Katie Fritzke’s Musical Gift
By Gary VanDeWalker
Dream a Little Dream
By Gary VanDeWalker
Photo by Taryn Burkleo
The mountains rising in the north of California are full of dreams. Like a musical tune, they drift into the hearts of those living there. Homes are built. Families grow. And little girls dream of stages and orchestras and faraway lands. Such visions filled young Katie Fritzke.
Fritzke’s musical career began and ended in church. Her chance to do a rousing solo came as a young child when asked to sing The Bible Song. She had to spell out the word Bible in a verse, “The B-i-b-l-e.” But stage fright robbed her of the spelling and she exchanged singing for running.
“I didn’t exactly give up singing. My mom and my grandpa were both singers,” Fritzke says. “My mom was always pulling me into singing. But I knew my dream of singing as a career was over.”
High school brought opportunities. Fritzke joined Greg Eastman’s Mount Shasta High School choir. Roger Emerson, the top high school choral writer in the country, took notice and helped mentor her, but her childhood experience haunted her. She joined the running team and began to excel, capturing medals. Forced to choose between singing at a concert and a race, Fritzke chose the race. Emerson cautioned her about her choices, telling her, “Skip running, your future is in music.”
Fritzke continued running through college. Singing faded away as a memory. Her running career began to take off, until an injury brought those hopes to an end.
“At 23, I moved to Santa Barbara, where I worked at a retirement home as a memory care coordinator,” Fritzke says. “I thought singing was far behind me until a lady named Gem came one day and introduced singing therapy to the people there.”
Fritzke sang harmony along with everyone and Gem asked for her contact information. The woman called and asked Fritzke to join her in listening her daughter, Lois Mahalia, sing.
“I went to hear her and then she asked me to come up and sing with her,” Fritzke says. “I still had stage fright, but I found myself singing jazz harmonies on stage with her for two hours, with every song I knew.”
For the next year, Mahalia and Fritzke sang together at the prestigious Biltmore Hotel in Santa Barbara every Friday night. More gigs presented themselves. There were background vocals on a Kenny Loggins record. Then Mahalia was invited to Italy and asked Fritzke to come along. Fritzke’s dreams became a February trip to another country.
“Lois wanted to do the tour. It felt glamorous. We did several gigs, including one right on the water at the Hotel Bauer Palazzo in Venice,” Fritzke says. “I ate so much pasta on the trip.”
Fritzke continues to sing. In her spare time, she sings with producer and artist Brian Mann. She is writing her own songs, looking for a writing partner. “I enjoy music, the gigs and singing jazz standards. Jazz lyrics just create romantic pictures with their words.
“I don’t feel like I’ve found a career yet, but music is a gift from God. Every time I think I’ve had enough of singing, another opportunity comes up,” Fritzke says. “I’m even singing at church again.”
Her dreams continue. She is exploring doing voice-over work and is looking at making a demo, while learning to play the ukulele for the residents at her work.
“I’m grateful for my running injury,” Fritzke says. It forced me to look at life differently. Coming from a small town, you don’t always think of dreaming big. You don’t have to be famous. My dreams are big enough to conjure up what is happening in my life now and doing all that I enjoy.”