Senior K.C. Weston strides toward the front of a rehearsal room in the James J. Whalen Center for Music in a black pleather jacket, an ankle-length, sleeveless gray dress and black boots. Even though she’s late, she joins into the song her co-ed a cappella group, IC Voicestream, is rehearsing, as if she has been there the whole time. The song is “Bigger Than My Body” by John Mayer.
“Gzah dat, gzah dat, gzah dat, gzah dat,” she chants.
She rests her right hand on her hip while nodding her head to the beat and lightly grooving with the rest of the ensemble.
During Weston’s solo — her “senior song” — “Cosmic Love” by Florence + the Machine, her raspy, raw vocals resonate above the group, even without a microphone. The lyrics leave her mouth effortlessly as she twirls her curly, black hair and casually leans against the piano in the front of the room. She shifts from one foot to the other as she performs several confident runs while looking at the sheet music on the projector screen.
She performs the song again with her hands in her jacket pockets. Her voice cracks, but it’s not because she can’t hit the note. It’s part of the immense soulfulness her voice possesses.
The room is silent after the song ends, the vulnerability in her voice leaving the environment still.
This is the first year Voicestream seniors are able to choose their own “senior song” — a farewell tune each senior selects to sing at the group’s Block Four concert. In previous years, the seniors would have to choose an old song from the group’s repertoire as their “senior song.” But Weston wanted to make a change, as she couldn’t find an old song that suited her voice, a sentiment many of the other seniors shared about their own voices, she said. She initially chose “Closer” by Kings of Leon because lead singer Caleb Followill has been a large influence on her. She said she also embodies vocal aspects of Tyler Joseph, of 21 Pilots, and Matt Corby, and works to make them her own.
“Followill has this sick rasp that cuts wide open and makes you really notice it,” Weston said. “They’re all wailers with heart and this soul-crushing release when they perform. What I really emulate in my own style are their performances and their ability to be breathtaking.”
Additionally, the song inspired “Blackbird,” one of the first songs she wrote for Second Dam, her student band, so singing “Closer” would’ve paid homage to the band, as well. But she said “Cosmic Love” embodies the intense commitment she has made to Voicestream for eight semesters.
“It just feels like a lot of exhaustion, and waiting for relief, but being almost happy in the familiarity of that exhaustion,” Weston said. “I always joke in rehearsals that it’s the best ‘senior song’ because I can cry and sing at the same time.”
It won over “Closer” because even though “Closer” represents where she is now, “Cosmic Love” illustrates what she has been through to get there.
K.C. stands for Krystel Cleodene, though Weston insists everyone call her K.C., a nickname she has been using since she began college.
“I hate both names,” she said. “So f— it, I’m going to go by K dot C dot.”
Weston was born in the Bronx to two religious, Jamaican parents who sang gospel in church. Once she was 4 or 5, she said, her mother enrolled her in a children’s choir. However, she said once she got older and became less religious, she began to think about music differently. Her parents, who were Seventh-day Adventists, began restricting her from performing in high school because many theatrical performances she wanted to be involved in were during the Sabbath.
However, when she moved from the Bronx to Milford, Conn., to attend high school at Greenwich Academy in Greenwich, Conn., she was able to choose Recording Studio for her art requirement, which allowed her to explore an aspect of music other than musical theater.
She turned to music in high school as a way to escape the hardships she was going through, one of which was the death of her mother from cancer.
“It’s a very, very cool way of almost going on emotional autopilot,” she said. “All my emotions are out there, and they are ruling what I do, but I don’t have to care about it because all I’m doing is singing or playing.”
Once her mother died, her aunt and uncle, who she refers to as her stepfather, became her primary caretakers, as her father lives in Jamaica. Weston said her friends and her high school adviser became huge support systems for her through it all.
“I graduated,” she said. “It was hard, but it pretty much drives me now.”
Weston came to the college as a Martin Luther King Scholar and an exploratory student. After two years, she switched to communication management and design after developing an interest in music management, even though the college doesn’t have a music management major. She said she chose CMD because she wanted to be able to tell her aunt and stepfather she was studying something that would guarantee her a job once she graduated. However, she also discovered CMD has given her the skill set she needs to enter the music management industry.
She also said she didn’t want to transfer to a school that had a music management major because she loved Ithaca and she wouldn’t have had the same financial opportunities the college offered her through the MLK program.
Nicole Eversley-Bradwell, associate director of admission, served as her mentor in the program. She said the characteristic she admires most about Weston is her ability to communicate openly because she is able to connect with other students all around campus, something not every student is capable of doing.
“I see her engaging in a lot of different circles on campus with students who are studying very different things, students who come from different places than she comes from, and she really has created a bridge with students across campus,” she said.
Weston strides into the Brown Family Jazz Room in Whalen 50 minutes late to Second Dam rehearsal after having a prior commitment with Voicestream. But she’s still ready to perform as the band prepares to play a cover of “I’m the Only One” by Melissa Etheridge.
Her voice is still audible over the incredibly loud cello, drums, bass, electric violin and guitar. Her confidence and poise still shine while she sings, even though her stage presence contains more movement here than it does with Voicestream.
She reveals her rocker persona as she dances more, letting out two short “heys” and “oohs” in between the chorus and verses. Her face scrunches as she hits the higher note. She bends her 5-foot-10 figure forward into the beat. During the song, she walks over to cellist senior Kayla Sewell and quickly goes over different riffs in the song. They finish their conversation just in time for Weston to stomp her feet, close the song and smile.
Weston said she had always wanted to be in a band, which is why she formed Second Dam during her freshman year. But she never performed publicly until she came to Ithaca College. When she was 13, she said, she was into Warped Tour culture, meaning she admired the camaraderie pop-punk bands from the early 2000s had.
“What I really respected and really, really loved was the culture between them, how different bands would always tour together and become really great friends,” she said. “There’s a romantic — almost — appeal. Bands are second family.”
While Weston said she isn’t interested in that kind of music anymore, she is still looking for her own sense of musical style. However, she cites Kings of Leon, Florence + the Machine and Etheridge as major musical influences. She also said she is looking to keep pursuing music once she graduates in May.
Junior Zack Jones, Second Dam’s guitarist, said Weston constantly keeps the rest of the band’s energy up through her silliness during rehearsals; however, she is still able to keep the band focused on what it needs to accomplish during practice.
“Whenever she’s in a high-energy mode and joking around and everything, it’s just infectious,” he said. “It’s impossible to resist. There’s that element, but she’s on top of things and keeps us going, which is also important.”
Weston is currently working on a project with senior Steven Dewey, who produced Second Dam’s first album, “Swimming.” She described their duo, Pennsylvania Dutch, as an “indie electronica project,” which is much different than the type of folk-rock music Second Dam produces. She said she sees Pennsylvania Dutch as a way for both Dewey and her to step out of their comfort zones. Pennsylvania Dutch’s EP, which is currently untitled, will be released this summer.
However, Second Dam fans shouldn’t fret. The band will stay together and play gigs in Ithaca after Weston graduates, despite her new project. Second Dam’s next concert will be May 2 at The Haunt with The Blind Spots.
Weston is in preparation for the show now, but for the last few weeks she was focused on her Voicestream Block Four concert — her final performance at the college.
All of the round tables had been moved out of the seating area by the stage in IC Square; more chairs had been inserted in their place. The audience occupied that entire space, flooding into the rest of the room at the Block Four concert April 25. Whistles and hollers echoed from the crowd as Weston emerged from the back of the group in a white, fringe crop top and a black mini skirt, a huge smile spread across her face. Her hair is straight now, parted on her left.
Before she began to sing her final song, she paused to look up at the ceiling to dry her tears. She closed her eyes and turned her neck to the side. The purple lights hit her as she belted “Cosmic Love” once again, her signature rasp clinging to every note. She growled the chorus as she wrinkled her brow before bouncing on the beat with the rest of the group toward the end of the song, closing it humbly.
“It’s been a good four years,” she said softly.