After reading this month’s interview that Sarah conducted with our June Student Spotlight, Kristina, I’m pretty sure Kris is my hero. For the past 15 years, she’s been a competitive skydiver, and she plans to run a 50 Miler for her 50th birthday. As if that stuff isn’t impressive on its own, she’s also a project engineer for a company that makes parachutes for the space industry. More to the point, Kristina grew up around music: her dad was a music teacher, and she performed in musical theatre and choirs throughout her childhood. She has amazing taste in music (just look at her list of favorites), and we’re excited to have her with us now, taking voice and piano lessons from Ben.
MM: How did you get started with music, and how long have you been singing? Do you have any first musical memories growing up?
KP: My dad was a music teacher and taught me how to read music at some point (I don’t remember when exactly). I do remember being really young (4 or 5) and going to Yamaha music classes. Dad would always play Christmas songs on the organ on Christmas Eve.
MM: You once told me you used to be very active in musical theater and choir. Do you know which was your favorite? What was your favorite production/solo? How young were you in your first performance, and how did your experiences of theater in particular change with age?
KP: I’m not sure I have a favorite. I think musical theatre is more challenging for me personally because I’m putting myself out there more. It feels more vulnerable than singing in a choir. When I was 10 I was cast as Gretl in my sister’s high school production of The Sound of Music. After that I took musical theatre classes after school 3 days a week and was in several Theatre Under the Stars productions in Houston (Peter Pan, Oliver!, The Music Man, Scrooge!). We moved to Lubbock, TX and I found it more difficult to find performance opportunities and lost interest. I did continue in choir during both junior high and high school. I made all-region choir throughout high school and was an alternate to all-state my junior year. Once I got into college I focused on my engineering studies and only participated in choir my senior year. Then real life happened. I did dabble in community choirs and community theatre productions on and off through 2005. I also went back to school and am 2 credits away from having a BA in Theatre from The University of Central Florida. For the last 10 years I’ve focused on a competitive skydiving career and just didn’t have or make the time for music.
MM: I know it’d been a while since you had time to sing when you started lessons. How has the transition back into it been? Why did you decide to add piano to the mix, and does it give you a different perspective to singing at all, or vice versa?
KP: The transition has been challenging for sure. My memory of my singing ability doesn’t match my current ability. The first couple of months were challenging and it’s taken some concentrated effort and patience to feel good about my voice again. I’ve always wanted to play an instrument and haven’t put any real effort into learning. I had played some organ when I was younger so understand some basic concepts. I’m really enjoying the journey of learning piano because I don’t have any preconceived expectation of my ability. I’m not sure that my piano practice alters my perspective of singing. I think that having a musical background, which in my case is singing, is extremely helpful in learning piano.
MM: Share a bit about your practice space – is it a corner in the living room, your car, a friend’s house, or what? What’s your practice routine like?
KP: I found a used piano on Craigslist that now lives in my bedroom. My goal is to spend at least 30 minutes each day (usually right after work) practicing. That doesn’t always happen as work and life sometimes get in the way. For singing I have a vocal warm up app on my phone that I use every morning on the way to work and then I’ll practice one of the songs I’m working on (saved in my Amazon music library).
MM: Who are a few bands/artists who have inspired you, and why? Musicals and choral pieces, too!
KP: Prince is my favorite. He is a true artist and I especially like his funky, less-commercial music. I also like RUSH. What Neal Peart does with drums is magical. Phantom of the Opera, Rent, Hair and my latest favorite, Book of Mormon, are musicals I enjoy. I’m a sucker for classical music also. Beethoven’s 9th is amazing.
MM: Can you share about a technique, skill, or song you struggled with, and how you are overcoming or have overcome it? What song are you working on now, too?
KP: My struggle in singing has been managing my mid-range, chest voice to head voice transition. I have certainly not overcome that yet, but (with Ben’s help) when I make a decision or a plan about where to make that switch from chest to head (or vice versa) I do better than when I wing it. I have a few songs I’ve been working on– “There’s A Fine, Fine Line” and “The More You Love Someone” (both from Avenue Q) as possible audition pieces. And “Love Never Fails” by Brandon Heath that I will be singing at a wedding this Summer.
MM: Do you identify more with being a musician, a singer, a performer, or an artist right now? Why? Which do you like best?
KP: Right now I feel like a student. I need to make the leap and audition for something, be it a choir or musical theatre production, and get myself out there. I get a lot of satisfaction from my lessons and practice right now just for their own sake, without a clear goal in mind.
MM: I really agree with that student approach. It’s the best even when you are performing! Do you listen to music differently now that you’re an active student? I’m curious, most people don’t appreciate rhythm like drums (or poor bass players) as much since they’re not as familiar. Did you have some rhythm background that let you get Neal Peart more, or is he just that magical?
KP: I think I’ve always listened to music differently because of my dad. He would point out things in songs that I would have never noticed otherwise. He would point out how a drummer might be leading or lagging a band or something about how the bass or guitar player was playing. He could hear so many things and would talk about them with me.
MM: Since we’re all more than musicians – what are some of your favorite hobbies or activities? Books, shows, movies, sports teams? And what do you do for a living?
KP: I’ve spent the last 15 years as a competing skydiver and now that that is behind me I’ve been running a lot. I did my first 50k last weekend and hope to do a 50 miler this year (for my 50th birthday). I love spending time with my little dogs. I’m not really into watching sports. I’m a Netflix junkie (House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Battlestar Galactica). I love good stand-up comedy. I also love unusual movies (too many to list). I am a Project Engineer for a company that makes parachutes, primarily for the space industry.
MM: I love Battlestar Galactica. I cried so much. Why do you like it, and what’s your favorite character?
KP: I love the strong female characters in the show for sure. I also love the human-ness of all the characters (even the Cylons), no one is one-dimensionally good or bad, they all make big mistakes. My favorite is of course Starbuck, she’s very relatable for me. And I named my Chihuahua Boomer 🙂