Thanks to the connecting power of Facebook, I recently came back in touch with a theater buddy from high school – Tim McKee. It’s fascinating hearing Tim talk about his adventures in the entertainment business. He has trained and worked in New York, Los Angeles and London, and now lives in the greater Washington, DC area. Tim has an astounding tenor voice (listen to this) and was invited to sing at the White House this past December. He also works as a Master of Ceremonies, actor and voice-over artist, theatrical and vocal coach and has behind the scenes production experience. As part of the News Splash interview series, we spoke about the dual approaches to the craft: the creative side and the “job” side. As Tim says, “That’s why they call it ‘show business.’”
News Splash (NS): When you talk about how you learn your lines or warm up, I realize it is not so different than preparing for a presentation or a speech. Tell us your process.
Tim: To get the process going, sometimes you have to get away from your desk. If I’m learning lines, I take the process home. Say I’m vacuuming, I do it in character. When I went to school in Boston, I lived across the river from Harvard. I’d walk along the Charles [River] practicing my monologues and get some pretty strange reactions.
NS: That was before the days of Bluetooth. How do you warm up if you have a performance?
Tim: If I’m doing solo work, I warm up on the way or at home. I also like being on an empty stage with no one around. Then I can sing -- can I hit the back of the house? -- and listen in a relaxed way. Later when the audience is there, I can bring that relaxation with me. Being in an empty auditorium also helps you dream and think about goals.
NS: A performer has the same challenge as a business…how to get noticed. You did that at a recent audition.
Tim: I got an audition for America’s Got Talent here in the DC area. From seeing the show, I know they go for a certain type so the question was how to stand out. I decided to dress as an Irish Minstrel. After my first song, the producers asked me to sing in front of the camera which I thought was a pretty good sign. I didn’t make it on the show but you’ll see me in one of the promos and, somewhere in the NBC archives, you’ll find me singing Danny Boy.
NS: How did you come to sing at the White House?
Tim: The DC community is very supportive and great for networking. You never know who you’ll meet. A friend who works at the White House sent me the application to sing at the Holiday Open House. It’s a fascinating process with all the security measures post 9/11 – you send in the application and a demo, then call to provide the UPS tracking number of your package. I sent it in and didn’t give it much thought. Then several months later, I got a message on my cell phone saying the White House would love to have me sing. It was quite an experience. My wife and I got a parking pass for the White House, were personally greeted by the White House social committee, and, after the performance, we received a private tour of the White House decorated for the holidays. It was a surreal day.
NS: What’s your next project?
Tim: I’ve put together workshops for seniors, inspired by my 81-year-old mom who, after many years of sitting in the audience watching her husband and sons perform, has taken an “improvisational” class at her assisted living house in Bethel, Connecticut. She is having a blast! I’ve done a lot of research on the subject and it helps stimulate the brain and body, etc. There are a few communities near where I live that are extremely interested and I’m working out details with them now.