Kate Lee – ready for some attention

Kate LeeWe make a special effort here on Bluegrass Today to avoid choosing or promoting stories based on our personal likes and dislikes, or putting them forward based on anything but news judgment.

Like any rule, of course, there are a few exceptions and one of ours is an intent to bring attention to deserving artists who may not be well known, especially younger ones.

So, when we received the following message by email not long ago, I couldn’t help but follow up.

Hi I’m a 15 year old singer/songwriter, fiddler. I have opened for Rhonda Vincent, Jay Unger. I will open for the Grascals in Gettysburg in Aug. I performed at the Bluebird Cafe, The Commodore and and Tootsies. I have a new CD out in Feb.

The message came from Kate Lee who lives near Rochester, NY. I found music of striking maturity from this young woman, with the sort of understated emotion in her voice that comes rarely this early in life. In her mid teens, she has her own group, No Strings Attached, and has recorded two CDs, including songs she has written.

At school, Kate studies and performs classical music, singing in the select choir and playing with the orchestra. She is also a member of the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and keeps a busy schedule of shows with her band. As a sophomore, she maintains high honor roll with distinction, and hopes to continue to study music in college – if she isn’t signed to a recording contract.

“I really love Bluegrass music because it is such a pure sound. Voice and instrument becomes one! It does not have to be fancy to be wonderful. In fact, it’s great because it is not bogged down with any extra bells and whistles. I really like a lot of different music, like classical and some country.

It helps my fiddling to have classical training as my tone and pitch must be precise in orchestra. There is no faking it. This makes my fiddling much cleaner sounding. I love to sing and am now receiving voice training as well. My vocals, like my fiddle is based on a ‘pure, simple’ sound without a lot of fancy ornamentation. I think Alison Krauss has the perfect voice. She is the standard for all singers!”

Kate told us that she began her study of the violin in a Suzuki program while only 4 years old. Private lessons soon followed, during which time she discovered traditional fiddling at a local music school where Linda and Ben Ford offered a group session.

I enjoyed it so much that I joined a fiddle club called, Fiddlers Of the Genesee. A guitarist named Jack Metzger heard me play and asked me to start a duo. We appeared at many festivals the first year doing mostly fiddle tunes.

My Dad and I sang a lot at home, and thought that I should do some vocals. I started singing a lot of Alison Krauss songs along with some old folk standards. During all this, the band began to grow. Ben Ford, on guitar, and John Irvine,a great banjo/mandolin player, joined the band. We brought Keith Impellitier on as well. As my repertoire grew so did the size and number of gigs. Jack had to leave the band for family obligations, so we drafted Chuck Boda on bass.

My Dad decided we should write some original music, so we began to write with a friend, Marty Roberts. We continue to write alone and with co-writers.

You can hear audio samples from Kate’s 2007 CD, Are We There Yet, as well as her upcoming release, On Your Way, on her web site.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.