Singing, making music an everyday part of life for one Kent State student

Nicole Aikens

Caitlin McCoy, freshman music technology major at Kent State Stark, has dreamt of being a musician since age 12. She knew she wanted to be a musician after she performed an Avril Lavigne cover in her middle school’s gymnasium. Emily Horne | Daily Kent Sta

Credit: DKS Editors

The minute Caitlin McCoy holds a guitar in her hands, it’s clear that she’s all about her music. The freshman music technology major strums lightly while she speaks, playing her own riffs as well as familiar songs.

In the basement of her house, which doubles as her practice space, there are guitars hung on the wall, and several guitar stands all around the room. McCoy owns six guitars.

Guitar cases are scattered around and stacked against the walls. Stools and microphone stands are pushed out of the way as much as she can when she’s not working on her music.

Ever since seventh grade, when she stood in front of a packed middle school gymnasium and played a cover of Avril Lavigne’s “Tomorrow,” McCoy has known she wanted to be a musician.

“It was pretty nerve-wrecking at the time, because they only had one mic stand,” McCoy said. “So they had my voice on the mic stand, and (the MC) was holding the other mic up to my guitar,”

Since then, McCoy, 18, has had a change in her taste of music, but her dream of becoming a musician remains the same.

But like any kid with a dream, McCoy needed some inspiration. Hers came from a family friend.

Valerie Custer was only a teenager at the time, but she served as a guide for McCoy. Custer gave McCoy little things, like good tablature Web sites that show fingering notations for guitar. But she also provided the assurance that someone close to her own age could start playing shows.

One day, McCoy went to get her guitar strings changed and met her new mentor and sponsor. Mike Pekar, the owner of Pekar Music Co., asked McCoy to sing for him.

“She was just one of those kids who wanted to play guitar and sing and entertain,” Pekar said. “And she wanted it really bad.”

McCoy went under his wing, and Pekar started helping her get shows.

Since then she has played intimate shows at coffee shops and restaurants, as well as in front of thousands of people.

“She likes to see people having a good time,” Pekar said. “She’ll play anywhere.”

For the bigger shows, Pekar says she gets in more of a zone.

“I’m actually more nervous for smaller shows,” McCoy said. “I prefer the bigger shows because there are more people to entertain, so I am more focused on what I’m doing. I’m almost more relaxed.”

For now, McCoy is playing covers, but she has been writing her own songs for a long time. It’s her need for perfection that keeps her from playing those songs now.

Within a year, McCoy said she hopes to drop her covers and begin to perform mostly original music.

“I’m positive she’s going to be a really good songwriter someday,” Pekar said.

McCoy describes her style as soul, and has started to listen to artists like Etta James and Irma Thomas.

“I’ve listened to a lot of old-school soul lately because I’ve kind of grown into a raspier voice,” McCoy said.

McCoy attends the Kent State Stark Campus as a music technology major with a focus on guitar.

Realistically, McCoy wants to use her degree to produce music and maybe one day start her own studio. But she dreams of playing at a music festival like Lollapalooza or Bonnaroo.

For now, McCoy is playing shows, writing songs and dreaming the dream she’s had since she was 12.

“It gets to a point where you have to let a person find their own way with it. All I did was help her to get there,” Pekar said.

One song that inspires McCoy while she tries to make it as a musician is “Fearless” by Pink Floyd. And it’s one line in particular:

“Fearlessly, the idiot faced the crowd smiling.”

Contact features correspondent Nicole Aikens at [email protected].