She is product of the Manatee School for the Arts, the State College of Florida, and Florida State University, but now she is back home sharing her gifts of performing and teaching music on the Suncoast.
Katie Priest stars as Cinderella in the Manatee Players Production of the hit Rodgers and Hammerstein musical running December 2 through December 19 at the Manatee Performing Arts Center.
Listen to her interview about her life, career, love of performing, and the show Cinderella on this week's episode of the Suncoast Culture Club podcast.
Come along and join the club!
• Katie Priest Facebook & Instagram
• Manatee Performing Arts Center Website & Facebook & Twitter & YouTube
• Elizabeth Farrell Music Website & Facebook & Instagram & YouTube
• State College of Florida Music Program Website & Facebook & Instagram
Support the show (https://scf-foundation.org/suncoastcultureclub/)
Robyn Bell: My friends look who I have with me today in studio, the star of the Manatee players, upcoming holiday show Cinderella. She is an SCF music alumnus. She has also played Belle in the pops, orchestra production of Christmas, Carol, the concert ladies and gentlemen here is Katie priest. Katie, welcome to the club.
Katie Priest: Thank you for having me here.
Robyn Bell: First time. Auto podcast. Yes, my be your last might be a terrible experience and you never want to do a podcast.
Katie Priest: With you? I don't think so.
Robyn Bell: Do you, are you a podcast listener?
Katie Priest: No, not really.
Robyn Bell: We're to we're changing that about you today. So, Katie, I definitely want to talk to you about your show Cinderella. I'm running December 2nd through the 19th at the Manatee performing arts center, but first give us the rundown of your life. Let's talk about where'd you grow up.
Katie Priest: I was born in Miami. I am in, then I lived in the Florida keys for a little while.
Robyn Bell: And how many people can say that?
Katie Priest: Yeah. Right. It's usually the retired people, but
Robyn Bell: with a lot of money.
Katie Priest: Yeah. But there were some kids. And it was really cool.
Robyn Bell: What was your family doing in the keys?
Katie Priest: Um, we just had a house there. We just moved there for a little bit. And, uh, I, it is, it's honestly really cool for kids because almost everyone lives on the water and sometimes manatees would come through in the canal and we would just put a hose down and they would just take the hose and they would just drink water. And then when they were done, they just let go.
Robyn Bell: Wow. How old were you when you lived in the.
Katie Priest: Um, I was in elementary school.
Robyn Bell: Okay. All right. So eventually you worked your way up to Sarasota.
Katie Priest: Yeah, sixth grade. I went to Manatee school for the arts until my senior year.
Robyn Bell: Okay. So you were a M S a girl Manatee school for the yards from sixth grade through graduation. And there, you, I'm sure you were involved in the artistic things. They have to offer. Tell us all what you did there.
Katie Priest: Well, they offer so many things. So I tried all of it. I did dance. I did art, obviously musical theater. Um, and my senior year I was Laurie in Oklahoma. Okay. I said that was really fun.
Robyn Bell: That's a great production. Good. And then it came time to graduate and decide what is next for Katie and you, if I recall ended up here at the state college of Florida, so.
Katie Priest: I did
Robyn Bell: tell us about that decision-making process. What brought you to us?
Katie Priest: Oh, well, I was unsure about where to go for school.
Robyn Bell: Did you know what you wanted to do?
Katie Priest: I wasn't entirely sure, but I did love theater. I loved singing. And there were auditions for your scholarships here and I said, oh,
Robyn Bell: the S word.
Katie Priest: Yeah. Yeah, of course. So I, I ran over here. Yup.
Robyn Bell: But Ms. Dickerson,
Katie Priest: that Ms. Dickerson
Robyn Bell: changed her life.
Katie Priest: Yeah, no she, but she did though. And then I decided to go here and whenever I do interviews or anything for the school, I always say it's, it's great. The teachers here are great. The music theory was great with Rex Willis. It really prepared me to transfer to Florida.
Robyn Bell: That was going to say your next step. You left here. You were wildly successful here at Katie. What, what productions were you in while you were here? What productions did we do?
Katie Priest: We did, music, man. That was Anita and music, man. And then. The following year, we did west side story and I was Maria in west side story, and I was so nervous about it, but I felt so much confidence from Melodie to, take on that role. So
Robyn Bell: one of the things we talk about with people always about the state of Florida is. You know, if you had gone say straight to Florida state out of Manatee school for the arts, do you think you would have been cast as Maria as a sophomore at Florida state? So, you know, we're, we're small, we're local, but the opportunities here, I mean, imagine how many more years would you have had to wait to do west side story and be the star of the show?
Katie Priest: And what's great about being here is you, you get a lot of. Extra attention. Right. The classes are smaller and they're more focused and that's really how,
Robyn Bell: and you were in the chamber choir here?
Katie Priest: Uh, just choir.
Robyn Bell: Okay. Consequence. Yeah. So, but you were, I mean, you were a musical theater focus, so you were concert choir, musical theater, you'd hold music, major thing you got through the program and.
Katie Priest: Yes.
Robyn Bell: And then you transferred to Florida state. Okay. Tell me about that process going there. What was different about that versus here, here?
Katie Priest: Huge. So many vocal performance majors. It was insane. Um, recital hour was, um, we sometimes we'd have recital hour. Ruby diamond hall. I think it was called and it was just, the audience was failed. So many vocal performance majors. And I just thought if I were a freshmen coming in here, I'd be pretty, Terrified, I think,
Robyn Bell: but you manage to transfer in as a junior and you feel very at home there and prepared.
Katie Priest: Yes. When I transferred over, they took me in as a freshmen. Which is not uncommon, they did that with a lot of people transferring because
Robyn Bell: you didn't have to retake your music theory courses though. With lessons they wanted, it kind of wanted you to start with their teacher at that. Okay. I see. Yeah. All right. And so you got, , uh, vocal performance degree at Florida state
Katie Priest: general music,
Robyn Bell: general music. Okay.
Katie Priest: Yeah, because being vocal performance, it was opera focused.
Robyn Bell: did you know that when you transferred there?
Katie Priest: I did. And I wanted to try it out and see what that was like. And some of the music was beautiful. I liked to study it, but. Still a part of me was like, oh, I, I miss musical theater and that style and Rogers and Hammerstein. And so my, my last year there, I was there for three years, transferred to general music. I still continued to take voice lessons. I took some piano as well. I continued. Dr. Cheron and here it's not here anymore, but at state college of Florida and I just kept doing that. So,
Robyn Bell: and so you graduated with a degree, a general music degree, and you said I'm coming back home to Bradenton? Sarasota?
Katie Priest: Yeah. Just to see, okay. What do I do next?
Robyn Bell: And what was that for you? Where did you land?
Katie Priest: I started teaching. I didn't think I would start teaching. Um,
Robyn Bell: I think our mutual friend, Liz barrel, right?
Katie Priest: Yes. Yep. Yeah. Yeah.
Robyn Bell: I heard you were back in town. She has a music studio. She was looking for, you know, some singing teachers. I said, oh, here Katie braces around and give her a shout. Right. So you're teaching for how many students do you have a week through her business?
Katie Priest: Well now I don't have as many once I started Cinderella, I needed to cut back a little bit, but I also teach privately at home.
Robyn Bell: Okay.
Katie Priest: So I'd say about. 29 or 30 students, but at Liz's, I teach voice piano and beginners violin.
Robyn Bell: Oh, wow. Kanner's valid. So you learned the violin to teach violin to beginners?
Katie Priest: Yeah. Wow. And it's fun. Yeah. It's like the violence, like a hobby, something to do on the side.
Robyn Bell: Let's kind of go a singer and an instrumentalist all in one. Yeah. Very cool. And that's how you make your living. You teach singing and some violin students all day long.
Katie Priest: Yeah. And piano and piano. Piano kids. Yeah.
Robyn Bell: Well, you know, Liz plays piano in my pops orchestra. She's our pianist. Oh, wow. So I'll see her tonight for rehearsal actually. Yeah. Very cool. And. And sometimes she'll have an opening for a teacher. She goes, can you send me someone like Katie? Nah.
Katie Priest: Aw, that's awesome.
Robyn Bell: She's great. Now, where do you see yourself in 10 years, Katie?
Katie Priest: Um, um, I don't know because maybe, uh, maybe 30 year old Katie will have different ideas. I don't know whichever the, when life throws at me.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. Whichever way the wind blows.
Katie Priest: I'm sure I'll always be doing music. Okay.
Robyn Bell: You better be. Yeah. So we've worked together, as I said, in the opening, you were bell in our production of the Christmas, Carol, the concert, a very special role, uh, in great song. The, in that particular show, which is just to me, I wish we could do it every Christmas. It's such an amazing. What other, shows and things have you done in our area besides this upcoming Cinderella production?
Katie Priest: I've I've done other things with Manatee players in the past. I was in buddy Holly two years ago. Okay. Um, and then there was that gap of COVID. So this is
Robyn Bell: me nasty COVID yeah.
Katie Priest: A Cinderella. That's the first musical that I've been in since.
Robyn Bell: Were you able to continue your teaching through COVID?
Katie Priest: Yeah, it was online. It's all online. I did it on FaceTime.
Robyn Bell: It's challenging, right?
Katie Priest: Yeah. Definitely.
Robyn Bell: And at what point did you finally say, okay, we can meet back in the same room together.
Katie Priest: Uh, when Elizabeth said we can come back, it was up to her. Yeah,
Robyn Bell: it's been so nice. You know, last year here at the college, everybody was in the singing mask. The orchestra or the band, we were six feet apart on the Neal stage. It was like conducting a marching band, big football field, you know? Oh my gosh. And so we, they don't have those same requirements and we're kind of rehearsing and performing as normal. And so, you know, so far, so good knock on wood. And I know that you guys also, , at the Manatee players is this production of Cinderella sort of as normal are you having to practice any six feet and all that stone?
Katie Priest: I was completely normal. This past Friday was the first time. Without us having a mask on or performing on the stage. So every rehearsal we've had a mask on the entire time, so it was really exciting. And that was great.
Robyn Bell: It's so different. Yeah. Yeah. I didn't realize that's how you were rehearsing when you saw that the Manatee players was going to do the production of Cinderella. Did you jump on the chance to audition for the lead role?
Katie Priest: Sure. I mean, you should just go for it. I was, I said, why not? I just tried it. Yeah.
Robyn Bell: How long have you been in rehearsal for Cinderella?
Katie Priest: End of September, when we started
Robyn Bell: nice long time and how many cast members are there in the show?
Katie Priest: Maybe 20. Okay. It's not a big,
Robyn Bell: big, yeah, well you have some I've I've done some interviews with some musicals that are like seven, so yes, that's a good size. And you obviously play Cinderella.
Katie Priest: I do.
Robyn Bell: Yes. And who wrote the musical,
Katie Priest: Rogers and Hammerstein and so in the fifties, it was originally written for television and it wasn't until 2013 that it was put on Broadway.
Robyn Bell: Okay. So this is a television show. Couldn't get the opposite. Mostly it's a musical flipped to TV or film. This was a TV production flipped to be a musical. Yeah. And, uh, songs have just got to be great, right?
Katie Priest: Yeah.
Robyn Bell: What are some of your favorite ones you get to sing?
Katie Priest: Well, I like all of them. It's very beautiful, I guess, in my own little corner, because that's her song. I love that song.
Robyn Bell: Um, do you find yourself when you're in a show production, like waking up, hearing all these tunes in your head? Yes.
Katie Priest: Going to sleep, just trying to go to sleep and they're all running through. Yes.
Robyn Bell: And you have a leading man?
Katie Priest: I do.
Robyn Bell: Who's that? Who's our friends.
Katie Priest: His name is Christo. And then he has a fabulous voice.
Robyn Bell: Have you ever worked with him before? No. All right. Cool. His first time. And then I guess if I'm just thinking about the story of Cinderella, you've got your ugly step-mom and the stepsisters and all that.
Katie Priest: Yes. Yeah. It's a little bit different than the cartoon version from Disney.
Robyn Bell: Okay. How so
Katie Priest: that we all know, I don't know if I want to give it all away, but
Robyn Bell: you musical theater people I ever tell my interview. I can't tell it's a secret. It's like, oh man. Yeah, I understand.
Katie Priest: But, but one of the sisters, um, she's not purely evil and there's a part of her that feels sorry for Cinderella. And eventually she does want to help them. And we bond
Robyn Bell: in that. That's not shorter than normal. Yeah. Yeah. Well, that's good. Yeah. And then, do you get to ride in a big horse drawn carriage and all that?
Katie Priest: I do. It has fines all over it. It's very sparkly and it's gold.
Robyn Bell: How cool is that? Well, tell us more about sort of the set and the props. Tell us what it looks like, what we're going to see.
Katie Priest: Okay. Trees everywhere. Um, like I said, the carriage is beautiful. The cottage is lovely, very simple. Um, I wanted to read this actually. There's, a little note in the beginning of the script that I have. So this show Is made with modern sensibilities, but with a whole lot of traditional theatrical magic, the creators of this version wanted all the magic to happen in front of the audience's eyes. No dashing off stage to emerge instantly in a new costume, no smoke allowing sets to rise through the floor, no projections that world, the audience through woods and forests, everything would happen in theater time with theater magic.
Robyn Bell: So that's kind of a tough chore.
Katie Priest: So you're doing everything.
Robyn Bell: You have some costume changes on stage.
Katie Priest: Oh yes. Yeah. I have two costume changes on stage.
Robyn Bell: That takes a lot of practice, I think.
Katie Priest: Yes. Yeah. We had costumes for the first time yesterday.
Robyn Bell: Okay. So tell me about the costumes. Are they just beautiful?
Katie Priest: Yes, they are.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. Who did you know? Who did the costumes?
Katie Priest: Her name is Jean. She hasn't done costumes for, I think, four years. And she's really excited to be back and be doing costume
Robyn Bell: it's a long time to be off from sewing costumes. How about the wigs?
Katie Priest: The wigs are great. The fairy godmothers wig is gorgeous. It's this long Christine Daya, Phantom of the opera looking brilliant and brown, she looks so beautiful. She's in this, shawl and then she has a change where she just whirls it off and she's, she looks beautiful.
Robyn Bell: That's so cool. Yeah. And how long does the show run? Do you know? As far as.
Katie Priest: The more we run it, it gets shorter and shorter. So we're working on it, shaving it off. Um, how long did it take yesterday? Mm. Two hours.
Robyn Bell: Okay. There's an intermission.
Katie Priest: Yes.
Robyn Bell: Okay.
Katie Priest: 15 minutes.
Robyn Bell: Nice. And, talk to me about, the choreography and the dancing did the Rick Kirby, because I know he's a fabulous choreographer. Did he did the choreography for this
Katie Priest: actually this woman, Vanessa.
Robyn Bell: Okay.
Katie Priest: I don't know if you know, Vanessa she's she's choreographed for a few shows. Um, I just met. Through this show. Um, she's great.
Robyn Bell: She's she's actually good moves.
Katie Priest: Yes. I overheard that she's auditioned for the show Cinderella multiple times in New York. She's worked up there.
Robyn Bell: Wow.
Katie Priest: Yeah.
Robyn Bell: Audition to be in it or audition to Korea. Oh wow. We have so many amazingly talented people. And you hear where they've come from or where they've man or what they're doing. And you're like, I can't talk to enough of them. It's amazing. Have you made any new connections with this particular show
Katie Priest: um, Definitely.
Robyn Bell: cause you like, it's like taught some dance, right. You know, kind of a Fred Astaire dance instructor for awhile
Katie Priest: ballroom dancing. Um,
Robyn Bell: so you've got moves like Jagger.
Katie Priest: Sure. I don't know like that,
Robyn Bell: but, but, but I'm sure when someone comes in as a choreographer and explains to you, here's the moves you're going to do. And these are the dance steps. I would imagine very easy for you to pick up
Katie Priest: after teaching there.
And there's waltzing in because there is a ball. So everyone's waltzing in this circle and it's just very dreamy. And so I said, WOTSO sure the shoes they hurt so much. I need to put a shoe horn in them, eventually the glass slippers.
Robyn Bell: So you have real life.
Katie Priest: No they're plastic. Okay. Shut. Tell anybody
Robyn Bell: nobody listens to this podcast.
Katie Priest: Yeah. There's plastic, but I need to, I need to stretch those out.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. Now you talked to me about your favorite song, but let's, let's talk about the music de. Oh Trax, or do you guys have a live orchestra?
Katie Priest: Oh, tracks. Oh, well we wished we wish we could've had the orchestra, but after COVID, I think we're just,
Robyn Bell: it's expensive to pay all those musicians. People are, I don't know. As things come back, people are booked. It's really, I would imagine hard to say, Hey, let's put together a live pit orchestra. But you know, you've got a great sound system and, you know, for certain, the tempos every single time, so that's great.
Katie Priest: Yeah. It'll sound the same every night. No mess up.
Robyn Bell: That's right. That's right. You looking forward to, well, I should ask you this way. Do you like opening night or closing night better?
Katie Priest: Hmm.
Robyn Bell: That's a tough one. Isn't it
Katie Priest: being nervous? I think I like opening
Robyn Bell: opening.
Katie Priest: Yes. Yeah. It's so fresh.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. I wasn't closing night. Girl just was always in the pit, you know, playing my trumpet, but just like the after-party. Yeah, there wasn't seemed to be one for opening night. Maybe, you know, a big fancy Fu wants to, but mine, it was just a closing party.
Katie Priest: We are having a little opening sort of food afterwards and some wine and something. Nice. Yeah.
Robyn Bell: I might have to show up for that. Yeah.
Katie Priest: Yeah. You can come in.
Robyn Bell: Well, I would buy a ticket and see the show
Katie Priest: opening and just cut. Yeah. Then you're free to come in.
Robyn Bell: It's opening, 30.
Katie Priest: Yes.
Robyn Bell: And unfortunately we have a concert here at the college Thursday night, so I can't be in two places, but I do intend to come see Cinderella. I'm going to drag Ms. Dickerson to it. We're going to come together. Yes. She doesn't know this yet, so I'll be sure and let her know.
Katie Priest: That'd be awesome.
Robyn Bell: So what has been your favorite part of this process? Katie of, of starting, you know, you audition for the role. You get the part in here. You're about to open on Thursday. What's been like the most memorable part of all of this.
Katie Priest: Hm, I really enjoyed the music rehearsals just cause. Um, I was a musician first
Robyn Bell: and who's been rehearsing with you. Like you have an accompanist that kind of rehearsals with
Katie Priest: the music director is Julian Hambrick. And I what's interesting is I worked with her at St. Stephens. We were both teaching.
Robyn Bell: Yep.
Katie Priest: I was there and
Robyn Bell: she's still at St. Stephen's
Katie Priest: still there.
Robyn Bell: Yes. That's really cool. And so do all those rehearsals take place at the Manatee performing arts center?
Katie Priest: Yeah. There's um, an upstairs ballroom rehearsal space. I mean, it's sometimes in the lobby because, in the beginning, Mama Mia was happening at the same time. So we'd be switching around while they were performing. We'd go upstairs
Robyn Bell: and, and that's, you know, that's something people should understand that when you're at a show like, or you're at the Manatee performing arts center, and there's a show going on while you're watching a live. They are in production for the next show already rehearsing planning. It's a never ending process for certain, any thoughts of going further down this line for your career? You know, taking maybe a director role or a, or a music director role.
Katie Priest: I think that'd be great. I'd love to music direct. I mean, right now, , I'm a part of a Saturday music and theater camp, the players in the mornings. So I choreograph with Michael and I'm also the music director for that for kids.
Robyn Bell: So you're already got your toe in the sand there.
Katie Priest: Yeah,
Robyn Bell: I think you'd be created something like that.
Katie Priest: Be really fun. I love, the leadership roles, as well as performing and just being an accompanist, , all of the music roles
Robyn Bell: and what a great place that we live, where you, Katy priests can go off to Florida state and come back and really do everything you wanted to do. With your career.
Katie Priest: Yeah. There's so many opportunities here you wouldn't think, right? Yes.
Robyn Bell: Yep. Well, we're really proud of you here at the state college of Florida. We just smile every time ear to ear. Well, we are looking forward to seeing you and seeing the show and rooting you on and all your fellow cast and crew members. Uh, so don't miss Katie pre starring as Cinderella in the Manatee players production of you get. Cinderella showing at the Manatee performing arts center. December 2nd through December 19th, you can get your tickets by going to Manatee performing arts center.com or by going to the calendar of events page on the Suncoast culture club firstname.lastname@example.org. Katie, thanks so much for joining me today and sharing your beautiful story of life, filled with music, making and teaching, and best of luck to you in Cinderella. Happy holidays.
Katie Priest: Thank you.