Local teen makes her international debut

The Starmus stage featured Kat Stockton of Syzygy singing the closing tune, “Giant”.

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Instead of hitting the books, she took to the stage.

Kat Stockton spent her 19th birthday and first days of college in a classroom halfway around the world – observing Armenia’s architecture, culture and history, conversing with some of the greatest minds scientists and musicians of the world and performing in front of 20,000 people.

Artists, musicians and scientists are connected by human passion and creativity,” Stockton said.

Classically trained, Stockton swapped his double bass for a microphone in his rock’n’roll debut at Starmusa global festival that engages some of the world’s greatest minds in the spirit of discovery, fusing art, music and science to enhance science communication.

Starmus was co-founded in 2011 by astrophysicist Brian May, also known as the lead guitarist of the band Queen. The festival has attracted the world’s greatest thinkers like Stephen Hawking, Nobel laureates, astrophysicists like Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Apollo-era astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Charlie Duke, and many rock stars.

“It was humbling and uplifting to be around so many people who are super accomplished. Meeting famous people was laid back,” Stockton said, delighted to meet one of her music heroes, the Armenian-born artist. American Serj Tankian: “I received advice from those I admire in the music world. Keep your eyes open and your priorities straight.

Stockton is from Great Falls, Virginia. She attended the Potomac School at McLean and performed with the Capitol Symphonic Youth Orchestras at Carnegie Hall before scholarship and opportunity led her to study with industry professionals in Michigan. Interlochen School of the Arts where she graduated in May. Performing in the burgeoning technology hub of Yerevan, the oldest continuously inhabited city on Earth, provided a different learning experience than Indiana University Jacobs School of Musicwhere Stockton specializes in audio engineering and production.

Stockton played with a band called Syzygy, made up of students who still frequented Interlochen. The band’s name, Syzygy, is an astronomical term for celestial objects, such as planets or the sun, earth, and moon, forming a straight line.

“We were teenagers who hadn’t worked together as a band and we learned what to do and what not to do and I’m grateful for the opportunity,” Stockton said.

“This trip gave the kids a sense of the diversity of a show, in terms of scope, preparation and professionalism,” said Marc Lacuestra, director of music production and engineering at Interlochen. “They’ve learned to be flexible and roll with the punches and make a performance happen in less than ideal circumstances, but they also know how well a performance goes when everything is done right and everyone is professional.”

Five of the songs performed by the band were written or co-written by Stockton. After playing 10 tracks at a tech center in Gyumri near the Turkish-Armenian border, Syzygy closed out this year’s Starmus festival in the capital Yerevan with a set of nine songs. The final number was Stockton’s “Giant,” which is about power through pain and finding your voice and purpose.

“It was powerful to end on this song because it was about my personal journey,” Stockton said.

As the 27-hour return journey began, conflict broke out on the Armenian border. “People my age were so determined to fight,” she said. “Even with a tumultuous history, the (Armenian) people preserve their culture. Young people are avant-garde and united. It’s great to get another perspective and talk to people my age and see how they’re doing.

As much as the music, the memories of young adults met in Armenia struck a chord. “I’m really inspired to be myself. I experienced that I could be that person who gives hope through music.

It’s a sentiment Stockton will continue to pursue as she completes missed college homework and continues to expand her musical spectrum at an upcoming college performance of “The Star.”

“I found a light to follow. I took the first steps,” she said.

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