talented tattoo artists to do music correctly. Music notes. Yeah. 

Alex Zickafoose: Using literally with this is a result of. Four sessions so far 

Robyn Bell: and they're going to continue it up. I see where the staff is.

Alex Zickafoose: Yeah. And then in the middle, there's going to be like watercolor space and then stars and maybe a ship or two and 


Robyn Bell: That's going to be really a fancy tatt. 

Alex Zickafoose: Yeah. an inexpensive one. 

Robyn Bell: Mr. Z'sget some ink. Yeah. Okay. To conduct a choir or to perform in a musical. 

Alex Zickafoose: Ooh. I have to choose 

Robyn Bell: you do

Alex Zickafoose: ah, darn 

Robyn Bell: the rules.

Alex Zickafoose: Okay. Well I would say to conduct a choir the reason why conducting a choir is one in conducting, I'm not limited to a line. I'm not limited to a specific, cue or anything like that. I am looking and I can, yeah. Weird faces. I can goofy as I want. And I don't have another director telling me, it's like, Hey, stop being goofy. I'm like, no. 

Robyn Bell: Right. You get to decide. And also I find like when I played the trumpet, I kind of made mistakes, but when I conducted, I don't really make mistakes. 

Alex Zickafoose: And even when like you cue someone wrong like when there's a little slip up and there's like, There's like a I'm I, you can't hear it, but like, you know, I'm making my bed.

Robyn Bell: Right, right. But because your back is to the audience, they never know. Okay. Pippin or Harold Hill. 

Alex Zickafoose: Oh, I'm going to say Pippin. 

Robyn Bell: All right. You had talked about this earlier. You really connect with this character. 

Alex Zickafoose: I connect with the character. I connect with both characters, really. But Pippin right now is one is more relevant and two. To sing more as Pippin Harold, 

Robyn Bell: who doesn't sing that much. Does he? 

Alex Zickafoose: Yeah. It doesn't really sing that much. He's more of a rapper in trouble saying you're not in trouble in river city. Yeah. Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: You're right. It's not really melodic singing and thought about that. Okay. Ooh. This is a hard one to sit in a high school faculty meeting or to poke your eyeballs out with scissors.

Alex Zickafoose: Ooh, those scissors are really tempting 

Robyn Bell: faculty meetings or torture for music. Teachers come on. Coaches must feel the same way. 

Alex Zickafoose: Yeah, coaches, legitimately saw like the entire athletic department just walk out of a faculty, 15 minutes of it. 

Robyn Bell: We're going to talk about lesson plans now. My time here is up. That's hilarious. 

Alex Zickafoose: I have to go to the bathroom for 45 minutes. 

Robyn Bell: Speaking of the Bradenton Blues Festival or the Cortez Seafood Festival. 

Alex Zickafoose: The Bradenton Blues Festival. Yeah. I love me some blues. 

Robyn Bell: Good stuff. Yeah. All right. Frankie Valli or Freddie Mercury. 

Alex Zickafoose: Oh, wow. In a way you wouldn't have. Freddie Mercury with out Frankie Valli, but 

Robyn Bell: one had to come first.

Alex Zickafoose: Yeah. I'd say Freddie Mercury though. I'd say Freddie Mercury, his power. He is such a grandiose feeling. Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. Super interested in your answer to this. Okay. West Side Story or Hamilton. 

Alex Zickafoose: Oh, my gosh. I literally did a Broadway bracket for like my students. And this was the first one. And this is the one that literally had my students at each other's necks.

Robyn Bell: I believe it. This is like March Madness, Broadway. 

Alex Zickafoose: Wow. West Side Story or Hamilton given the choice. Oh, yeah. Given the choice, I would have to choose West Side Story. Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: I'm proud of you because most people in your age range would choose Hamilton. The older folks all choose the West Side Story. 

Alex Zickafoose: I would choose west side story because West Side Story, the original film I used to watch with my mom all the time. And that was the one then like that it has such a special place in my heart. The orchestration need I say more Leonard Bernstein and Hamilton. I love Hamilton. It's really good. And it legitimately deserves to be like one of the people's like first musicals to be exposed to. You had a little tired of hearing. Over and over again every now and then every time we get it, we get it. You're not throwing away your shot.

Robyn Bell: I live in Chicago. Yeah. I didn't see it in in New York. And honestly, when I saw it live, I had not heard. I mean, obviously I knew about Hamilton, but I hadn't really. Listened to it or studied it, I was enthralled. 

Alex Zickafoose: The first time that I listened to it, I was like, wow, this is incredible. And I'll be clear. I have not seen Hamilton live. I've only seen 

Robyn Bell: a billion dollars to do it. 

Alex Zickafoose: All right. And saw the Disney plus version and the enthrallment was there. 

Robyn Bell: We saw it on Disney plus too, but it had to turn the closed caption on. 

Alex Zickafoose: You have to turn the brightness up a little bit. Cause like, you know, 

Robyn Bell: it was dark. 

Alex Zickafoose: It was really dark. Yeah. Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. The, the concert master for the pit orchestra spoke to our music majors last year through zoom and she got Mandy Gonzalez to speak to. We did a whole zoom thing. It was so cool. 

Alex Zickafoose: That's incredible. Oh my gosh. Wow. 

Robyn Bell: Sorry. You were graduated by then. Okay. Opening night or closing night. 

Alex Zickafoose: Ooh. I would say closing night, I would say closing the night. I'm not gonna lie. I was about to say opening night because like the party afterwards, you can only have the drinks go out. Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: Um, there's a nervousness in that vibe, you know, of 

Alex Zickafoose: first round of the show I closing. The emotions are high, you're saying goodbye to your cast. It's the end of the road. And the entire rehearsal process at the end of closing night, everything like seems like it was great at the end of closing night. Like despite how long rehearsals were, or that one bad rehearsal where everyone just came in with a negative attitude or, you know, it just, yeah. Pretty rad. 

Robyn Bell: Do you get what I call, show blues after it's all over hype and you're just like, Ugh,

Alex Zickafoose: only for one day. And I commit myself to only feel at one day, because 

Robyn Bell: then you move on 

Alex Zickafoose: I make myself move on because if I don't make myself move on, then no future production would ever fill that.

Robyn Bell: Yeah, that's true. That's good. Okay. Here's your last question. I asked this one of everybody. So your, answers really, really important. Okay. Roundabouts or stoplights. 

Alex Zickafoose: Wow. Calling out downtown Sarasota. Honestly, I'm going to say it, and then you might give me the wrong answer one for this one, but I'm gonna say roundabouts.

Robyn Bell: No, and I have to say, I used to think stoplights better. Cause the roundabouts are crazy. But we had a guest that said, well, in the roundabouts you're paying attention and that stoplights everybody's on their phone, people run stoplights. And so it really made me rethink that maybe having an extra high alert is actually better.

Alex Zickafoose: And that's not the reason why I like roundabouts. I just don't want to stop. Like I find myself there all the time. I try not to be on my phone when I'm driving and you know, you should not text and drive. But the temptation is like, oh my gosh, I'm just here sitting in the stoplight. Let's turn the music up a little bit, maybe. Oh, Nope. I'm still feeling that urge to go ahead and do it. 

Robyn Bell: And let's be honest. The stoplights in our area are like 10 minutes long. Yeah, there was the first thing I noticed when I moved here. Yeah. Yeah. I think I've had a birthday and then it changed to green. So, well, congratulations, Alex Zickafoose. 

Alex Zickafoose: Thank you. This is my first podcast. Like I've never recorded this, but like this isn't, it's pretty cool. 

Robyn Bell: Well, you are now officially part of the club. Tell our listeners where they can go to follow you and all your musical shenanigans on the Suncoast. 

Alex Zickafoose: Well, you can follow me on Instagram. , a Zika Foose. That's A Z I C K FO O S E 32. That's on Instagram. And come see Pippin at the Manatee Performing Arts Center. August 12th. That's when we open and. It's going to be a fantastic show. You will not be disappointed 

Robyn Bell: and folks can purchase tickets to see you starring in Pippin with the Manatee Players at the Manatee Performing arts center, by going to Manatee Performing Arts or by using the Suncoast Culture Club Calendar of Events, that will take you to the ticketing website as well. Alex, how fun it is to continue to see your career soar. You are a superstar while you were here at SCF. Under the tutelage of Melodie Dickerson, you are excelling as a teacher conductor and mentor to all those vocal students at Booker VPA. And you are a gem in our community as a performer and entertainer. So keep up the great work and all of your many endeavors and let's find a way to make music together real soon. My friend, 

Alex Zickafoose: I will definitely be in your email soon. 

Robyn Bell: I'm really looking forward to seeing you in Pippin. Good luck, 

Alex Zickafoose: bye.