Kristen Tivey ’12 once made her music debut playing at an open-mic night her freshman year in Cushing. Now, Tivey is an up-and-coming artist who is finding her way in Brooklyn’s music scene.
Tivey preformed in the Aula last Thursday with openers Sam Plotkin ‘15, the director of ViCE Student Music, and Anna Been ’14, both singer-songwriters as well.
While a student at Vassar, Tivey intentionally avoided taking music classes, approaching her music education organically. “I was in the jazz band for four years; I played saxophone. I played guitar, mainly for my singer-songwriter stuff in the after-hour showcases. I had a showcase each semester, and I ran some open mics in Cushing,” she said. “I learned but I wasn’t taught.”
Additionally, she also played in Poughkeepsie venues, including the Cubby Hole, a café on Raymond Avenue that used to showcase local artists before it closed.
The New York music scene, she said, is entirely unlike that of Poughkeepsie. Said Tivey, “It’s very different from here because it’s NYC and there are tons of people. But that also means there are tons of opportunities.”
Tivey moved to Brooklyn after she graduated and started going to open-mic nights in the city. After seeing that that was sort of a dead end, she auditioned for some gigs and started playing at the Bitter End, New York City’s oldest rock and roll club. Her success there helped her make connections and be more active in her pursuit of her career ambitions. She elaborated, “I had to learn about making an electronic Presskit, which is sort of like a music résumé and I had to send it out to people. You just email them and hope that they listen to your songs and want you to play.”
Tivey left a lasting legacy at Vassar, with many current student musicians looking up to her. Been commented on Tivey’s music in a written statement, saying “She has such an interesting way of playing, because she definitely doesn’t go about the conventional way of anything. The way she strums and uses the capo are so unique and definitely make the genre of music she plays so interesting to listen to. Also, her lyrics are fantastic.”
Tivey looked forward to returning to Vassar because of the immediate connection she would have with the audience just by virtue of sharing a collective experience. “As soon as I left Vassar I realized what this community means. Even if they’re young and they haven’t met me yet I feel like I already know them just because we all went to Vassar, we all go to Vassar. You know you have so many things in common with them. And so it’s always great to come back. This is so familiar; I’m so happy to be back.”
Tivey’s re†urn to Vassar had a sentimental appeal for Plotkin as well. Before the show he said, “What’s special about this performance for me is that Kristen was a friend of mine and Anna Been’s before she graduated.”
Apparent due to the intense amount of cheers for the singer-songwriter, many of Tivey’s friends were in the audience to support her. Tivey walked on to the stage— where two chairs were placed before the audience—with an acoustic guitar in one hand and a ukulele in the other.
After placing the ukulele on the chair, she talked about how she felt as a Vassar student when alumni were invited to Vassar to give performances. “I thought it must be very nice, doing music in life,” she jokingly added, “but now I know it’s not very nice,” she said, alluding to struggles as a musician as well as acting as a transition to her first song.
The subject matter of Tivey’s songs was not unfamiliar to her audience of college students: She startied her set with a song about drowning one’s sorrows in alcohol. After playing a few more songs, she recounted the story of how she played her song “Purgatory” at a random open-mic night on a dark street in Paris. Afterwards, she won “Le Championnat de la Bière,” or “the champion of beer,” which consequently caused her to have an insufferable hangover next day. She added that she played the song over and over again to distract herself from feeling sick.
As one of her final songs, Tivey preformed “Time/Wine/Whiskey,” a tune about being a senior and feeling weird about it. “I’m out of Poughkeepsie. I’m gone; will you miss me? I don’t know. I hope so.”