By KRISTEN CLOYED, CONTRIBUTOR
For Kaitlyn Filippini, success is always just over the bend. The 22-year-old violinist/artist has performed with musical greats such as Rod Stewart, Josh Groban, Mannheim Steamroller, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Michael Buble and Mary J. Blige. But she says she always feels as if there’s something out there she can do better.
“I wish I could drink better,” she said. “I’m notorious for ordering a Diet Jack and Coke without the Jack (hard on the Diet Coke).”
Such humor is one of Filippini’s most famous trademarks. As an artist, Filippini designs the album artwork for HearNebraska.org, a website devoted entirely to Nebraska’s music and arts community. She also contributes to the local music scene, playing with bands such as All Young Girls Are Machine Guns, Midwest Dilemma, Bad Country, The Filter Kings, The Answer Team and Skypiper.
In short, Filippini is quite the busy young woman.
Her story begins in Denver, where she was born, and continues in Las Vegas, where her family lived for a good part of her childhood before settling in Omaha.
“Due to an immune deficiency, I wasn’t supposed to live past 6-years-old and we had to move around a lot to find areas that would help my condition,” Filippini said. “Apparently, that paid off.”
When she was four, Filippini’s parents enrolled her in piano lessons, but they didn’t stick.
“It ended up being a futile effort because of my childhood ADD – by which I mean ‘Attention Deficit Disorder’ and not ‘Advanced Dungeons and Dragons,’ a condition with which it is commonly confused,” she said.
Filippini started lessons again at age nine and picked up violin soon after. She had found her calling.
“It wasn’t anything I actually deliberated over – I just knew,” Filippini said. “I didn’t even give it any real thought.”
Her mother plays piano and sings, but Filippini says her real forte is accordion, which she calls “far and away one of the world’s sexiest instruments.”
Filippini’s parents are her biggest fans, but she says they have always stressed the importance of her education.
“I can remember finishing playing a show with Rod Stewart and as I would try and tell my dad the details he would ask, ‘Yes, but did you get your homework done?'”
Filippini says her dedication to the stringed instrument probably stemmed from stubbornness.
“Fortunately, once I make a commitment to pursue something,” she said, “I forget the idea of giving up.”
Filippini attended Millard North High School, where she completed the International Baccalaureate program, a program widely recognized as the most academically rigorous high school program in the world. She was a member of National Honor Society and participated in National and All-State ensembles throughout high school.
At 14, Filippini joined the Musician’s Union, where she met other local musicians.
“Over the years, they have fostered my music and have become my musical family,” she said. “I am so lucky that I can say that I was actually raised by Mannheim Steamroller, which is made up of several fabulous local Omaha-area musicians.”
Filippini was a violin apprentice for two years before starting her own business, Eloquent Acoustics, in 2004. Through Eloquent Acoustics, she offers custom art, violin restringing and repair, original arrangements of songs and performance for hire. Filippini also started the Fil-Harmonic Orchestra, a side project of Eloquent Acoustics specializing in movie scoring, original compositions, and arrangements.
All this and she was still in high school. After graduating, Filippini attended Berklee College of Music before coming to UNO.
When the program started, Filippini was the first female to major in neuroscience. For that, she gives credit to UNO’s Music Professor Kenton Bales. On the final day of Theory 4, Dr. Bales closed with a fun fact: “Did you know that some people hear musical notes as colors?”
Not only does Filippini see music as colors, but she can also feel it as textures. She thought nothing of it, but her classmates were surprised.
“I was 19, and I had just found out that my world was different from most peoples. That is what made me think that the brain would be something I’d want to research,” she said. “Thank you, Dr. Bales.”
Filippini’s two passions blend together when she composes. She said her musical inspirations come from the synesthesia she experiences.
“Synesthesia is a neurological phenomenon in which the stimulation of one sensory pathway leads to experiences in another,” she said. “Even outside of music, I experience colors with numbers, letters and people, among other things. It’s a colorful, exciting world.”
Filippini stated on her website that she believes music is a form of medicine. Music, she says, “is the only form of art that exists only in time.”
“It’s so simple, conceptually, and yet its effects have yet to be explained by science.”
As Concertmaster of the Intergeneration Orchestra of Omaha, she has had the chance to witness the effects of music on the elderly in nursing homes.
“I have seen music bring back old memories that have long been forgotten, instantly brighten the day of someone stuck in a depression, stimulate the mind of those that seemed unreachable and bring people together that would otherwise never meet,” she said.
The orchestra is exclusively made up of people younger than 25 and older than 50.
“You can’t tell the difference between the two generations most of the time,” Filippini said. “You don’t notice it. Music may be set to time, but it transcends age.”
In terms of the future, Filippini would like to attend grad school and continue studying neuroscience, but not right away.
“I plan on taking time off after I graduate to focus on my music and to get to know who I am outside of school,” she said. “I’m ready to focus on my business and career full time.”
Filippini will continue research on a synesthesia theory and begin working on new stress hormone receptor research. She will also be writing and recording more movie scores and performing around town with local bands and DJs.
“As you can gather,” she said. “I don’t sleep much.”
Wherever she goes, Filippini has her many talents – and an extensive resume – to back her up.
Editor-in-Chief Jasmine Maharisi contributed to this article.