Promoting Local Talent
By Jamie Jenson | Photography by Graphik Nature Studios
KMase Productions creator Kathleen Mason should probably thank her older brothers for the success she’s found in the music industry.
“I grew up in a sea of boys,” she said. “My twin sister and I were the youngest of 11 children and there were a clump of boys ahead of us. They were always listening to all kinds of music.”
Kathleen, who grew up in Eastwood, developed a crush on Rik Emmett, the lead singer of the 1980s metal band Triumph, one of the many groups her brothers would play.
In late 2012, years after she’d earned degrees in music, psychology and biology, she received a gift from her sister that made her very nostalgic: a book by Rik that included the former singer’s booking information.
“And so I thought, ‘All right, I’m gonna call just for the heck of it,’” Kathleen said.
So, that’s what she did.
When Kathleen got off the phone with Rik’s manager, she said to her husband, “I think I’m promoting this show.”
After talking with Rik’s manager again, Kathleen got to work and hosted her girlhood crush at The Palace Theatre in Eastwood in 2013. The concert was a hit, and Rik and his manager agreed Kathleen was a fantastic concert promoter.
After the show, Kathleen decided to give music promotion a try full time. Her company, KMase Productions, got its name from her friend and partner, Bea Talplacido, who calls Kathleen “KMase.”
Becoming a music promotor was quite the jump from the career she had previously held when she and her husband, Dave, lived in North Carolina.
Kathleen earned an associate degree in music from Onondaga Community College. A passionate musician, she dreamed of playing the French horn in a symphony. She had planned to pursue a bachelor’s degree at Syracuse University, but, just as she was about to enroll, changed her mind. Instead, she decided to pursue a degree in science, her other love, from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. After graduating, Kathleen worked in emergency medicine research.
Kathleen thinks her time working as a research coordinator in emergency departments prepared her well for her new job. The two careers aren’t nearly as different as they seem, she explained, adding that “you have to roll with things on the fly.”
“The research aspect really helps me, too,” Kathleen said. “There might be people that I think are really amazing and so, I research them. When they come into town, you can say, ‘Hey, I heard you like this and I can get this for you.’ We really like to pay attention to detail and we’re completely artist-driven.”
Kathleen also likes to help local charities when she can. When she was growing up, her dad would take her and her siblings to the local soup kitchen to help serve food. The time she and her family spent serving others really instilled in her the importance of giving back to her community.
Kathleen’s older brother, Joe, who passed away in 2014, had Down syndrome. Joe spent a lot of time at ARC of Onondaga, an organization that serves people with developmental disabilities and their families. Kathleen decided to donate some of the proceeds from one of the concerts she hosted to the organization. She realized she could help others through her production company.
“I’m fascinated with really great charities,” Kathleen said. “It just makes me feel good. When it makes sense to give and I can, I really want to.”
Kathleen has also teamed up with Charley Orlando, a talent buyer for Funk ‘n Waffles, to help local charities and organizations through the venue’s Funk Gives Back concert series. KMase Productions helps the venue promote the events, each of which benefits a different local cause. Find event listings at funknwaffles.com.
For Kathleen, every day brings a new adventure, both with the acts she books and the organizations she tries to help.
“Every concert is different. Every opportunity with someone is different,” she said. “It never gets boring and it keeps you on your toes.”
While Kathleen has booked national acts like Rik Emmett and the 1990s rock band the Gin Blossoms, she’s starting to focus more on local acts in Central New York. Her Storyteller Series features several local musicians who tour the area. She’s also participated in other area festivals, including the Adams Acres Apple Fest, slated for Sept. 22 at Adams Acres, an organic apple farm in Jamesville.
Showcasing local acts and bringing the spotlight to Syracuse brings joy to Kathleen. “We have so much talent in this town,” she said.
“We have amazing songwriters, amazing musicians. That’s probably why my national artists have fallen off a little bit. It’s just because everyone here in our own backyard is amazing. They’re incredible.” SWM
For more about Kathleen and KMase Productions, visit kmaseproductions.com.