A star on the stage and in the community

Published 7:04 am Tuesday, December 4, 2018

By Carolyn Bogott

American Association of University Women

How many other residents of Austin can saythat they have been in 88 Summerset and Riverland Theater productions?

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That includes 46 musicals. Add to that six “Forever Christmas” shows in Rochester with Penny and Steve Kinney, 11 “Michael Veldman and Friends Christmas Shows,” plus numerous performances with Northwestern Singers, as well as the a cappella quartet “InSynque,” and Riverland alumni productions. Then include the costuming for more than 50 shows. This is a person who has a real passion for music and the theater arts!

Kaye Perry

Kaye Perry is very modest and self-effacing. She gives credit to so many mentors, too many to mention here, who have convinced her she could do things she never imagined herself doing. Early on she did realize that she loved making music. Given a one-octave battery-operated toy organ by her parents, she learned to play tunes.

Next came a small plug- in electric organ. She also had musical experience with the flutophone at Holy Cross Lutheran School, where she got in trouble over and over for playing this plastic instrument inside her desk lid when the teacher left the room.

Although she begged for a piano, Kaye’s parents could not afford one, but they did own a large accordion on which she was allowed to have lessons at the Kopet’s music store. As a fourth grader, Kaye would arrive early and play a piano in the store before her accordion lesson. Mrs. Kopet soon was giving her an hour-long lesson on both instruments for the price of the half hour lesson. And later Mrs. Kopet gave Kaye an old upright piano so she could continue piano lessons.

As a parochial school student, Kaye did not have the opportunity to start on an instrument in fifth grade. When she started in the public school in seventh grade, her mentor, Mrs. Kopet came to the rescue again, with a payment plan so Kaye could rent an instrument, the flute.. She started in last chair as she had only just begun learning flute, but in a month, Mr. Dave Kallman, the music teacher, moved her up from twenty-first chair to first chair. “I don’t know how I did it,” Kaye said.

In ninth grade she was able to move to bassoon and in 11th grade, to oboe. She credits the music teachers, Mr. Jack Tedrow and Mr. Dave Jordahl, with her success in these years on these instruments.

Participation in music making was not her only high school extra curricular pursuit. She tried out for the band’s flag corps and made it. Then she noticed the posting for tryouts for baton twirling. That sounded like even more fun. She had no experience, but she got a friend show her the basics the same day as the tryouts, and Jan Muzik chose her to be the majorette. After high school Kaye moved on to Riverland and participation in the Briars. This was her first experience with singing.

She had never even been to the production of a play. Kaye says that Dick Flisrand asked her to be in her first dramatic production. He told her she already did singing and dancing (choreography) in costume with the Briars, and the part she would have in “Lil Abner” would only have “a few lines.”

She said that this first “on stage” experience was “A blast!” And that was the beginning of Kaye’s gifts to the community through drama. “I love to know that I am giving joy to others. I want to spend my time and energy on positivity.” Kaye says she feels lucky that her performances have benefitted so many charitable causes, including the Paramount, Red Cross, Autism, the children’s department at the hospital, and Riverland scholarships.

Kaye says she has always had the full support of her husband, Scott, as well as her three children. Currently she works three days a week as a pharmaceutical technician at Mayo Clinic Health Systems Austin Clinic Pharmacy. AHS Alumni Band, directing choirs at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, Summerset Theater Board, and helping with the Artworks Festival are some of her current pursuits.

“Everyone has God-given talents. I would not have been able to do these things without all the mentors I’ve had in this community,” Kaye said. “If I can mentor and encourage others so they can make a positive impact, I’ll be happy. Life is all about paying it forward.”

But don’t count Kaye out! She may be on stage again. Someone will just have to ask her.