Gratitude & Music
Michael VanDerAa

Junior Kate Buikema drops her first single on over thirty different music platforms.

This past summer, I dropped my first single, “Like They Used To” on over thirty different music platforms. That release is one of the first milestones in my songwriting career, but also the most recent chapter in the story of my growth as a musician.

According to my mom, I began singing almost immediately after I could talk coherently. I grew up surrounded by music; my mom has been a lead singer in our church’s worship band for as long as I can remember. Early in the morning on Sundays, I would dance and sing with her in the living room, and she would teach me songs that I can still sing word for word. In those first few years after I began singing, it was only my mom who coached and encouraged me, and I sang here and there for church. 

But then, in kindergarten, I started going to Timothy — and a whole new world of opportunity opened up for me. 

All throughout elementary school, I had music classes once or twice a week where I learned new songs and began figuring out how to read music. There were chances to sing in chapel and to perform solos in the Christmas and Easter programs. At recess, between games of tag, I would make up little songs, and around third or fourth grade, I started writing them down.

The story of my growth as an artist is also the story of my gratitude for a community that supported me from the minute I walked into the elementary school doors.

In fifth grade, when all students at Timothy are required to join either choir, band, or orchestra, I decided (without hesitation) to join choir. That was one of the best decisions I ever made, because under Mrs. DeJager’s teaching and encouragement, I grew exponentially as a musician in those years. She (not so) gently pushed me into a leadership role in choir, and knowing that, I resolved to apply myself even more to my love for music. 

I continued to do choir throughout middle school, as well as voice lessons and musical theater outside of Timothy. Apparently, I thought there still wasn’t enough music in my life, so when I entered eighth grade, I organized a band to lead worship for middle school chapel every week. At a bigger school, I would’ve never had the chance to do that. That experience alone made me into a better, more confident singer and leader.

In eighth grade, I also began songwriting again. I didn’t really know how to play the piano, but I figured out how to plunk enough chords to accompany myself, and I showed snippets of my work to my chapel band. 

Their positive response to my work encouraged me to pursue piano lessons at a local music academy, but when I performed my song for the teachers there, they immediately placed me into a different program: recording artist training.

So, since I started high school, between Mock Trial, scholastic bowl, the school newspaper, theatre, chamber choir, Story Team, and a full set of honors classes, that’s what I’ve been doing — writing, recording, producing, and promoting my own music. 

Starting high school also came with a whole new set of ways for me to grow artistically right here at Timothy. Being a part of Concert Chorale with Mrs. Lanenga and the musical with Mrs. Markos and Mrs. Crighton has sharpened my technique and cultivated my passion for music. The sheer amount of opportunities to perform here — especially during Fine Arts week — has been crucial to the rapid improvement I’ve seen in my musicianship while I’ve been in high school.

For me, one of the most important of those performance opportunities was the Variety Show, an annual talent competition that Timothy puts on every year. Encouraged by my friends, I decided to perform my first fully produced original song, “Like They Used To,” for the show last May, at the end of my sophomore year. I went into that night expecting to win nothing — just wanting the chance to finally perform my original work, But, to my absolute delight, that original work was readily received and the audience voted me and my song the best act of the night.

However, that performance also immediately created a ready audience of Timothy students, faculty, and parents for when I finally dropped my first single this past summer. 

There was an instant outpouring of support and listeners. 

Within the first week of its release, my song had over 100 listens on both Spotify and YouTube, as well as numerous purchases on iTunes. Those may seem like small numbers to a lot of people, but to me, each of those listens represents a person who went out of their way to support me and my work. 

Even now, teachers and students will stop me in the hall and tell me they listened to my song on their way to school, or that I’ve been officially added to their playlist. However, the question I get most often is, “When are you going to release your next one?” 

The answer is, I’m almost done with my second fully-produced song. But after that, the plan is to release another one, and another one, and another one — and I’ll see where my music takes me. The truth is though, I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere if not for the opportunities and encouragement this school has given me.

What all of the above ultimately comes down to is this: the story of my growth as an artist is also the story of my gratitude for a community that supported me from the minute I walked into the elementary school doors. 

And so, I know that when I (soon) drop my second single, “Not Mine,” that even before I start marketing, there will be an audience ready to support me, and then encourage me on to the next chapter.

  • arts
  • performing arts