Mary Katz (who just wants fries and a guitar pick)

Mary Katz is the new Executive Director at The Carson Center. Her new responsibilities are keeping her super busy, but she occasionally makes time for some Netflix during a bubble bath! Fun facts – she is fluent in French, and her first job was at Mr. J’s Pancake House. iMeet this multi-tasking, mother of three who wants guitar lessons for Christmas!

Welcome to iMeet, Mary! We’re excited to find out more about our new Carson Center ED…tell us about yourself...

I was born and mostly raised right here in beautiful Paducah. I lived in the suburbs of both Detroit and Chicago when I was in elementary school but then moved back in 4th grade. I graduated from St. Mary High School.

Tell us about your family...

I am the youngest of five children and the only girl. With four older brothers, you can imagine I have taken a lot of teasing - so I am pretty tough. I have been married to my husband Brian for 22 years and we have three children. Elizabeth (20), who is a junior at New York University Tisch where she is studying Musical Theater and Creative Writing. Sarah (17), a senior and Andrew (15), a sophomore – both are at PTHS.

We have a dog, Lottie and a cat, Pippin. I also have a Carson Center Family for whom I am so grateful. We are all very close and look after each other like family.

Tell us about your newest position of Executive Director at the Carson Center…

It’s amazing - what an incredible place to be leading! I have the most amazing team of talented staff members. It’s exciting when shows are in and the building is alive with’ load-ins’ of shows, events in all the spaces, excited audiences, or buses of school children coming in and out for a show.

It is also wonderful when it is just our staff and we are focused on planning and orchestrating the next big event. No two days are ever the same!  

Have you been active in the arts your entire life?

Yes, absolutely but not how you might imagine. I played piano growing up and was in a couple of musicals, but never craved the spotlight. I was a shy child so I didn’t love performing on stage but I was super creative and was always running things behind the scenes. A\s a kid I organized and orchestrated countless plays, magic shows, concerts, haunted houses, etc., in my basement or backyard.

When I taught school, I produced plays in my classroom. As a volunteer mom, I organized the school talent show each year. Throughout my childhood and adulthood, I have seen thousands of shows all over the world- musicals, kids’ shows, concerts, etc. I was always a theater “subscriber” in every city in which I ever lived.  I like to call myself a “professional audience member” J

I am also a former dance mom, which is an “art” all of its own. If I had to do it all again, I would have liked to have been a director or producer. I am happiest facilitating others in their art form and seeing audiences enjoy performing arts. 

Tell us about a typical day for you…

It begins around 6 am with coffee and a little prayer or mediation time. Then it’s time to get my high schoolers off to school. I try to squeeze in a workout when I can. Then it is off to work.  

Some days we have school shows during the day, ‘load-ins’ for bigger evening shows, workshops, or other rental events going on. There is a constant buzz of activity. Then there are 100 million emails - mostly from agents and promoters trying to sell us a show. I either take work home or I go home and work on other projects - community, kids, house, family, life.  It is all a huge juggling act!  

I never watch TV but watch an occasional Netflix show from my late-night bubble bath. I usually fall in bed around midnight and pop back up at 6:00 and do it all over again! It’s both exhausting and exhilarating.

What's the best part of your job? What is the hardest?  

The best part of my job is that every day is different - and the hardest part of my job is that every day is different!  Also, the best part is interacting with the children and young people who participate in our programs and come to shows.  

It has been difficult transitioning from Education Director to Executive Director because I adore kids. I am so passionate about the development of young people and about creating exciting opportunities for them.  I absolutely loved my former position, but I am finding that I can bring the same enthusiasm and creativity to the Executive Director position and use it support all of our departments and programs.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Learn something new, read, cook, spend time with friends and family, exercise, listen to music, see a show or a movie, ride my bike, travel, read. I am usually multi-tasking even when I have free time. You could easily find me on a treadmill listening to a Ted Talk podcast.

Before becoming Executive Director, what other jobs have you done in your life?

My first job was waiting tables at Mr. J’s Pancake House and then I moved on to retail. I also worked in tele-marketing and was a nanny/house sitter in college. 

Immediately after college, I worked at the Canadian Consulate in Atlanta and then in banking before deciding that I wanted to pursue International Business. I studied French in depth and spent time living in Quebec and France. I eventually starting teaching French and while teaching completed a Master’s in Education.

I have also been a professional mom, volunteer, and education advocate. Most recently, I was the Education Director at the Carson Center for nine years.

Are you ready for the holidays? Is this a busy time for you?  

I am not ready - who is!? We have been slammed with shows and events at the Carson Center, which is a really good thing, but I haven’t had much time to do my shopping.  My house is decorated though and I am beginning to enjoy the small moments of the season - the music, the lights, baking cookies, spending more time with family and friends, preparing for holiday parties, etc.

What do you like to do on a rainy day on weekends?  

I love to clean my closet or get organized. I also love to go to movies, especially at Maiden Alley. I love to watch CBS Sunday Morning with two cups of coffee while everyone else in my house is asleep.

If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?  

French fries - preferably hot, fresh Chick-Fil-A fries. There is something so comforting and yummy about a salty, hot, French fry. I really have never met a French fry I didn’t like! :)

Tell me three unique things that people may not know about you…  

I am fluent in French, I taught at an inner-city high school in Memphis, I studied yoga with Rodney Yee and used to follow him around the country to practice yoga, I was on a synchronized swimming team that performed Broadway Musical numbers at corporate and private events in Atlanta.

What's on your Christmas list this year?  

Guitar lessons, Weight lifting gloves, snow-skiing trip, a meditation retreat, a good steak and a bottle of wine, a long nap, and of course - peace, love, joy!

Wow, well now we know what to get you for Christmas – fries and a guitar pick! Thank you for taking the time to be on iMeet this week, Mary. We wish you every success with your new position. Happy Holidays!