Terri White – The Lady’s Got to Sing.
Born and raised in Palo Alto, California, Terri White grew up in a family of musicians and vocalists and has been performing since she was eight years old. She started out as a “hoofer”, tap dancing. She moved to New York and sang in theater and plays, moving on to Broadway musicals where she spent most of her career.
In between Broadway shows, Terri would make a living singing in New York’s piano bars. After 9/11, Terri had difficulty finding work. A lot of the piano bars closed, and the rest seemed to want younger talent. In 2008, Terri lost her apartment of 14 years and was homeless, living in Washington Square Park. She survived through the kindness of friends, especially David Taylor, a police officer and longtime fan. Taylor helped find her a place to live with a friend. Another old friend of Terri’s, Pat West, called her a few months later and asked if she could help open the Keys Piano Bar on Duval Street. Another friend bought her a plane ticket to Key West.
When Terri first arrived in Key West, she made the cab driver stop just outside the airport so she could get out and look at the water. She immediately felt “I’m home.”
Ironically, the Keys Piano Bar was across the street from La Te Da who’s owner Mark Barack had grown up in Palo Alto, living about five blocks from Terri, and they attended the same high school. On Terri’s opening night, Mark was in the audience happy to see his old friend and wished her well. She also met the love of her life, Donna Barnett, and they’ve been together ever since.
Terri feels she has to sing as much as possible – she needs her music fix. Musicians in Key West love to jam with Terri. She listens to musicians, and they listen to her, trying new things with the same song all the time. Terri says the music is alive in Key West.
She had a performance at the San Carlos Institute in early 2009. It was a two-hour show with an intermission. The audience thought it was a one hour show, and people were leaving at intermission. Terri and Donna were frantically trying to tell people to comeback, “please come back there’s more”.
In 2010, New York called again, Terri was cast in Finian’s Rainbow as Dottie. After 14 Broadway shows, Terri’s career skyrocketed again. Terri starred in musicals for the next five years in New York and California, with critics heaping praise. Her solo show Two Score, about her 40 years in music, won the Best Single Event in New York. It was also a sold out hit at the Waterfront Playhouse.
On October 15, 2015, after losing sight in one eye to glaucoma and the other eye failing, Terri White announced her retirement to a broken-hearted audience at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater.
No matter how much success has come to Terri, she and her partner Donna Barnett always felt Key West was home and returned in 2016. Terri still performs regularly around town and starred in the 2019 production of the Key West Women of Soul.
Terri says Key West reminds her of a small town outside of Bahia, on the northeast coast of Brazil, where her father is from. She feels Key West has a rhythm like Bahia – “When you come into a town, you feel the rhythm. You don’t really hear music at first, but there is a rhythm in the city that takes you on a journey. There is a certain pattern and energy, the way people move and walk, and the music comes right along with the people of Key West. You can tell the regulars from the tourists”. According to Terri “It brings out the riches of your heart”.