YORKTOWN, N.Y. - Yorktown native Kristina Koller will honor a pair of jazz legends next week, when she takes the stage in Peekskill to perform tunes made famous by Ella Fitzgerald and Nancy Wilson. The concert, held Saturday, March 12, at The Flatz, will also commemorate Women’s History Month.
“March is Women’s History Month and Ella Fitzgerald and Nancy Wilson made important contributions to jazz music, so I thought it would be really great to do a tribute to them, especially since they’re very big inspirations to me and many other jazz vocalists,” Koller said. “I really just wanted to show my appreciation toward them, and what better way to do it than through music?”
Koller, a 2012 graduate of Yorktown High School, has been singing since she was 8 years old but only began performing jazz during her senior year of high school.
Before that, Koller said she did musical theater for about seven years and was in more than 40 productions. She explored rock and funk music with a band, as well as classical music. She made the transition to jazz when deciding what music she wanted to study in college.
“I knew I wanted to do something different than theater and classical music and I wanted to do something I can be creative with,” Koller said. “I started to listen to jazz and I fell in love with it. My parents have always been telling me to learn jazz, sing jazz and I finally began singing some jazz standards when I was 17 years old and fell in love.”
Koller, like many other former Yorktown alums, has achieved success after coming through the high school’s music program. At Yorktown High School, she was in the choir, the Big Band, the Swing Four and performed in musicals. She credits teachers Thomas Arduini, Emily Kluga and Jeff Whalen for her success.
“It really helped me discover who I wanted to be,” Koller said. “If it wasn’t for my senior year of high school, I wouldn’t have discovered jazz. They let me sing in the Big Band and in the smaller Swing Four band. It just really opened me up to discovering this music and it was very helpful for me.”
After high school, she attended the Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz in the Hartt School in Hartford, Conn. A year and half later, she transferred to City College of New York. In addition to her studies, she performs a half-dozen gigs every month between New York City, Westchester, Connecticut and sometimes New Jersey.
“I’m hoping that within the next two years we’ll have an album out, and I’ll be able to go and tour and do my thing,” Koller said.
Anyone interested in watching past performances or listening to Koller’s music can visit KristinaKoller.net.
The concert, held Saturday, March 12, kicks off Embark Peekskill’s Music Series at their performance space in Peekskill and will be on the third-floor of The Flatz. Tickets and directions for the concert are available at embarkpeekskill.com. Tickets will also be available for $15 at the door.