Kathie Sullivan describes herself simply as a full-time wife and mother. But the Lake Highlands resident also has her hands full with artistic pursuits: She is an award-winning gospel singer who tours nationwide, performs in a two-person cabaret act singing songs from the Big Band era, appears regularly on PBS’ “Memories With Lawrence Welk,” has a budding acting career – and designs and sews her own costumes.
Originally trained as an opera singer, Sullivan auditioned as a guest “Champagne Lady” just prior to her last semester in college, when the “Lawrence Welk Show” came to the University of Wisconsin.
She won the part, and after the show, Welk came to her dressing room and offered her a permanent spot on the show.
“I had dropped out of college once before to perform,” Sullivan says, “and I was so close to graduating this time. I told him no. He handed me his phone number and said: Call me when you change your mind.”
“When, not if. Well, he was right,” she says. “I talked to my parents, and they advised me to go for it.”
From 1976 to 1982, Sullivan was a regular on the show. On her days off, she began performing gospel music along with some of the other Welk performers. When Welk retired, she was ready to go out on her own.
She toured extensively before marrying her high school sweetheart in 1986 and starting a family. Now she travels as a gospel singer once or twice a month, and serves as youth choir director at Messiah Lutheran Church in Richardson. She also has found time to record four gospel albums.
Sullivan can be seen regularly on the Welk show on PBS. In January, she had the opportunity to host the show, appearing with her husband and daughters.
Recently, her career branched into acting. A friend had written a one-woman play about Jane Wilkinson Long, called the “Mother of Texas” by historians, and asked Sullivan to do the role. The result was so successful that they recently mounted a children’s version to perform for schools and youth groups.
Sullivan also has accepted a role in a Christian video for children, “The Christmas Horse,” to be filmed later this year in the Dallas area.
“As much as I love gospel singing, I’m excited about these new opportunities,” she says. “It gives me an opportunity to stretch myself and try something different.”