Mrs. Kate's Life Story
Have you ever heard of beautiful downtown Burbank, California? That is where I was born on May 10, 1953. I grew up in Van Nuys, in a big house which had 6 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms! My mom and dad’s names are Dr. Bob and Rose Polito. Before I came along, they already had 4 children. After I was born, they had 4 more! I have mostly happy memories of my childhood. I never had to say, "Mom, there’s no one to play with!"
Besides my 8 brothers and sisters, there were all the neighborhood kids. We used to play block-wide games of Hide and Go Seek. We climbed walnut trees, built tree forts, and had walnut throwing wars.
My grandparents were Italian and Irish. One of my fondest memories is of the family parties we used to have at our house. There could be 45 to 75 people at these gatherings: aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, and my grandparents. The one I remember best was my grandmother, Nana. I tell stories about her when I sing Hug-a-bug-a-boo and Nana. It was a great experience growing up in the midst of such a loving family. We ate lots of good Italian food, too! Listen to Mangia, and you'll experience the joy of our family mealtimes.
I attended St. Elisabeth’s School for 8 years. Those nuns were tough teachers, but they gave me an excellent education. They gave me lots of creative writing assignments, which prepared me well for my songwriting career. I received good moral and religious training, too. I distinctly remember my third grade teacher giving the class advice on behavior that stuck in a corner of my conscience all my life. She said, "Don’t ever do anything that you would be ashamed of, if your parents saw you doing it.” Perhaps that was the tiny seed from which my Motivate with Mrs. Kate shows grew!
Bullies gave me a hard time in 7th and 8th grade, some of the toughest years of my childhood. Happily, I enrolled at Louisville, an all-girls Catholic high school, just the change I needed. I grew my hair long and got contact lenses. I worked hard and got good grades. I even spent two summers in Mexico, studying the Spanish language, and living with Mexican families. Graduation day came in 1971.
In the early 1970’s, my oldest brother Paul began making guitars in the workshop out back. I loved to listen to him and his friends play these beautiful instruments. Paul taught me how to play a few chords, and my parents bought me my first guitar, a Goya classical, when I was 16. Though I never had much in the way of formal guitar lessons, I learned from watching people and studying chord diagrams, and I practiced a lot. Writing songs just came along as a part of the natural, creative course of my life. My musical influences include Peter, Paul and Mary, The Back Porch Marjority, Kingston Trio, and Roger Miller.
1972 was a big turning point in my life. To find out what happened to me then, read My Spiritual Journey. I enrolled in Humboldt State College, and decided to remain in northern California to work for the summer at Lassen Volcanic National Park. Wow, what a great summer! Amidst that breathtaking scenery, I met the man I was going to marry, Tim Carpenter, of Birmingham, Michigan. Tim and I got married in 1973, and I graduated from Michigan State University, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish. Tim was preparing to be a pastor, so we lived for a few years in Wilmore, Kentucky, where he attended Asbury Theological Seminary.
In 1977, we moved to Lansing, Michigan, where Tim worked in campus ministry with college students. It was there that our daughter, Teri, was born. Then we moved to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, where we established a campus ministry. Our son Will was born in the midst of a blizzard.
After 5 years, we were ready for a change. We moved to Florida and Tim got into the building materials business. I stayed home to nurture my family. I have always enjoyed homemaking. I love to cook, sew, quilt and plant a garden. I have never been bored at home! During these years, I was writing songs, mostly gospel, children’s and family tunes.
Tim’s career meant several moves for us, but finally he was ready to go back into the ministry. We moved to Callahan, Florida, where my husband pastored a small, country church called Friendship Alliance for over 26 years. Moving to the country was a great change for me. At last I had a good amount of time to devote to my music. I began to perform professionally and recorded my first album, Front Burner, in 1993. This was followed by Little Sheep (1994), Armadillo-Songs for Children (1996) and Porch Swing (1997.) Then I met my producer, Jamie DeFrates, and recorded my first live album Hug-a-Bug-a-Boo, in 1999.
In 2000, I began working with Jamie on Gotta Be a Doer, a collection of children's songs that soar with scriptural concepts, great values and creativity. In 2000, I also appeared on public television for the first time, was featured on a folk radio program in Tampa, and performed in Nashville. In 2002, I produced the Gotta Be a Doer Video, so that kids could learn the actions and dances to the popular Doer songs.
2004 found me and Jamie working together again to produce Florida Family Folksongs. In 2007, we completed my 8th project, Motivate with Mrs. Kate, a collection of motivational songs that I sing in my public school assembly programs. In 2010, I recorded another Christian Children's CD, Passport to Power. The songs just kept coming, so in 2012, I released NanaTunes, fun songs inspired by my grandchildren.
2013's big project was the Hug-a-Bug-Boo Video, produced by Alison Myers of Stargroves Films. It's been fun to see how God is working to move my musical career along. Surprises hide around every corner! One of my greatest joys is working with a talented new kids team every time I begin a new project. I couldn't do my job without the amazing children the Lord brings into my path.
More songs for the grands came along, so I recorded Lightning Bug Lullabies in 2015, and my character-building powerhouse, I Think I Can in 2017. I Think I Can won a Parents' Choice Approved Award!
Our Callahan years were busy ones! Being a pastor's wife, recording and performing about 200 shows per year kept me busy and happy. God has gifted me with lots of energy, and I love to use it by blessing people with my music. So far I have performed in over 405 schools, over 150 libraries, and lots of festivals, senior venues and churches.
Tim retired from the pastorate in 2018. We bought an RV and toured the USA for a whole year! It was my first national tour, and I loved performing in venues in every state we visited.
Family News: Our daughter, Teri and her husband, Keith Newburn are international Christian workers in Uruguay, South America. They have 2 children, Isaac and Kelsey. Teri ministers to women and children and Keith is a regional financial accountant for The Alliance. Our son, Will (willcarpenterart.com) and his wife Jackie have 5 children, Grace, Liam, Elias, Callie, and Ezra. Will teaches art at Indiana Wesleyan University. In addition to being a homemaker, Jackie teaches an art class and is an adjunct professor at IWU. Gracie inspired The Potty Training Song, and gave NanaTunes its name!
My husband and I have been married for over 48 years. We live right next door to Will and Jackie in Marion, IN. We are very involved in our church and neighborhood. We love to have company, and folks often come over to eat supper with us and enjoy family fellowship. God has been so good to us. I thank Him for the happy life He has given me. Thanks for reading my biography today!