Kathleen Hollingsworth is the founder and director of the Playa Choir. We call her Madi. We’ve always known her as Madi. We’ve always loved her as Madi. Her students at CCC, however, while knowing about the Burning Man spirit residing inside, experience her quite differently than the rest of us Playa Choristers.
Her idea to create this Art Project, born of her natural talents and calling, began with a small Sunday service in a dank army tent called the Spirit Room. Between the musicians, singers and audience, there was about 15 people in attendance. For over 20 years now, her idea blossomed into a 70-voice choir with a standing-room-only congregation. The Playa Choir is now a firmly established Theme Camp at Burning Man.
Madi holds a BM in Choral Music Education and an MM in Choral Conducting and is currently the Vocal Music Director at Clackamas Community College in Oregon. She is a vocalist, pianist, composer, conductor and leads an original music ensemble called Mad Love.
When she’s not leading the Choir, you will find her dancing on the bar at Pink Mammoth (if they let her back in), on the stage at Distrikt, or hanging off that big LED Heart, way out in the open desert.
Burning Man has been a big part of my life since 2007 when I first stepped onto the Playa and realized I had come home. I discovered Playa Choir in 2009- a small group practicing in the Jazz Cafe and was moved to tears knowing I needed to be part of that experience. I joined the choir in 2011 and have grown tremendously since then, both personally and as a musician- inspired by the amazing Madi. Through Playa Choir, I have forged life long friendships with my follow choristers. There is nothing like standing on those risers with my friends. It’s a cathartic, new year, rite of passage, that I look forward to every year. I can’t wait to see you on the Playa! Dusty Hugs.
Engineering / Camp Director
Guthrie has been with the Choir for a long time. Guthrie is an engineering genius, designing our Communal Courtyard and responsible for mapping our Camp placement. He’s always patient, intuitive and a great team leader. From building Evapotrons and swamp coolers in a bucket, to singing Bass on the risers, Guthrie is an institution, always reliable and a great friend.
The Buck Stops Here
Bienvenue més amis. Welcome my friends. Ayme Kantz (MEZA-me), or Miss Ayme to her friends, is back after a five year absence.
An OG Leader who had a hand in transmogrifying the Choir from wandering nomads, to a vital, established and recognized presence at Burning Man.
In a past incarnation (2013 – 2019), was a logo designer, swag creator, story teller, motivator, logistics coordinator, errand runner, evaluator, fundraiser, arm-twister, newsletter editor, treasurer, and even a Village Mayor (i.e., the village Idiot). Now serving as the Choir’s Treasurer.
She’s a Legacy. She’s a Pain in the Ass. From Playa Virgin to Grizzled Veteran, and now an Elder. Has a side-hustle as the Choir’s Webmistress. Decent Tenor too.
As Magister Domus (latin for “master of the house”), Compass will be promoting and facilitating the use of the dome as a community event space. Compass hopes the Playa Choir’s dome becomes even more widely known as the place at Burning Man “where you go to sing.”
Compass has been camping with the choir since his first burn in 2022. He lives in Connecticut, works in tech, supports a Shakespeare theater, reads new plays for a festival, and sings with choirs in CT & NY. During his first career as a book editor, Compass edited novels and nonfiction, and ran fiction and poetry readings in New York City’s east village.
Compass’ burning man side hustle involves teaching people to navigate in the wilderness by giving them a compass and topographical map of the black rock desert. The annual Map & Compass event is punctuated by a game show for playa denizens called, “Did They Survive?”
Galley Krewe Mistress
Debbie Vidotto aka Purple Sunshine (PS) i.e., She Who Must Be Obeyed, is the Chief Cook and Bottle Washer for the Playa Choir Build and Strike Teams. Lassoed into the job in 2022 by her best friend Abra, as a Birgin, PS fully embraced her camp kitchen duties (and she spent 3 days helping erect the Choir’s dome in whiteout dust storms her 1st year).
In addition to planning detailed menus, budgeting, and sourcing (with a little help from her friends), PS leads a wonderful team cooking meals off Playa, freezing and lovingly toting them on dry ice (once all the way from Albuquerque), to be warmed and served to nurture our team of amazing, hardworking, loving builders. When not in the kitchen, you can find PS on a dance floor or spending time with Choir inmates (many of whom she cherishes with all her heart).
From the Dolomites to NYC, from London, UK to Tidewater, Virginia my path to Black Rock City had its twists and turns. Playa Choir appeared in my social media feed on August 8th, 2022 like a bridge across forever.
I loved everything about camping with the choir, singing in the choir and the amazing group who created and keeps the choir going.
I feel strongly about making everyday small acts of environmental awareness. I am very excited about being anointed Recycling Tzarina and I hope to do a good job.