Kat Spina has a Baseline in Music, Teaching, and Life
Written by Rich Monetti on April 28, 2020
Katherine Spina got her start as a musician when she auditioned for the third-grade talent show. “I remember everybody being very quiet when I sang, and the teacher said, ‘nice job Katherine. You will be on the show.’” But the actual impetus obviously came as the accolades were expressed more publicly to her rendition of A Whole New World.
“I remember how joyful the reaction was,” she said. “It was a very formative experience of connectivity and community.”
A ripple effect began and a commitment to private lessons took her through high school. However, the Valhalla based singer/songwriter doesn’t advocate being a starving artist. “You should have a baseline, not a backup job or a plan B,” she said. “Have a fundamental stream of income that gives you the power to be creative.”
More than words, Spina has long put her music therapy degree from SUNY New Paltz to good use, works an Adjunct Professor of Communication & Media Arts at WCC and provides private lessons to students. The current shutdown of the world obviously makes her advice all the more prescient. This especially since her online communications courses at WCC have all gone online, and she’s providing virtual music lessons.
At the same time, having a strong fall back isn’t the only positive. Spina finds her music students are more focused, and she believes their proclivity for technology is the reason. Looking ahead, she sees a time-saving chance to cut out all the driving around. So there’s no reason to go against the grain.
The same goes for a current trend in which licensing companies are looking for uplifting music to get people out of their socially distanced doldrums. “My new single called Hold On is all about trying to keep your head above water when things are tough,” Spina said.
Actually, she wrote the song a few years ago and understands the need to temper her songwriting inclinations. “There’s no guarantee for any money right now. So I’m trying to designate two days a week toward my music,” said Spina.
In keeping, Spina previously decided to raise her vocal game. She was writing songs in that Norah Jones six or seven-note range but opted to challenge herself. “These new songs have a lot of vocal jumps,” she said. “There’s a lot more going on technically.”
The plan is to release a new song every few months and keeps it rolling. Otherwise, she has plenty of other songs to fall back on.
Play it Loud comes to mind and is all about the recall. I’m trying to recapture all the times driving around with my parents and wanting to play the music nonstop and on repeat, she said.
But no where to lose yourself in Our Secret, the 2020 release stays present. “Our Secret is all about living in the moment with somebody – that visceral connection you can’t have words for,” she asserted. “You’re having fun, it’s sexy, it’s intimate with a little bit of mystery and intrigue.”
That said, finding the right public settings for her music has been a journey. She wasn’t in any bands in at Westlake High School but did get out there in NYC and Westchester throughout college.
Still, the main challenge was economics. Drums, bass, guitar, keyboards, she always paid her players a rate, and breaking even was far from a certainty. While a lot of fun, Spina could only do so much sharing, and she also had trouble competing with all the sounds. Afraid to blow her voice out, she said, “I’m not Gwen Stefani or Pat Benatar.”
So Spina has since dialed down to duos, and the stage presence has evolved with the technology. “We work in the studio and filter the sound into the live show,” she said.
Nonetheless, hoping enough people show up to accrue a gig’s return is a business model she wants to get away from. Ticketed events, she said, “That’s how I want to put on my shows.”
The singer already put the plan into effect with a show last November in Bedford and booked an event for April 25 that was obviously canceled. But she’s already thinking about reaching out to venues for our inevitable return.
Even so, the overall closeout is actually working well for her personal mindset. The end of a relationship a few years ago was very stressful, and she never had the time to sort out the pain. “Ever since, I’ve pictured myself in a little tiny home away from people and just needing some space,” Spina lamented.
Getting herself right, she welcomes a return, but won’t change what she’s about as a musician. Telling my story from the most authentic place I can go, she said, “That is really empowering.
In a crisis or any day of the week, she hopes other artists can do the same.
Check out Kat’s Podcasts, where she takes people on a creative journey with fellow artists to learn how they hone their craft and keep pressing on.
Photo Courtesy of Peter Freed