Words by Jasmine Bourgeois
Photo by Hayden Oliver
Though only 31 years old, Katie Steinhauer has been drumming for almost her entire life. After picking up her first pair of sticks 20 years ago, she has since toured internationally through numerous projects, including Bring it On: The Musical, Guys and Dolls, The Producers, and Annie, as well as a number of bands and ensembles. Since graduating from the Roosevelt School of the Arts in 2005, Katie has played all over the globe and mastered her skills in a wide range of styles. Currently, Katie’s a touring percussionist with Hamilton: An American Musical. Tom Tom caught up with Katie to talk about drumming, touring, and hotel pranks.
TTM: How old are you and where are you from?
KS: I am 31 years old and I’m originally from Fresno, California.
TTM: How long have you been drumming and how’d you get into it?
I’ve been playing for about 20 years now. Hard to believe! I got into drums because I decided to copy my younger sister (a flip from the usual)! I remember going to a music store with my family and my sister found a bin of drum sticks. She wanted a pair and I decided I wanted a pair too! On the car ride home I was tapping on the back seat to every song that came on the radio. When I got home, I started tapping along to all the songs on my CD’s. From there, my love and passion for drums and percussion took off!!
TTM: Do you drum/do percussion for other projects besides what you’re doing now? What’s it like doing percussion for musicals?
Yes!! Before I started touring with Hamilton, I was playing with a lot of different local bands. Rock, pop, ska, jazz, latin, orchestral, musicals, even an Amy Winehouse tribute band! I spent a lot of time teaching group and private lessons as well. I had a cruise ship gig and toured with four other Broadway National tours! Now that I’m on Hamilton, it’s what I do! In my free time I go sight-seeing, find new favorite restaurants, sleep, and work on transcriptions!
Playing drums/percussion for musicals is SO much fun! In any show, you can play a variety of styles at any given moment! Percussion is fun for musicals because you get to add color and personality to the show. Playing percussion for Hamilton is its own beast. I have an array of acoustic and electronic instruments, plus the Ableton program which triggers the click track and other effects! I’m basically the drum machine for the show. It’s unlike any other percussion book out there!
TTM: What do you like about drumming?
I enjoy the fact that there are so many colors and textures with drums and percussion. You can bring out any and every human emotion in whatever music you’re playing. Something as simple as a cymbal roll can cause excitement, anticipation, tears, happiness, sadness, etc. There is so much power in drums and percussion and I try to find the emotion in everything that I play so that I can properly convey that to whoever is listening.
TTM: What goes through your head while you’re playing?
Haha! What a question….well, for Hamilton, the percussion book is the hot seat. I have to be on top of the Ableton triggers as well as sync up my “drum beats” with our drummer. So basically what goes through my mind is…. ‘don’t mess up!!!’ I have a lot to think about….trigger Ableton here, advance DTX patches here, turn pages there, switch to mallets during this rest, etc. I’ve been playing the show for six months now and I feel like I’m still learning it!!
TTM: What’s the weirdest thing that has ever happened to you while touring?
On my very first tour, Bring it On The Musical, I was staying in a very creepy hotel…imagine the shining….I got out of the shower one day and saw “redrum” written on the mirror. I went into full on freak out mode and ran out of the bathroom…only to see my roommate doubled over with laughter. Unbeknownst to me at the time, she was a bit of a prankster and took advantage of the fact that our hotel had the super creepy, murder vibe. I never trusted her after that!
TTM: What’s one fun fact about you?
Fun Fact! I moonlighted as a magician’s assistant in college! I quit because I was burned when a human bbq illusion went very wrong!
Check Out Katie’s website
This interview was originally published in issue 35. To read it, get yourself a copy at the shop!