Ana Gasteyer: An Interlochen alumna’s journey from violin to SNL to Broadway

  • Ana Gasteyer, an Interlochen alumna, has appeared on Broadway, in TV and movies, been a comedian, a recording artist and more.

Ana Gasteyer is arguably best known for her years as a cast member on Saturday Night Live (1996-2002). But she does have one other credit she can list alongside her many TV and movie roles: She is an Interlochen alumna, having spent two summers on campus as a camper, studying violin and theatre.

Immediately recognizable from her many television appearances (SNL, Suburgatory, The Goldbergs), Gasteyer has been an entertainer her entire life, who began playing violin at age five. Her parents, quick to find a suitable venue to encourage her talents, decided on Interlochen.

“I have always had a tremendous fondness for (Interlochen),” remembers Gasteyer. “It was a huge influence for me. It was the first place that I went and really connected with other musicians and other people who love the arts at the level I did. I owe a debt to it.”

For Gasteyer, Interlochen’s seclusion and beauty presented an opportunity to completely immerse herself in her discipline. “Disappearing up into the woods and playing the violin for eight weeks was just kind of a gift,” she recalls. “I think it was really good for me as a kid, and as a teenager in particular.”

Gasteyer recently returned to the Interlochen campus to present a one-night performance in Corson Auditorium. The program included Gasteyer’s patented snappy patter peppered around an array of classics from the American songbook. Backed by a jazzy quartet, her performance contained songs from her 2014 album I’m Hip, and ranged from Eartha Kitt’s “I Wantcha Around” to the Andrews Sisters’ “A Proper Cup of Coffee” to “One Mint Julep,” made famous by Ray Charles.

“I’m attracted to that era of music because not only is it incredibly musical but it’s also really heavy on entertainment value and storytelling,” she said. Performances such as this allow her to incorporate all of her talents, including her violin work, into a show that reflect her skills, her work, and her influences, she noted.

Indeed, Gasteyer’s resume is diverse, including Broadway as well as TV and movies. She made her Broadway debut as Columbia in The Rocky Horror Show, and played Elphaba in Wicked. She went on to originate the role for the Chicago production, earning a Joseph Jefferson Award nomination. But she never imagined her career would take such a wide and varied path.

“I was classically trained classical violinist,” Gasteyer explains. “I would have been really hard-pressed when I was in 10th grade to predict where this career would have gone.”

Gasteyer offers advice for current Interlochen students who may find their own paths going in unexpected directions.

“The arts are very much a kind of ‘what you make of them’ situation,” she says. “I don’t think it’s a particularly predictable career path. And that’s the advice that I usually give. Just look for the positive signposts, because generally speaking you’re going to have to be the one to determine if those are positive.”

When it comes to Interlochen, Gasteyer says, she hopes the students and campers take full advantage of the opportunity to focus on their art. “I think that when you’re growing up you have so much commitment with school and with your work there. And anyone who’s a passionate musician, it’s always this kind of struggle to squeeze in your quote-unquote 'extracurricular'—which, ironically (at Interlochen) becomes your curriculum. I think for me it was kind of this huge parentheses where I could actually just create and perform and make music.”

Gasteyer also advises students to keep their eyes and minds open when experiencing the arts and considering new opportunities. “You just kind of have to take risks when they’re in front of you,” says the star, “and make the most of them. And eventually, everybody has their own strange little niche that becomes their own path.

"Every actor you’re ever going to talk to, every musician you’re going to talk to, they’re going to end up having their own strange, little, itinerant, made-up life that ultimately they have to answer to. You’re the only person that has to answer to it.”

—Scott Miller, Interlochen Center for the Arts Editor/Copywriter

Video: Ana Gasteyer performs "One Mint Julep"