Inspirational Woman: Kate Simko | Producer, composer, pianist & DJ

Kate Simko is a producer, composer, pianist and DJ from Chicago.

Simko is currently bringing her genre-bending project London Electronic Orchestra to the Royal Albert Hall’s Elgar Room on Tuesday 6th March. Kate & LEO’s performance will be part of the Women And the Hall series marking 100 years since the Representation of the People Act 1918 which gave women the vote for the first time.

Women And The Hall celebrates the women who formed the Royal Albert Hall’s history and were instrumental in the fight for women’s suffrage, and provides a platform for the women who are shaping our future, through a season of talks, film screenings and performances. With further details set to be announced, the work of a variety of female creatives will also feature alongside Kate & LEO at The Royal Albert Hall’s Elgar Room in celebration of London’s rich artistic heritage.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’m a DJ, electronic music producer, pianist, and classical / film music composer. I’ve been in London since 2012 and currently am juggling being a new mum (have a 4-month-old son) alongside prepping for a show at the Royal Albert Hall next week with my ensemble London Electronic Orchestra. Very little sleep at the moment!

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No – well at least not successfully! When I graduated from university I wanted to make music for films in Hollywood. I moved from my hometown of Chicago to Los Angeles two weeks after graduating – naive but also a dreamer. I ended up interning for an Academy Award winning sound designer and spending all of my savings. After working a non-music job in LA for a year I decided to change course and focus on making my own music. Years later it’s come full circle back to film music, so guess it just took some patience!

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

Yes. The music industry is always challenging, not just in a professional way, but also it’s intertwined in your social life and so it’s emotional and full of sharks and heartache. Music is pure, the industry is not. You have to have thick skin!

On a typical workday, how does you start your day and how does it end?

I’m most creative in the morning so I try to get some music done first thing. I usually get up with my 4-month-old son around 7:30am and aim to have him fed and ready by 8:30am for a babysitter. Then I spend the morning making music and catching up. Then the afternoon is just for my son. I like splitting the day like this so I can focus my headspace fully into one or the other.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you ever had a mentor or do you mentor anyone?

I think mentoring is really important. We all have times in our lives we look up to someone – it could be a family member, teacher, a friend, or someone in the public eye – for inspiration. I was a mentor to a “troubled” girl when I was studying at the university. I was about 20 at the time and she was 15. I took her to the radio station where I DJ’d, introduced her to my friends and treated her as an equal. By treating her with respect she didn’t act out around me. I learned something from that experience. Mentoring is valuable as a two-way street.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

I’d make it mandatory for all women to have six months maternity leave minimum guaranteed, and also some sort of scheme for freelance workers like me. In the United States it’s usually 6 weeks maternity leave. That is insane.

You are currently a part of the Women and the Hall series – how did this come about?

I performed with my all-female ensemble London Electronic Orchestra in the Elgar Room of the Royal Albert Hall in 2016. This was a big moment for me, as I would look at the Hall with awe when leaving Royal College of Music where I studied music, and it was a dream to perform there. ’Women and the Hall’ was the perfect moment to return, and this time bring in more creative forces, with Katy B, Francesca Lombardo, Holly Walker, and Lauren Baker all on board! I’m excited and honored to be a part of the series, and to also have connected our event with UN Women’s HeForShe Arts Week in London.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Creating the concept for my ensemble London Electronic Orchestra and making it work in the real world.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

My next challenge is balancing everything in this new chapter as a mother! I’m excited for it, and am finding it just forces me to me more selective about which projects I can take on. I am looking forward to some shows with full orchestra, film scores, and DJing and performing with London Electronic Orchestra in 2018. But more than anything look forward to incorporating my son into my world in the years to come. Thank you for the interview – and hope to see you at the Royal Albert Hall!

You can find out more about Simko’s performance at the Royal Albert Hall and buy tickets here

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