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Peering into Paisley Park
Mackenzie graduated from UMD with a journalism degree and is now a tour guide at Paisley Park. Minnesota native, Prince (1958-2016), recorded and performed many of his songs at Paisley Park, his mansion in the suburbs of Minneapolis. Since his passing, his estate has become a museum that is open to the public.
Mackenzie is a comfortable conversationalist, and she finds giving tours to be easy. The tours are scripted, but she gives them her own personal flare.
For instance, in the New Power Generation (NPG) Music Room Mackenzie describes the parties Prince would put on for Minnesotans. “He created an after-dark, pajama party mystique,” she says. The events were spectacles. “Sometimes Prince rode in on his bicycle,” Mackenzie says.
The concert goers that stayed late at the parties were sometimes rewarded with his appearance. People taking the tour shared stories about seeing Prince at two in the morning. “He played for hours on various instruments. Sometimes he would play the piano, pick up the guitar for a song or two, and then play the drums, all in one night,” Mackenzie says.
At the sound stage, she gives background on Prince’s bands who performed there: The Revolution, NPG, and 3rdEyeGirl. She talks about other bands as well, for instance, Morris Day and the Time. Music history was made at Paisley Park. "Prince was the mastermind behind what is called the Minneapolis Sound," says Mackenzie. The music merged funk, rock, pop, R&B and more into something new.
The visitors are an interesting part of Mackenzie’s day. She tells about an eight-year-old boy, an ecstatic fan who looked up to Prince, and who has a MadCat Hohner Telecaster guitar, similar to one Prince owned. “He was the youngest fan I have met. The oldest was in his 90s.”
Mackenzie admits that some people have been Prince fans for decades and may know more about him than she does. She appreciates their interest. “I invite visitors to tell their stories about Prince. I get to learn even more.”
One of her goals in the tours is to make fans feel comfortable because sometimes they become emotionally overwhelmed. Music touches people in profound ways. “Some people are so overcome, they cry. If I can give visitors a memorable experience, I’ve done my job,” she says.
Mackenzie knows about all 39 of Prince’s studio albums and which rooms in Paisley Park were his favorites, but the facts are only part of the tour. “I want to show respect for Prince’s legacy and keep that going in an active and positive light,” Mackenzie says.
A Look Back
Mackenzie heard about the tour guide opening at Paisley Park from her mom. Mackenzie went to a job fair, filled out a form, and got an interview with a recruiter from Graceland, the museum group that manages Paisley Park. “I was so excited when I found out I was hired,” she says. “I called my mom, crying happy tears, and that night my friends took me out to celebrate.”
The fit is a good one for Mackenzie. She has been at Paisley Park since it opened as a museum and is enjoying the company of the other staff, many who worked for Prince for decades. “I am so happy to be here,” she says.