Student Spotlight: Kirsten (Ki) Kirk

The Texan vocalist, producer, and engineer talks about recording new music with a band of all women and nonbinary people and picks five tracks ranging from country to bubblegum metal.

July 24, 2023

What’s it like to study at Berklee? Our Student Spotlight series asks current students all about their Berklee experience—what they’re learning in class, what kinds of projects they’re involved in onstage or behind the scenes, how they recharge, and of course, what they’re listening to.

This week, meet Kirsten (Ki) Kirk, a sixth-semester voice principal with a double major in music production and engineering and music business/management. A native of Dallas, Texas, Kirsten recently studied abroad at Berklee’s campus in Valencia, Spain, serving on the student advisory board and leading the She Knows Tech collective.

Follow Kirsten on Instagram, SoundCloud, and Spotify

Tell us about your path to Berklee. What made you decide to come here?

My senior year of high school I committed to a small school in Texas to double major in neuroscience and applied mathematics, potentially on a pre-med track. Then Covid hit, I decided to take a gap year (I was a third grade assistant teacher during the week and worked at a restaurant on weekends) and realized that in the quarantine and stress of a 50-hour a week teaching job, the only thing that was really keeping me sane was music. I ended up applying to about 40 schools for musical theater and five schools for classical voice performance, and when I auditioned for Boston Conservatory [at Berklee] they actually recommended I look at Berklee College of Music. I didn’t know anything about it, auditioned with my aria, because I thought it was like Juilliard. It wasn’t until I got in that I realized that with MP&E and business I could combine music and math and science—I really don’t think I would be as happy as I am doing anything else.

What's been your favorite class so far, and what has it taught you? 

My favorite class so far has been Mix Techniques with Ted Paduck. The class is exactly what it sounds like. We learn about mixing on the API [mixing console] and with outboard gear. We worked on a different song each week with raw stems and it taught me more than any other class at Berklee. If it means anything, I am taking a Monday 9:00 a.m. class just because it was the only class that Ted is teaching that fits my MP&E semester.

What's a project you've worked on since coming to Berklee that you've been especially excited about?

My most recent project. It’s a single coming out right before an EP, and it’s a totally different sound than what I normally create. The song is called "Fool Me Twice," and I’ve been recording, producing, and engineering it with a team and band of all women and nonbinary people, which has been a really beautiful experience for me.

How do you typically recharge or find new ideas outside of class?

I feel like these should be two separate questions. Recharging for me often means taking a break from music or even creativity as a whole. I like to go outside and read on the grass or a playground. I like to watch TV shows and share meals with my roommate. I like to blast musical theater and bubble gum metal and country music and dance around my kitchen like a crazy person. When it comes to finding new ideas, I try not to search for them. I like to write and create from my own experiences or the experiences of my friends or even fictional characters. I like to experience as much live music as possible—house shows and Tuesday night open mics at the Burren in particular. I love listening to other songwriters and producers and rarely leave a live show without feeling inspired.

When you think towards your own future, who inspires you most?

My mom, without a doubt. Our career paths are not similar at all—she doesn’t do anything musical (she had a solo line in her high school production of Godspell but I’m not supposed to talk about that), but she has the strongest work ethic of anyone I’ve ever met. After working in contracts, mergers, and acquisitions for years, then taking 17 years off work to raise my little brothers and me, she just renewed her attorney’s license and went back into the workforce as a judge’s attorney in an appellate court. She reminds me every day that I can do anything I want, no matter where I am in my life or career, and is one of the strongest people that I know.

What's one piece of advice you'd give to your high school self?

“It’s not that deep”—and this is applicable to pretty much everything that I was worried about in high school. I would also say that music is a viable career path. I wish I had spent more (or any) time in high school writing music or learning guitar or bass or drums. Like, I think, most people at Berklee, I felt so out of place here when I arrived; I’d never been in a band, never made a lead sheet, couldn’t tell you the difference between a dynamic and condenser microphone, and it was a tough transition from my high school "anything I need to know I’ll learn in class" mindset to the Berklee success method of "if you want to learn it, learn it and the classes will improve technique and supplement the learning you did on your own."

Kirsten's Top Songs Right Now

1. “Baptized,” Chris Daughtry

Daughtry has been my favorite artist since I got my first iPod in fourth grade, handed down from my dad, and the only songs on it were that one U2 album that just appeared on everyone’s phones and "It’s Not Over" by Daughtry. He was sort of my intro to country rock, which has been inspiring me ever since.

2. “18+,” Scene Queen

Scene Queen was my top artist of 2022 when she had eight songs out total. She was my intro to what I call “bubble gum metal” or “angry girl noise scream,” which was the inspiration behind my newest single that I have coming out this summer. This song is basically calling out certain men in the industry over a cheerful, poppy groove.

3. “Southbound," Carrie Underwood

It goes without saying that Carrie Underwood is one of my queens of country, and this song is just impossible for me to not scream along to.

4. “Persephone," Allison Russell

This is such a gorgeous song that combines intersectionality in country music, addresses domestic abuse, and is by a queer country icon whose voice is is like ice cream melting on a hot apple pie on the Fourth of July.

5. "Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under," Shania Twain

Shania is obviously one of the original queens of country, and this song scratches the two-stepping line-dancing Texas itch in my brain every time I listen.

Related Categories