Growing up as the youngest amid a boisterous family of five children in West Warwick, RI, Keith spent most of his waking minutes lost in a world of his own creation. “I can’t remember a time when I didn’t like to draw,” he says. “I would draw at the kitchen table with my sister Judy all the time. I loved drawing monsters, motorcycles and haunted houses the most. I’d draw a big house with a lot of windows and then draw different spooky creatures in each window.” Because there was a piano in the house, and his older siblings had blazed the trail, he began playing from a young age. It wasn’t until an older brother came home from studying jazz improvisation at Berklee College of Music that Keith learned some of the basics of music theory. He began tapping out songs on the keyboard, and, influenced by the songwriting of Randy Newman and the lyrical genius of artists like Bootsy Collins, Little Richard and Professor Longhair, that the spark of music took fire. By high school, Keith was writing his own songs, playing drums as well as piano, and playing in bands with friends. He continued drawing, creating whimsical cartoon drawings to amuse himself. After a two-year stint at Swain School of Design, he worked as an illustrator and then hit the road with Big Nazo, a puppet and mask touring company. In the early 90s, he moved to Providence, RI, and engaged in the thriving arts community there. In the 1990s, Keith helped found AS220, a non-profit arts incubator in downtown Providence. He served on AS220’s board of directors for 18 years, and also developed the Youth Arts Conference, which brought inner city students to work in AS220’s resident artists’ studios. It was from AS220’s stage, that in 2006 Keith launched The Empire Revue, a high-energy variety show featuring sketch comedy, music, improvisation, and special guest performers. Now in its eighth year, The Empire Revue continues to attract standing room only crowds on the first Sunday of every month. The Empire Street neighborhood around AS220 thrives now, and city leaders refer to it as the “Arts and Entertainment District.” Also in the 90s, Keith added music education to his repertoire. Over the years, Keith Munslow has entertained thousands of children and adults at festivals, concerts, schools and libraries throughout New England – and beyond. Keith has made numerous recordings for children and families, including Accidentally On Purpose, and Dressed Up for the Party, both of which garnered Parents’ Choice Awards and national radio play. His newest album, Tiny Destroyer (2015), features stories and songs reflecting the chaos and humor of everyday family living. In addition to his one-man show for kids and families, Keith performs with the New Orleans-flavored blues band, Superchief Trio, and in a hilarious duo show with GRAMMY Award-winning performer Bill Harley. Their joint album It’s Not Fair to Me (2013) gained wide acclaim. Together, the duo also perform an annual benefit show for the Rhode Island Food Bank. Keith created an acclaimed multi-day literacy enrichment program called “Build-a-Book”, which he has conducted at numerous schools throughout New England. With his natural enthusiasm for story writing, Keith guides students in the creation of class generated stories, complete with illustrations. He also conducts workshops in many disciplines, including: songwriting, illustration, and comedy and theatrical improvisation. Keith is performing arts instructor for the renowned TALL University after school program in Central Falls, RI. Utilizing a multi-disciplinary approach, TALL University integrates arts and literacy, with an eye towards enhanced reading, writing, and communication skills. Keith also teaches and performs musical improv at The Providence Improv Guild (www.improvpig.com). As a composer, Keith has created original music for Perishable Theatre’s Shows for Young Audiences, as well as main stage productions, Manton Avenue Project, and choreographer Heidi Henderson. For over a decade, Keith was a principal performer and musical director for Big Nazo, an international puppet and mask theater group based in Providence. With an unstinting commitment to creativity and collaboration, Keith continues to search for new opportunities to combine his interests in the performing arts, literacy and community building. He resides in Providence with young son, Luc.
- Delaine Fedson Leonard
- Elaine Elizabeth Presley