Kristina Koller Keeps Creating as the World Steps Back during Coronavirus Pandemic

Written by on March 31, 2020

NYC Jazz Singer Stays Positive in Wake of World Crisis

A couple of weeks ago, Kristina Koller and her NYC jazz band were in Florida and feeling pretty good about the tour they just did. Getting on the plane, the group was aware of the virus and weren’t that concerned. Of course, everything changed overnight, and she’s returned to her parents’ Westchester home to wait out the uncertainty. But instead of sulking, she thinks this is a good time to step back, figure out what comes next, and if nothing else, stay positive by being active.

Completing a tap board is among her activities and once it’s done, she joked, “I’ll be tap dancing a lot more.”

The project isn’t entirely a distraction, and while a minor component, it does fit in with her overall musical agenda of staying productive. She intends to get up to speed from the childhood training and include a bit of her tap on at least one song on her next album.

But at the moment as all the gigs have dried up, Koller’s diversified income stream gives her enough fall back to stay above water. “I’m still giving lessons twice a week,” she said.

The face time delay does get a little frustrating, but there is an unexpected upside. “I find the students pay more attention this way than in person,” Koller said. “Maybe it’s because they have a screen in front of them.”

She’s also using technology to stay connected and keep the musical conversation going. On Instagram, the City College grad does Together Thursday with another person in the industry to discuss how musicians can keep the ball rolling. “I talked with Matt Chasen this week,” she said. “He is one of the leading forces behind Truth Revolution Records.”

For herself, Koller is learning to use Ableton, and with the software, she’s arranging a couple of originals. “Mostly trying to get my chops down,” she said, “it’s a good time to learn.”

In parallel, her next album will also have Koller doing some rearranging. A composer she can not yet name, Jazz gives the best opportunity to do what she loves best – making other artist’s songs her own. “I love that you can take a song, flip it anyway you want and make it yours,” said Koller.

Her artistic journey, which included musical theater, dance, opera and even the ukulele, had her arrive at the above conclusion by college. “I wanted to keep exploring music, and see whatever I could discover,” Koller said. “So I went to school for Jazz.”

Eventually Koller left the suburbs for the city and has made her mark at venues like Smalls, Smoke, Minton’s, Mezzrow and The Apollo. Her sound can also be heard on Spotify, and like everyone else, it’s all about getting on playlists.

Skinny Love off of 2018’s Perception is getting the most traction, while Save Your Love for Me is number one on her personal hit list. “I’ve been signing that song for three years, and I can’t stop,” Koller beamed.

She hopes her latest album carries the same momentum, and the haunting undertones of her rich vocals, once again should provide the incline. Her commitment to exploration bodes well also. “Stronger has a combination of rock, jack and R&B,” said the Yorktown, NY native.

Of course, this moment has Koller taking advantage of social media to live strum what she knows. “Last Saturday, I did some Jazz standards, and I try to take requests,” she said. “I also put out a virtual tip jar so people can donate.”

Koller has also been working virtually with her peers through recordings and zoom video chat and plans on conversing and collaborating with her band mates for brainstorming on her next album.

Otherwise, she’s getting outside for walks, and prefers being home to a dark apartment where someone in the building has tested positive.

In between, Koller is binge watching Better Things, and while the sentiment might be hard to take in, she hopes colleagues take stock as their music has been sequestered. “Just remember what you were put on this Earth for. You’re here to make music so keep making it for yourself and for others,” she concluded.

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