Take Five with Kate Eberstadt ’14

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Kate Eberstadt ’14 is a recording artist, composer, performer and writer based in Brooklyn. She is half of the electro-pop duo Delune with her sister, Izzi BC’16. Delune will release its debut baroque pop album, Pierrot, this summer, an homage to the sad clown of Commedia Dell Arte. Fusing pop and theater, the duo also composes musicals, including most recently an original musical that premiered and is running at The Nemetski National Theater in Kazakhstan. Eberstadt is also composing and performing in several musicals in development in New York City, including Lalabala Project, a children’s show that will premiere in Nepal this May, and Notes from the Basement, an experimental autobiographical musical. She founded The Hutto Project, a music program for children living in an emergency refugee camp in Berlin.

Eberstadt has been a teaching artist in youth and detention centers, including on Rikers Island. Her work has appeared on NPR, PopSugar and Mic.com and in The New York Times, as well as across international press. She has held residencies at The American Academy in Berlin, The Watermill Center and The Center at West Park, and her performance works have been shown in venues such as the Berliner Festspiele, Sadler Wells Theater, BRIC and Dixon Place, and at the Corkscrew Festival. Memorable career moments include performing alongside Lady Gaga at the VMAs, a longstanding collaboration with avant-garde theater icon Robert Wilson and a sweet lil’ cameo on The Real Housewives of New York.

What were you like when you arrived at Columbia?

I transferred. I showed up on campus with a plaid skirt and blazer, thinking my Columbia experience was about to be like an extended episode of Gossip Girl.

What do you remember about your first-year living situation?

Ah, Hartley. My answers to the housing survey were more aspirational than truthful: Sure, I wake up at 5 a.m. and go to the gym every morning! Why yes, I am sociable! Of course, I am the type who does homework a week before it’s due! My chatty, attentive international roommate was a perfect match for my aspirational self. But a week into the semester, my real self got cabin fever. My first accomplishment on campus was dating the cute guy who lived down the hall, who let me hang out in his single when he wasn’t there. Sweet, sweet privacy. I remember his Lucky Charms somehow evaporated while he wasn’t home, and I also remember denying that I had eaten them. Must have been one of the Hartley ghosts.

What Core class or experience do you most remember, and why?

I met one of my best friends, Camille Richardson ’14, in Lit Hum. An unlikely pair: she, an in-crowd varsity lax-er; myself, a thespian a cappella nerd. We bonded over rolling our eyes at the same times in class. One particular moment sealed the deal: when a Greenwich-bred frat boy, clad head to toe in Vineyard Vines, argued that Helen and Menelaus’s bond was in fact the epitome of love, “because love is when a woman helps a man become his most powerful self.” His scholarly perspective launched us into friendship for life.

Did you have a favorite spot on campus, and what did you like about it?

Is it uncouth to say JJ’s Place? Such fond memories of 11 p.m. milkshakes and french fries with the Notes and Keys crew, procrastinating… post-rehearsal bliss.

That said, the recording studio at the Computer Music Center at Prentis Hall on 125th was probably my truly favorite spot on campus. I took “Recorded Sound” with Terry Pender and fell in love with computer music production. It was a well-kept secret and real gift that Recorded Sound students could reserve space in the recording studios. Izzi and I used to hole ourselves up in the CMC and record for 12-hour stretches, emerging for McDonald’s pit stops at 2 a.m. I recorded dozens of demos there; it became an informal Notes and Keys arrangement headquarters. We recorded an entire mixtape at Prentis one evening. We would even have under-the-radar listening sessions with our friends. The 10,000-hour rule was put to the test; Prentis is where I learned how to do a lot of what I do today. Don’t ask me if/when I would do my homework.

Fun fact: For my final Recorded Sound project, Izzi took a bus up from D.C., and we spent an entire week on an orchestral pop demo with 47 instruments called “Reverie.” It’s now being released as a bonus track on Pierrot, with all the original teenage vocals recorded in Prentis!

What, if anything, about your College experience would you do over?

You have to make mistakes. My aspirational self probably had an entirely different College experience; maybe she was at the gym at 5 a.m. each day. Maybe she took advantage of all of Columbia’s spectacular global fellowships, read every page of every Core book, auditioned for all the department plays, got involved in the Varsity Show, got a driver’s license and learned how to cook. Maybe she wouldn’t have gotten depressed at school, maybe she would have had a 4.0. But I wouldn’t turn back the clock. If I had read every page of every book, maybe I wouldn’t have been looking around the classroom in bewilderment and caught Camille rolling her eyes. If I had been at Dodge at 5 a.m. every day (I think I went twice, ever), maybe I wouldn’t have learned computer music production during those late nights in Prentis. If I had a 4.0, maybe I wouldn’t have been in Notes and Keys (let’s be real); maybe then I wouldn’t have founded a choral music program in an emergency refugee camp in Berlin. So, yeah. I wouldn’t change a thing.