Grad student crosses over from folk to classical

Kiya Heartwood, a graduate student at Westminster, has a professional background in folk and rock music. She chose to attend WCC to get a Master of Composition degree.

By Matthew Walters-Bowen

Westminster has sent plenty of talented artists out into the music industry, but this semester an established artist is entering the program.
New to Westminster this semester, Kiya Heartwood is an aspiring Master of Composition who brings a colorful and extensive vocational background with her, which is sure to attract attention.
While in and out of school, Heartwood has performed with rock and folk bands of her own, such as Stealing Horses and Wishing Chair, which has just realeased its eighth album. She has been featured on MTV, has received many honors and awards and continues to lead a professional career while still pursuing her education.
According to Joel Phillips, professor of composition and music theory, Heartwood is an excellent example of the union between academia and the vocational world. Already holding two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s in cultural studies, she did not obtain all of this in one linear shot — she worked.
“Kiya embodies what we try to develop in all our student composers,” said Phillips. “Even while in school, she is having professional performances. Her work reaches a wide audience.”
Heartwood seeks to have important meaning present in all her music. Lying to the Sea Gypsy, an operetta which debuted May 2009 in the Cheltenham Arts Center in Pennsylvania, reminds us to “be careful what [we] wish for.”
Gaia Psalms is another one of Heartwood’s larger works. Its meaning focuses on inter-human and human-to-nature connectivity. This work will be performed at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Princeton on April 18.
Heartwood is currently writing a worship service called African, about the untrue paradigms of race and how races in general are contrived notions.
With a history of rock and folk music, Heartwood came to Westminster to learn classically-based music and technique.
“What’s cool is mixing a lot of different styles together, and if you can read [the music], then you can teach yourself,” Heartwood said. “You can talk to everybody and I enjoy the cross over.”
She was attracted to Westminster because it is a “working musician’s school.”
“All the composition teachers are out there getting commissions; they’re working composers,” she said.
The gap between academia and the working world has grown smaller. Although more students work, are the jobs that students are involved in relevant to their career goals? For Heartwood this question is a no-brainer — she is already a professional musician.
On the Princeton campus, many students work, and fortunately, a majority of these working students have jobs active in their fields. They are still students first, however, and rising professionals second.
The previous situation is fairly typical of students nowadays, but is success usual? Heartwood has known great success, simply because she’s realized that education has no boundaries or molds that one need sto fit to obtain it, something many students should remember.
“It is hard work, but I’m willing to do the work,” Heartwood said of juggling school with her touring and professional life. “You just have to be stubborn and plan and tell people your dream. People support you if you’re going for your dream.”
Heartwood then referenced Winston Churchill, who said, “Play for more than you can afford to lose, and you will learn the game.”

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