Bree Gangi has one of the coolest jobs in town, rubbing shoulders with the rock stars, comedians, country music legends and Key West music icons who perform at Key West Theater and the Coffee Butler Amphitheater at Truman Waterfront.
As the newly promoted executive director of Key West Theater, her job involves terms most people only hear on TV and in the movies — the green room, the “talent,” booking agents, tour buses, sound checks, entourages, and the demands included in a star’s rider (the document that specifies the items a performer expects in their dressing room).
But Gangi speaks the language as fluently as one would expect from someone who has a book titled “Music Marketing” on the windowsill of her office at Key West Theater on Eaton Street, where she started working as marketing manager in August 2018.
“Oh yes, they all fill out a rider asking for specific things,” she said. “I haven’t yet had a request for green M&Ms only, or anything like that, but one group did insist on silver, plastic Solo cups,” she recalled on a recent Monday morning. “I checked every single store in Key West. They did not exist on the island.”
Other requests typically include specific types of beer, liquor, mixers, snacks, a large fan for wardrobe changes, “Judy Collins asked for someone to steam her outfit, and another performer — a celebrity impersonator, actually — was really upset about how hot it was in Key West. He threw a fit,” Gangi said.
“When Sublime was here a few weeks ago, those guys were awesome. They were hanging out at the Truman Waterfront Park all day with their dogs.
“When Willie Nelson performed, anyone who wasn’t involved in his tour had to turn around and look the other way when he exited his tour bus,” Gangi recalled.
“Oh, and the Thunder from Down Under male dance act — they’re like the Chippendales — their shows are an absolute riot.”
Bands playing at the theater will park their bus in the driveway out back, and the crew will unload and start setting up. But the stars don’t get sweaty, Gangi emphasized. “They’ll hang out in the tour bus, especially the ones that like to smoke. They have access to our green room, but when there’s time, we really encourage them to get out and explore Key West.”
The green room at Key West Theater is actually an impressive suite of rooms that includes a kitchen, several large couches, a giant television, a white board to plan set lists and a large, separate dressing room with giant mirrors, a white leather couch and vanity lighting for makeup and wardrobe.
One would never guess that before Gangi moved to Key West seven years ago, she was studying to be a fifth-grade Spanish teacher in Massachusetts. And when she first arrived in Key West, she worked as a nanny, a hostess, a dogsitter, a babysitter and then started helping with concerts at COAST.
The curtain officially rose on her entertainment career during one of those babysitting jobs, when Gangi was babysitting Kelly and Nick Norman’s daughter, TK. She started hearing and learning more about the music industry, Rams Head, its venues and productions, and she met its founder, Bill Muehlhauser.
“Kelly (Norman) has been an amazing mentor,” Gangi said. “She convinced me to take a leap and to believe in myself and to come work with her and Rams Head.”
Gangi started as marketing manager for the two venues in August 2018.
“After a few months, I was the person who greeted the Rams Head bands and performers when they arrived, sort of as an artists’ liaison. Then I became venue manager.”
And just last week, Kelly Norman announced Gangi’s promotion to executive director.
“Brianna has outstanding leadership qualities and has demonstrated the ability to create an empowering and motivating environment among staff and partners,” Norman wrote on social media. “Her passion, leadership and dedication to the mission of the theater made this an easy decision in recognizing her abilities to assume this role.”
Norman is now vice president of operations for the Rams Head Key West team.
“I definitely had some imposter syndrome, doubting myself and saying I wasn’t a part of this rock star club,” said Gangi. “But Kelly wouldn’t hear any of it. And I’ve moved past it. You just have to be willing to listen and learn and make connections with people. The way I approach someone when they first arrive will set the tone for the whole night. I want to be welcoming and helpful, without letting them walk all over me.
“I just feel so fortunate to have landed where I did and to have learned so much from the people around me,” she said.