Confident, vivacious, and warm were the adjectives that ran through my head as 17 year old singer, songwriter, and McKinney resident, Kassy Levels strode through the door of the TSB office recently and introduced herself. As the relaxed conversation continued, determined, focused, passionate, adorable, talented and poised were added to my list. Levels, as it turns out, was chosen the Kollaboration Star Dallas 2013 in September and needs the voter support of the community to move on to compete in the next round.
Born in Richardson to Kevin and Karen Levels, music was always a part of life in the Levels home. Being of African American and Filipino descent (mom Karen is Fillipino) Levels said she grew up listening to music of every genre and began singing at the age of nine when she became part of her church worship team.
Levels said she was unaware of her musical talent and was focused on academics and her dream of someday attending Harvard, aspiring to become a motivational speaker. Her worship leader noticed that she had a singing voice and the family realized that she possessed a gift. As part of the adult worship team, Levels said that while she learned how to communicate more clearly with adults, she was also beginning to lose her passion for music as she watched the other kids her age playing games while she spent hours practicing her music.
In retrospect, Levels says, “I’m so happy that I stuck to that (practice) because that’s when I really grew vocally. I hated it at first, but I grew to love it.”
At the tender age of 12, Levels faced a major challenge when she developed nodules on her vocal cords. The doctor put her on vocal rest for seven months. Vocal rest meant no talking – she had to write everything down. Levels said that by the six week check-up, her seasoned doctor was surprised to find that the nodules were gone. Levels and her mom Karen attribute that unheard of rate of healing to the prayer support of their church.
“This brought to my attention that this is what I’m really supposed to do. In that period of time – not being able to speak for six weeks – it made me devastated to think that I could could lose my voice and not do music. I realized that, wow, I really love this, I want to do this,” Levels said.
Levels began slowly building up her voice again and since then has been in great vocal shape. Fearful that the vocal nodules might return, Levels said that she was too careful and when she began performing with her band at the age of 14, she really didn’t stretch her vocals and that she “sang with caution”. Finding and working with a new vocal coach has enabled more growth Levels said, adding that she is now able to hit notes that she didn’t realize were within her range. That range is an incredible four octaves.
Obviously outgoing, Levels feels that her ability to connect with people is a plus.
“I have a heart for people and doing music, I feel like I can reach out and touch them [fans] in a different way. When I’m talking to people I like to get to know them,” Levels said.
With Dad as her bass player, mom as her manager, and her older sister Kayla on keyboard, Levels’ music world is truly a family affair. Levels said working together has brought us together as a family.
“Its brought me a very strong foundation as to who I am because they get to work with me and see how I work under pressure and they can give me advice. At first, Levels said the constructive criticism was tough to take, but “my mom’s is the most honest person in the world and I think its been a blessing because her honesty has brought me to a level that I didn’t know that I could get to. It has helped me become the person I am today.”
Levels’ sister is the keyboard player in her band is, she says, her best friend. “I think she would describe me as a little weird because we do some crazy stuff together. We both love music and if she were to describe me, it would be outgoing, crazy, passionate and then serious, all at the same time.”
Home schooled since seventh grade, Levels graduated early and said education is very important to her, and that college is “definitely” in her future. But for now, this one year is her year to give the music industry her all. September, it turns out, was a very momentous month for Levels’ career as she was crowned Kollaboration Dallas 2013 winner on Sept. 14.
The decision to take time away from education was not taken lightly Levels’ mom said. “That was the biggest challenge as parents. We want to give them to get a good education so they have something to fall back on, but we also know that this age in the music industry is really important – it’s a ripe age – so we decided to see what happens in the next year. We decided to give her the opportunity to experience the life lessons of what’s happening. If it [Level’s career] isn’t going anywhere after one year, then we know it’s time to move on,” she said.
So far, this year has proved to be quite the success. Levels auditioned for the Kollaboration Dallas 2013 competition and ended up winning. Now the next big challenge is to moves on to round two, which is the international voting round.
Kollaboration Star hosts 14 city wide showcases around the USA and Canada. Each winner from each city moves into Round 2. The top six talents with the highest votes head to the finals in Pasadena, California on Nov 16 to compete for the cash prize of 20,000 and the title of Kollaboration Star 2013.
One of my biggest strengths is song writing,” Levels said. “I think my performance is great, my vocals are great, but my strength is song writing. I want to write good music and music that will last,” and she said that she has been looking at performers she loves, from Stevie Wonder, Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake to assess the musical and lyrical aspects of their music. “I love connecting with people and pouring my passion onto paper. It’s definitely a lot of work and I can spend hours in my room just putting words or music on paper.”
Time will tell if Levels has what it takes to make it big in today’s music world. But if her determination and dedication are any indication, surely success will follow her in whatever career path her life takes.
About Kassy Levels
Favorite food: Filipino food
What do you do for fun? Hang out with friends
Favorite song to sing: Who You Are by Jesse J
First purchase with her first big pay check: Probably put it back into my music because it’s a long term career for me. Or I would put it in some type of investment
All time favorite song: Under the Bridge by Red Hot Chili Peppers
What kind of music did you grow up listening to: ‘N Sync, Backstreet Boys
Who is your biggest fan? My little brother Kaleb (11) and my sister Khloe (10) They think I’m already famous.
The voting period begins Tuesday, October 15th from 12:00AM PDT and ends Thursday, October 17th at 11:59PM PDT. You are allowed to vote once per day during the voting period. The six Kollaboration Star Finalists will be announced on the Kollaboration Star Facebook Page on Tuesday, October 22nd! Voters may cast a vote by liking their favorite.