As if life as a Columbia student isn’t already busy enough, Kayte Dzime-Assison, CC ’11, is also making her mark on the Manhattan music scene. Last night, she performed a set of original music at Sidewalk Café—New York’s self-proclaimed “Antifolk stomping ground”—under her stage name, Kayte Grace. Grace’s self-described musical style of folk, rock, and pop lends itself to various niches in the music world. “My music is kind of all over the place, but I can say what it’s not. It’s definitely not rap, not ska, nothing extreme,” she said. Her sources of inspiration for songwriting are just as varied, ranging from romance to poverty to inquiries about life. “One song I wrote called ‘Revolution’ was inspired by homeless people, by a lot of people in our neighborhood I’ve gotten to know, and about the gaps between people,” Grace said. She added, “A lot of them [the songs] are about love, unrequited love, sort of sad love. ... I’m super girly and romantic so that sort of helps.” Though her arrival to the music scene is relatively recent, Grace is no stranger to performing. “I’ve been acting professionally since I was in fourth grade, doing commercials and stuff, and that’s part of the reason I came to New York to go to college,” she said. The transition from acting to music was a natural one that her family supported, and arose from her first encounter with a six-string. “My family’s really musical and that’s cool because it’s always been natural for music to be a career possibility. Two years ago I got a 50-dollar guitar and started teaching myself how to play. I was writing music while I was learning chords,” Grace said. Grace’s industrious self-managing and promotional work are part of what has led her so quickly from learning chords to performing across the country. “I started posting videos of myself on YouTube and one of them [a song called “Soaked You In”] got 250,000 hits. ... It was on the main page of YouTube for a week!” she said. Grace has produced CDs, booked shows, and built an online fan base independent of a record label contract. “There is no ‘getting discovered’ because there are so many people in this field that the record companies hardly need to go out and find people,” she said. “People should realize all the things you can do on your own.” Despite just having started writing and performing her own songs at the beginning of the last school year, Grace is already releasing her first full-length album next month, titled “Written On.” Kevin Plybon, CC ’11, performed alongside Grace at the Sidewalk Café and will join her at a number of other gigs later this year. The pair met last year through Columbia’s InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Plybon, a classically trained guitarist, will be performing with Grace at the South by Southwest festival this March in Austin, Texas. “She [Grace] always says she wants to get famous before we graduate,” Plybon said. “That would be good for me if she gets famous because then I could be a guitarist for a famous person.” Though not as big as South by Southwest, Grace’s New York show still holds some significance. Regina Spektor, whom she cites as one of her biggest inspirations, performed at the Sidewalk Café in 2002 when she was still at the relative beginning of her career. “I’ll be in the presence of greatness,” Grace said.
Four seniors reflect on their time at Columbia, and what it means to be leaving these years—and NYC—behind.