Kate Becker might as well be heralded as the mother of Seattle's burgeoning all-ages music scene. She helped both the Old Fire House, in Redmond, and the Vera Project become the under-21 powerhouses they are today. But now, after spending more than 15 years doing it for the kids, she's bringing her talents to an older crowd, from the rock clubs to the historic theaters.
Please introduce yourself and tell us what you'll be doing for Seattle Theatre Group.
I have recently been hired as the director of development. My role here entails leading the fund-raising efforts for the organization and being part of the organization's management team.
What was your first job in music?
My first was when I started the Old Fire House. I had been a participant in the music community, but that was really my first job in music. The Old Fire House launched very organically. I was hired to start programs that would engage nontraditional youth. So I started talking to young people in the community, and there was a consistent theme: "We want shows." So we got busy and committed to making shows happen. That's how the Old Fire House was born. It turned 15 in September.
How did you then come to co-found Vera?
I had been doing shows in Redmond and Seattle for seven years when we started Vera. At that time, all-ages shows were still illegal in Seattle due to the Teen Dance Ordinance. Michael Compton (who is now my husband) and I had two production companies, and we produced all-ages shows in Seattle while I was running the Old Fire House—NAASA (Northwest All-Ages Show Association) and SAAS (Seattle All-Ages Shows) were our companies. We did shows all over town at different venues.
In 1999, I was testifying at the Arts Commission, trying to garner support for the Teen Dance Ordinance repeal, and there were two people there who were not arts commissioners. They hit me up immediately after the meeting. Those two people were James Keblas and Shannon Stewart. They had recently returned from Vera in Groningen, Holland, and told me of their dream to start an all-ages venue in Seattle. Our ambitions and vision were very similar, so we became business partners and together we put the Vera Project into motion.
What were some of the greatest struggles?
Well, along with some other folks in town, including David Meinert and Greg Bennick, I spent years focused on getting the Teen Dance Ordinance repealed. That was a struggle that was ultimately successful, but we all gave a chunk of our lives to it.
What about Seattle Theatre Group lured you back in?
Well, let's just say STG has it going on. Three hundred and sixty-six shows in two theaters in a year is an incredible achievement, and that's just one piece of what happens at STG. The diversity of programming at the Paramount and the Moore is unlike anything else happening in Seattle—it's really phenomenal. And to top it off, I'm a historic theater geek.
What's the first show you can remember going to?
OK—this is embarrassing: I was a kid and I went to a Supertramp show at the Allentown Fairgrounds in Pennsylvania.
What kind of advice would you give to somebody who'd like to start an all-ages venue in their area?
Got fortitude and vision? Seriously, all-ages venues pop up everywhere, but very few of them last. Starting an all-ages venue entails building community, and that requires a dedicated and sustained effort if you want it to have longevity.
As STG's director of development, what are some ways you plan to keep the cash flow coming in?
We're going to have some really fun parties and events that are not traditional fund-raisers. I've been given a lot of creative license.
Top five shows you've seen at Vera, the Moore, or the Paramount:
Murder City Devils, Botch, and the Blood Brothers, Vera's opening night in January 2001.
Nick Cave, Paramount, 2001.
Unwound's last show, Vera, 2002.
Sonic Youth at the Moore a few years back.
The Gossip, Vera, 2001.
A weekly peek behind the curtain of the Emerald City music world, Behind the Scene sheds light on folks you won't see onstage, but who make it all happen.