MacKenzie Reed's classical compositions are adventurous and dazzling, which isn't so surprising considering that she is also a dancer, juggler, church organist and writer, as well as a member of Kansas City's Moondrop Circus live band. A recent recipient of a Charlotte Street Studio Residency, Reed describes her music as "narrative-driven performance art which invites the audience to participate in a positive, communal experience." We are fortunate to welcome MacKenzie Reed to Listen Local.
Please introduce yourself. Where do you live and work?
Hi! I am a classically trained multi-keyboardist, composer, writer, and dancer. I live in Kansas City, MO but also travel frequently. This year alone I have performed in Chicago, Reykjavik, and Tokyo.
You’re involved with so many different aspects of composing that it’s hard to know where to begin. Let’s start with your recently-won Charlotte Street Foundation Studio Residency. What are your plans for this residency?
Shortly after I moved to Kansas City, I became a musician for Moondrop Circus, a local for-hire circus troupe. I collaborate to create and perform music for their shows, but I am also interested in creating original projects that use circus arts and live music to tell a story. I actually integrated this involvement with the circus community into my residency. On the weekend of the Charlotte Street Performers’ showcase, some of my circus collaborators and I performed a show in downtown in the middle of the lunch hour. It was so much fun to watch the reactions of passers-by! I love injecting this kind of performance art into everyday life.
Your Tweet from November 6, 2015, describes very well your scope as an artist: “Today: playing organ for the Episcopal Diocese of West Missouri. Tomorrow: a belly dance solo for the Grassroots Juggling Festival.” Connect these two endeavors for us.
I do have a very interesting performing life! I have worked as a church organist since I was a teenager; it has been my primary means of support. On that particular weekend, I played organ for a Eucharist with 300 Episcopalians in a hotel ballroom. Then I jetted up to Iowa to perform in a showcase during a juggling festival. I love all aspects of performing, and I get different benefits from these varying outlets. As a dancer, I can connect with my audience in a much more direct and energetic way. As an instrumentalist, my focus and heart goes through the instrument which really serves as a conduit of expression between the audience and myself.
What tools do you use to compose? What may surprise a listener about how your music is created?
Most of the music I compose is very narrative-driven; I tend to start with a creative writing exercise that helps me determine a story, character, or mood. I’m also very visually-oriented, so I’ll even put up photos in my studio that inspire the music I want to create.
Who really inspires you as an artist?
Interestingly enough, my biggest inspirations are comedians! Bill Bailey and Tim Minchin really inspire me because they’re both such fantastic musicians who wrap their music into their comedy routines. They’re incredibly versatile and have unique approaches to other performing arts - like acting - because, I believe, of their musical training.
What inspires you the most about the Kansas City music community?
What is unique about Kansas City is how warm and supportive the entire arts community is. I have received so much incredible support just in the short time I’ve lived here! It inspires me to take risks with my performances, plus I get valuable feedback from people I respect and admire.
MacKenzie Reed's book recommendations:
1. Three Simple Steps by Trevor Blake
I’m not typically big on self-help books, but this is actually a good one. Trevor Blake shares stories from his own life to illustrate his strategies for living life in an abundant and positive way.
2. The Dragon and the Foreign Devils by Harry Gelber
If you’re into Chinese history as much as I am, you will love this book!
3. A Little Bit Wicked by Kristin Chenoweth
I have a thing for autobiographies - they have a way of shining insight into your own experiences. This one is particularly funny and enjoyable to read.
4. The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero
Hilarious and remarkably insightful look at Tommy Wiseau.
5. The Politics of Truth by Joseph Wilson
This is actually an incredible autobiography! One of my big takeaways is to always be open to a change in life course because it might actually land you right where you were meant to be.
6. A Magnificent Catastrophe by Edward Larson
This tells the story of the 1800 presidential election, which marked the beginning of campaigning as we know it today. Fascinating and remarkably prescient.
7. What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller
I tend to be picky about the novels I read, but I really love this one. I’m fascinated by stories that assert an unconventional narrative style, as this one does. I highly recommend it!