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Student Spotlight: Katie Manbeck

Writer  /  Julie Young
Photographer  /  Amy Payne

Katie Manbeck says the first time she picked up a guitar and sang in front of a live audience, it was a nerve-wracking and stressful experience.

“I was used to playing alone in my bedroom, so it was overwhelming to have people watching me,” she says. “Thankfully, I’m a little more sure of myself now.”

Although the Westfield High School junior had been passionate about music for a while, she never considered performing until she signed up for the Ash Rock music program at Sam Ash Music, which organizes musicians of all levels into bands and then helps them hone their talents. It isn’t the School of Rock, but it is a crash course in working with others, selecting materials, seeking out gigs and avoiding the drama that often comes along with being part of an ensemble.

“Luckily the members of Everything Violet don’t have a lot of drama,” Manbeck says. “We work well together and enjoy having the chance to play.”

As the lead vocalist and guitarist of the group, Katie covers tunes from a number of rock sub-genres and performs several original songs as well. The group has played at Playground Production Studios and the Broad Ripple Art Fair in Indianapolis as well as the Annual Optimist Club Governor’s Dinner in Bloomington among other events and is always looking for new opportunities to show off their skills.

“We’ve been together about two years now and we’ve built up a solid set list,” Manbeck says. “We take whatever show we can get.”

In addition to her work with the band, Manbeck is also a solo acoustic performer who is influenced by a wide range of indie artists including St. Vincent, who was the first woman to design her own line of signature guitars for the mass market.

“I like her music because it has its own feel to it, but my influences are constantly evolving because I’m still growing both as a person and as an artist,” she says.

Katie is quick to admit that playing solo is a lot harder than playing with her bandmates because her success or failure relies on her alone. She still has those moments in which the nerves get the better of her, but she says she has gotten better at relaxing and being in the moment with her guitar.

Of course, it helps that her parents, Brad and Leslie, are behind her all the way. As her biggest fans, her parents are proud of their daughter’s artistic passion and are eager to see where it takes her.

“I’m not pursuing music as if it is my only career, but it is something I want to continue and they totally support that,” Katie says. “They also know that I am serious about my schoolwork and want to go to college in a couple of years, but I don’t know what I will major in yet. It will have to be something creative though because there is so much potential inside of me that still needs to come out.”

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