Computer Programmer/Rock Singer
By Megan Malugani
“What am I gonna wear?” is no simple question for Mary Lieser, a multi-faceted Rochesterite who gives Barbie a run for her money when it comes to size and diversity of wardrobe.
There’s Lieser’s standard business attire for her job at a tech firm: sensible glasses, dress pants, and blouses. Then there are the clothes she wears for teaching aerobics at the Rochester Athletic Club: spandex and do-rags. But what really distinguishes Lieser’s wardrobe from the typical 40-year-old’s are the rock star get-ups she dons for performing as the lead vocalist with the band Incognito: a Britney Spears Catholic schoolgirl outfit, a leather mini-skirt and combat boots ensemble, and a barely-there vest. “I’ll walk in and people will look at me all funny, like ‘I can’t believe you’re wearing that outfit here.’ But you can get away with something you’d never get away with in the real world if you’re performing. People will just say, ‘Oh, you’re with the band.’”
Lieser laughs at just how different she looks depending on whether she’s sitting in front of a computer, leading a class in lunges, or rockin’ out at Strikers Corner in Stewartville. Even though she has taught at the RAC for 12 years, other club employees often don’t recognize her without her hair in a do-rag. And some of her aerobics students are Incognito fans, but don’t realize that their makeup-less instructor and the band’s made-up singer are one and the same. “I always thought it was ridiculous that people didn’t realize Clark Kent was Superman, but maybe not,” Lieser says.
Manager of product development at Vision Solutions (formerly Lakeview Technologies).
Lead vocalist and manager of Incognito; Aerobics instructor at the Rochester Athletic Club.
Growing up in Ladysmith, Wisconsin, Lieser was a singer, dancer, and alto saxophonist who performed in choir, band, and musicals. She never considered making a go of it as a full-time performer after high school, however. “I thought it was easier to have a day job and have passion on the side than to starve.” She picked her college major—Applied Mathematics—based on the high starting salaries available in computer science.
Making Her Mark:
Lieser moved to Rochester to work at IBM right after college. She first performed as a saxophonist, and then a vocalist, with the IBM jazz band. She also frequently performed karaoke at Max’s on Broadway (the location of CJ’s today), singing to Juice Newton tunes and other popular songs of the era. “The people running Incognito at the time were karaoke judges, and that’s how I got the audition,” she says. She joined Incognito in 1992 and slowly took over running the band.
Other Performing Gigs:
Besides performing with the 11-member Incognito about 30 times a year, Lieser also performs in community theater (she was Evita at the Rochester Repertory Theatre) and recently joined another band with the guitarist of Incognito called The Christines. In addition, she completed her own solo CD in 2006, after a cross-country collaboration that involved flying to Los Angeles every few weeks to record the tracks with a Los Angeles music producer. The venture was “rewarding but expensive,” Lieser says. “It taught me how difficult it is to break into the commercial music business.”
Incognito performs R&B, funk, pop, disco, and more. Lieser’s solo CD is “all over the place” and includes rock, pop, funk, rap, country, and ballads.
Lieser calls herself “insanely busy.” “My life is heavily scheduled,” Lieser says, noting that sleep is sometimes in short supply. “I get energy from performing ... I’m exhilarated at the end of a performance and can’t get to sleep.”
Three Looks, One Personality:
Lieser doesn’t consider herself to have alter egos. “I’m really not that much different at work and outside of work. I obviously have to be more subdued and am not singing at work. It’s mostly my outside physical appearance that changes.”
To learn more about Lieser’s music, visit
.net or www.marylieser.com