Kristina Koller started doing musical theatre at eight years old and would take part in about 30 productions throughout Westchester County by the time she reached high school. The Yorktown, New York native went on to dabble in Opera, Classical, Rock ‘n Roll and Indie Music before discovering jazz, and the genre eventually took full ownership of her musical heart.
“I love how you can make a song your own,” she says.
As such, Jazz vocalist and music student at City College plays dictator of sorts to the contemporary jazz band that bears her name and freely splices in the funk. “I’m basically the boss,” she says.
But it’s definitely an enlightened despotism that doesn’t leave anyone’s feeling hurt as they sort through the ideas and is far from a lonely at a top situation. “They’re always like, ‘it’s up to you boss – whatever you want,'” she clarifies, while “family” is how she sums up the synergy.
The group of five, which includes Mark McIntyre on guitar, Orice Jenkins on keys, Greg Schettino on bass & John Venezia on drums, stays in synch by keeping their connection close to home. “We practice in my parent’s basement,” says Koller.
To date, their efforts have yielded a single album – Live at the Shrine. “My dad mastered the tracks,” she says of the compilation recorded at the landmark venue in Harlem.
Her favorite is their cover of Crying me a River. “It really goes with my perspective on love. I’ve been hurt before, and every time I sing that song I put my full heart into it,” she says.
That said, making a living as a musician can make anyone miss more than a few beats. “A lot of venues don’t want to pay musicians or pay a really low price, and it’s hard to find places that appreciate us,” she says.
Leaving her living at home, Koller anticipates the end of the school year to pick up some side work as the band struggles to pull in the pennies. “I’ve got to get some money in my pocket,” she jokes.
Looking forward, Koller plans to make New York City her home and see where it leads. “Hopefully, I could get in a good situation and start playing in different clubs,” says Koller.
Unfortunately, the uncertainty of the whole scene forces a backup plan on the talented artist. “If it doesn’t work out, I’m going to go to grad school for music therapy,” she reveals.
Either way, Koller won’t go without as music provides a healing of its own. “I feel like music is my drug. Some people go out and have a drink to relax their mind. That’s what music is for me,” she says.
The only side effect is for the rest of us to enjoy.
Rich Monetti interview of Kristina Koller