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Las Cruces native Mark Klett has spent much of the last decade making a name for himself as a talented and versatile musician, performing and accompanying other performers at venues throughout the community.
Klett, 30, has played piano and guitar for productions in the New Mexico State University theatre and choral departments, Las Cruces Community Theatre, Boba Cabaret, Scaffolding Theatre Company of Las Cruces and other venues. He also has served as accompanist for the Singing Out Choir at NMSU and local high schools, and as musical director for Wellspring Church. He also teaches music privately and at Las Cruces Academy of Music and Dance.
“NMSU Theatre Arts and the American Southwest Theatre Company are extremely fortunate to be able to work with Mark Klett, who is such an accomplished musician,” said NMSU Theatre Department Head Wil Kilroy. “Whether providing accompaniment for a class or audition or playing for a show, Mark's talent is exemplary and has consistently raised the quality of our work at NMSU. In addition, Mark is such a pleasure to work with as he is so caring, open, collaborative and flexible, exemplifying an excellent role model for our students.”
Klett packed up his guitars and keyboards and headed to the East Coast last February to pursue his dream of being a professional musician in New York City. He leased an apartment in Manhattan and started answering ads, finding work playing keyboards alongside British composer and conductor Alastair King (“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” “Doctor Who”) for the world-premiere production of King’s off-Broadway musical “The Little Match Girl.” Klett also was the accompanist for more than 550 wannabe performers during two days of open-audition calls – “a real exercise in site reading and endurance,” he said.
But then, COVID-19 hit, and Klett was forced to moved back to Las Cruces in mid-March.
“My epic run in New York City lasted one and a-half months,” he said.
But, while Klett said he’s disappointed that his plans were interrupted (and he’s still paying the lease on his Manhattan apartment), he’s happy to be back in Las Cruces. He may try his luck again in New York when the pandemic is over, but staying put is also an option.
“I love it here,” Klett said. “If I wind up being here, that’s not a bad life.”
Klett said he’s proud of what he has accomplished in Las Cruces, and grateful for the support he’s received.
Wherever he calls home going forward, Klett said he knows music will be calling him.
“I just like playing music,” he said. “I like recording. I’m open to any career path that lets me do those things.”
Klett began taking piano lessons at age 5 from Sylvie Peal, whom he called “a great lady.” He learned to play on the baby grand piano that’s still in his parents’ Las Cruces house.
“I fell in love with it,” he said. “Piano came naturally and easily for me.”
Klett has never stopped tickling the ivories. He added guitar to his musical skill set while a student at Las Cruces High School.
After graduating from LCHS in 2008, Klett studied mechanical engineering at NMSU for more than two years before realizing, “I don’t want to be an engineer. I want to give music a try.”
That’s when he went to work for Leslie Kowalski at the Academy of Music and Dance and began “hustling in the mean streets of Las Cruces” looking for work as a freelance professional musician.
“Mark has been with me since 2011,” said Kowalski, who described Klett as “a talented pianist and guitarist.”
Thanks to support from performer and director Megan McQueen, who co-founded Scaffolding Theatre Company, Klett said he has become particularly fond of performing in musical theatre.
“That’s the one I’ve had the most fun with,” he said, adding that one of his life goals is to compose a musical.
“"Mark is a rare confluence of talent and discipline,” McQueen said. “His skills as a musician are ever improving, where most people would have been satisfied many hours – years – of practice earlier. He eagerly applies critique and regularly creates new challenges for himself. That is the mark of an incredible artist."
Klett said he makes musical videos for YouTube and livestreams his music on Facebook, where he already has thousands of subscribers on his way to a goal of 100,000.
Klett said he owns and treasures 10 guitars and two keyboards.
“They’re almost like my children,” he said. Learning the piano “laid out the whole foundation of my musical career,” he said. “The guitar lets me show off my razzle dazzle.”
“I love playing the music of the great composers,” Klett said. (Chopin is his favorite.) “I have such respect for what they created. It takes me to a different place.”
“I’m thankful every day I do music,” Klett said. “No matter what’s going on, it’s something I love to do.”