Kasondra Rose never met a challenge she wouldn’t take on.
She’s a singer, songwriter, dancer, aerialist and actor – although not always in that order – and every step in her professional career has been taken with equal amounts of adrenaline, fear, doubt and blind confidence.
That’s what makes Kasondra Rose an artist.
“I think the one constant for me has been love of performing,” she says. “I love performing, and I’ve come to realize that I don’t much care the capacity.”
Rose and her guitar will be at the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art Tuesday, for a two-hour showcase of all original material. The show begins at 5:30 p.m.
Her supple, ethereal voice is an amalgam of the women she claims as influences – McLachlan and Mitchell, Fitzgerald and Vaughan, Jewel and Apple – and her music is shimmering and dreamlike folk/pop/jazz.
So far, she has released three albums.
She’s also in the cast of the current production at Jobsite Theatre, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where her years of ballet training, her aerial skills and her acting chops are all on dizzying display. She sings in Act Two, too.
Forever ambitious, and restless, Kasondra Rose’s blue sky has no limit, on purpose. “Part of me has always been chasing the dragon,” she says. “I don’t ever want to say ‘Well, that was it.’ I feel like I can do it again.”
She hails from Muskegon, on Michigan’s western shore, the daughter of musicians. “Mom sewed her own outfits for performing – glitter jumpsuits and stuff like that – and kept them in the closet,” Rose recalls, “and when she wasn’t home, I would put them on and pretend to sing.
“So deep down, I think I wanted to be a singer, but I loved dancing too.”
It was her ballet and modern skills, in fact, that earned a scholarship to New York’s Marymount Manhattan College. “But I didn’t really have what it took to be a dancer in New York City at the age of 18, and I dropped out,” she says. “I just threw it all away, and I don’t know how my parents didn’t murder me.”
Instead, Mom and Dad offered to bankroll a trip to Florida to “get New York out of your system” and plan some sort of life strategy. In 2002, she moved into the family condo in Clearwater and took a teaching job at a local dance studio.
“Then I realized what a music scene there was in this area, and I got this harebrained idea: ‘Gosh, I want to try to be a singer.’”
Easy as that.
Rose placed a classified ad in the Weekly Planet: VERSATILE FEMALE SINGER with good range and strong work ethics. Looking for professional gig in Clearwater, St. Pete, Tampa area but willing to travel.
She was thrown in the deep end when she joined a journeyman Top 40 dance band called Shade. She sang Pat Benatar and Fleetwood Mac and Bonnie Raitt covers in bars, restaurants and roadhouses, the hardscrabble “10 p.m. to 2 a.m. gigs.” Working musician stuff.
Her parents expected her back home in Michigan. Kasondra Rose had other ideas. “I started making so much money with the band that I called my mom and said ‘I can pay you rent.’”
Weary of the grind, and eager to perform her own songs, Rose left the group after three years. “I had been bringing my guitar out on gigs just to play a couple songs,” she recalls, “and then when I decided I was going to go solo I was like ‘OK, well, I have to learn 40 songs on this guitar.’”
She describes her sweet, polished-gem singing style as “accidental,” something that she developed over the course of dozens and dozens of solo gigs over the years.
She’s also a member in good standing of the Florida Bjorkestra, the quicksilver, multi-player ensemble dedicated to performances of quirky, somewhat left-of-center pop and rock music.
‘No one sings like her,” raves Jeremy Douglass, musical director of the Bjorkestra, and for Jobsite Theatre. “Her style is uniquely hers and it’s delightful. But maybe people don’t know how funny she is just walking around saying stuff. And I’ll never forget her comedy routine she did as part of her audition for Threepenny Opera that ended with her in her underwear and all of us rolling on the floor in tears.”
Rose fell in love with aerial performance during a visit to Dunedin’s Casa Tina Mexican restaurant (silk and lyra and overhead ballet constitute the floor show there). Immediately she decided, in the way she decides things, “I want to do that.” She began taking lessons with BB’s Dance and Circus Arts, and with her extensive background in dance found she was a natural.
“I found it to be just a fun outlet,” Rose explains. “And as my life goes, I turn things that I find fun into work.” (After A Midsummer Night’s Dream closes Feb. 16, she’ll be back in the air at Casa Tina.)
Her music, though, is what drives her the most. “I don’t feel like playing covers in restaurants is going to be long-term stable for my personal career, health and growth,” she says, which is why she’s exploring alternate routes:
“I auditioned for Cirque du Soleil as a vocalist,” Rose says excitedly, “and they found me ‘employable.’ So now I just wait for a phone call. Which could be tomorrow. Or they could call me in three months. They could call me in three years.
“They could never call me, because a spot might never open up that I’m a fit for. But that would be the freaking dream, as a vocalist.”
While she stares at the phone, she’s busier than she’s ever been, writing songs, making records, playing gigs, dancing, performing Shakespeare, floating in the silks. A quintuple threat.
A big challenge, she admits, is getting across the unusual spelling of her first name.
Her mother, Rose explains, was a fan of singer Cass Elliot, from the ‘60s singing group the Mamas and the Papas. In tribute, she was going to call her daughter Cassandra. “But I think in her musician life, she encountered a magician’s assistant whose names was spelled Kasondra,” Rose laughs. “So she gave me that spelling. I love it because it’s unique, but it’s a marketing nightmare.
“And I’m hoping that someday I can get to a place where I’ll just be ‘Kasondra.’ Like Rhianna. You know, people figured out how to spell her name.”
Information about the James Museum performance here.