The first thing that pops into mind when trying to describe Kathleen Bertrand is “Renaissance woman.” This Atlanta native excels at everything she does, including promoting our great city as THE destination for anyone in the country. She recently left her position with the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau after 32 years of service to focus on her new “baby,” the BronzeLens Film Festival, dedicated to bringing attention to Atlanta as a center for film and film production for people of color. Oh and did we mention Kathleen is a super talented jazz vocalist and recording artist who’s opened for some of the biggest names in jazz, including Ray Charles and Kenny G?!
Get to know Kathleen Bertrand and find out why we think she’s one of our most fascinating FACES of 2015.
You seem like a superhero — former senior vice president at the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau by day, renowned jazz vocalist by night. If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
A new superpower? The ability to be able to fully function on three hours’ sleep. I need sleep to recharge — mind, body and spirit — but I wish I could just do three hours of it on some days, but feel like I did eight!
You recently retired from ACVB. What’s something unexpected you’ve encountered while in “retirement?” What has been the biggest adjustment?
Unexpected? The number of my friends who are also retired, but I never knew. I see them everywhere — at the movies, at the grocery store, at Home Depot, etc.
Biggest adjustment? Cooking in the daytime. I miss those Peachtree Center lunches, especially Café Aviva by Kameel!
What is the No. 1 reason anyone should come and visit Atlanta?
Atlanta is a welcoming, progressive, big city whose residents and unique neighborhoods give it a small-town feel.
What’s your favorite thing to do here?
Actually, three things in particular come to mind …
- Eating out with friends and family: Hundreds and hundreds of fine, casual and fast dining establishments with an amazing variety of cuisines
- Walking the BeltLine
- The Festivals: Of course, BronzeLens, Atlanta Jazz Festival, Inman Park Festival, Taste of Atlanta, Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, National Black Arts Festival and so much more for all ages and tastes!
What was the inspiration behind the BronzeLens Film Festival? Why should people take an interest?
Creating a festival that celebrated Atlanta, as well as Atlanta’s growing position as a destination for film and television production, particularly for people of color
BronzeLens is an ideal atmosphere for filmmakers and film lovers. You can view indie films by creators from across the country, as well as the Caribbean, Europe and Africa. Additionally, attendees can learn from experts at the top of their careers in television and film … people like iconic casting director and producer Reuben Cannon or Emmy award-winning producer Shelby Stone or producer/director Roger Bobb or BET executive Connie Orlando.
How do you balance your day job(s) with your singing career?
Some days I can’t. That’s why I need to be able to function on three hours’ sleep! It’s hard to get it all in. Some days music dominates, and other days BronzeLens dominates.
Before you go onstage to perform, what does your warm-up routine consist of?
- Gargling with salt water — it clears mucus, and it’s especially good to run that through your nostrils.
- Vocalizing — the more the better, like warming up your muscles before a 10K run.
- Helpful treats — some tea, or just warm water in a pinch, with honey, apple cider vinegar and cayenne pepper mixed in. Hmmm-mmm good.
- Prayer with the band just before we go onstage
Please describe your ideal perfect day.
Start with sunshine, a walk by the sea with my honey, talking with my kids over a great breakfast and then heading into the studio to work on my next CD with my favorite musicians.
What’s been your favorite onstage moment?
Sometimes when everything comes together — the music, the musicians, the sound quality, the energy, the costume, the hair — there is what I call a “magic moment.” I think they happen most when I’m onstage at an outdoor setting. I love imagining that our notes we’ve created are mingling together and leaving the stage and floating into the audience and into the universe, bringing joy and positivity everywhere they go. That has happened quite often over the years, and I can’t remember all of the places I’ve been when the magic moment has happened.
One other that stands out was actually after the song — singing the national anthem for the Atlanta Falcons and getting a standing ovation from the entire section when I went back to my seat. Watching row after row of Falcon fans standing as I moved into the section with my family was an unforgettable sight that my family got to share.
If you could perform with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Who? Stevie Wonder
Why? Genius performer, musician, writer, arranger. He crosses all genres for me — spiritual, R&B, jazz.
What’s your favorite local restaurant and why?
The Pecan on Main Street in College Park. I have been going since Tony Morrow opened the restaurant. I love the white tablecloth service, the food quality is still amazing after all these years, especially his shrimp and grits. I meet clients there, take my family and friends there, had a birthday party there — he even hosted Hospitality Industry Professionals-Atlanta there. It feels like home away from home for me.
What is your best piece of advice?
Love with passion and live life with excellence in everything you do.
What are three things you can’t live without with the exception of friends, family and faith?
My Bible, water, my phone
Kathleen Bertrand, we in Atlanta are so proud to have you represent our city so well. Your sweet, soulful voice is only matched by your sweet, soulful spirit, and we can’t wait to see what you do next with BronzeLens and your other worthwhile endeavors.
As always, our deep appreciation to Cat Max Photography for today’s fabulous photos!