IAS alum Kelsey Lee Cate was improvising songs before she could read. Growing up in a musical family, she began classical piano training at age five and by middle school, was performing at weddings and special events.
Today, Cate is a sought-after pianist and has been a regular performer at The Bellevue Collection, Canlis, and the Space Needle. Cate has also been a featured pianist/vocalist in the annual Ten Grands show at Benaroya Hall in Seattle since 2016. While COVID-19 restrictions have limited her ability to perform in-person, Cate has used her passion for social media to further develop her online presence by starting a piano tips series on YouTube and weekly livestream, Peaceful Piano Live. Additionally, she celebrated the release of her debut album, ”Poiema | Stories from the Piano.”
After high school, Cate’s goal was to pursue a degree in music therapy. She completed her associates degree at Cascadia College and enrolled at Seattle Pacific University with this intention, but soon realized that it was performing and connecting with others where she found greatest fulfillment. “I noticed that having the ability to communicate and network, both in person and through social media, is a vital key to gaining performance opportunities,” she says. “Therefore, in order to continue developing myself professionally, I decided to transfer to UW Bothell to earn a bachelor’s degree in Media & Communication Studies.”
Reflecting on her journey, Cate is amazed by the impact of her education. “I truly hadn’t imagined how this decision to attend UW would so powerfully and directly impact my journey with the piano, since I'd chosen to complete a degree fundamentally unrelated to music.” Cate’s coursework helped hone her skills in communication, collaboration and critical thinking. She also enjoyed the interdisciplinary nature of Media & Communication Studies major. “I appreciated how I was able to choose courses that interested me beyond the scope of music,” says Cate. “Some of my favorite classes included public speaking, documentary film, audio production, women’s studies, and even urban bee development! These courses helped me to be more well-rounded in my studies.”
However, Cate’s greatest career growth opportunity via UW Bothell came through an internship she was able to craft within her job at Classic Pianos in Bellevue, assisting with a concert series called Song Heights. In addition to managing Song Heights’ Facebook page, she began working with the artists and emceeing a few shows, solidifying her love for promoting talent and connecting with audiences. Additionally, Cate was invited to perform for one of their events, which opened the door for her to begin performing in Ten Grands, an elite annual piano variety show and benefit concert held at Benaroya Hall. In fact, her now-husband, David, proposed marriage on stage during her third year with the show!
Since graduating in 2016, Cate’s career has flourished, and she is excited for the opportunities ahead. She continues to broaden her reach via social media, live streaming and online video, and looks forward to sharing more music soon. “IAS showed me that it’s possible to be open and successful at anything. I’m grateful that they provided me the opportunity to connect my studies with real-world application in my field,” she says. Find out what Cate is up to, watch her latest content, and hear her music at kelseyleemusic.com.