Home » Sounds of Syracuse » She Smiles Big Meet Cellist and Vocalist Heather Kubacki

She Smiles Big Meet Cellist and Vocalist Heather Kubacki

It’s an unlikely story but I met Heather Kubacki while teaching digital art and media as a professor at Cazenovia College. A Student. Along with a few other students I remained pals when I eventually moved on from that job and they all graduated and entered the working world. 

Kubacki’s background is most scholastic, having sang in choirs and also taking interest in the cello. Turns out she was an all-state vocalist. I remember signing a slip for her, a couple of times, to let her out of class to sing with the choir. 

By now she enjoys a strong career path as a graphic designer, while emerging into the scene as a vocal powerhouse and musician, unanimously wowing audiences in every outing. Part of the charisma of this young lady comes from the abundant joyous energy that radiates from her presence – something noted by those in attendance at every show…as verified by what is becoming an iconic smile.

She took a little time to chat with us at Sounds of Syracuse. Ladies and gentlemen please meet Heather Kubacki.

Chuck Schiele: Thank you for chatting with us Heather. How’s it going?

Heather Kubacki: Thank you so much for the opportunity. Chuck I’m feeling great.

CS: Ok, let’s get started. How were you introduced to music and when did you begin playing music?

HK: My earliest memories of being shown how to play music started with my Grandma Kubacki, at her piano. She would play out of her worn sheet music barely hanging on by the staples and I’d make things up to sing and plunk along with her. I wasn’t great but she never stopped me. My oldest brother, Alex, would pull up next to us and play something that would blow me and Grandma away. He and Grandma, taught me how to play Chopsticks first, and when I got that down and you feel the rush of playing a whole song no mistakes, I knew I wanted to see if I could do it two times in a row. It became the art of taking what I learned a little further every time I played it. And I got to watch that love of music in action with my Alex, who is a few years older than me and making the piano sing – impressing the heck out of little old ladies and tiny me. I also have been sing narrating my life for as long as I can remember…lol.

Short answer I’ve been singing since I can remember, in choir since Kindergarten, and playing cello since 4th grade in Elementary School.

CS: How did you come to be interested in the cello?

HK: By watching my brother, Alex, tear up his viola. I wanted to play like him, and with him. It hurt my little neck to hold it properly, so I found myself naturally playing his viola between my legs. He suggested I give cello a try, and when the time came in 4th grade to pick my instrument, I went right to cello and liked it a lot. I also tried the trumpet and thought that was cool, too. Well turns out I was supposed to tell someone what instrument I officially wanted to play, and I did not do that. My Dad got a phone call one night from the school asking what my instrument of choice would be. I came in from playing outside and he stopped me, ear still on the phone, and asked straightly if I wanted to play cello or trumpet. I remember pausing, looking down, asking myself the same question, and popping right back up with “cello.” He said alright, she wants to play cello. And I ran back outside to play with the neighbors. 

CS: How did you become interested in voice?

HK: Even before I started school I loved to sing. I always had a pretty good ear and could match pitch and tone pretty well. It was all over when I got my first Brittney Spears CD. Strap on my headphones with my discman and would rollerblade for hours listening to that CD, belting every lyric trying to singing the harmony parts and lead at the same time. When I sing a familiar song, I can feel it in my body, in my throat and chest in a certain way – the first time I sang a song accidently in a different key, it FELT different and I knew it immediately. While being so confused and not knowing why it felt correct but so not how I learned it. 

I was introduced to Chorus class in Kindergarten and it was always my favorite. I wasn’t the best in Math, but I always pushed to be the best vocalist. It wasn’t exactly competitive among my few friends, but I always took the job seriously. It felt amazing to sing, I liked being good at it, and the art of perfecting a solo gave me so much excitement. It was in that chorus classroom I got asked to join the Syracuse City Children’s Choir, and I was so excited. Julia, my little sister, had music class right after me (apparently) that day, and as I was walking out after getting the good news she was walking in and I got to tell her in real-time. That’s a fun memory to relive.

CS: Tell us about your involvement with the Quatro.

HK: I’ve gotten to be a member of Quatro since its inception in 2019, when Chuck asked me to come play with John and George. After a 6+ hiatus of not playing much cello, I jumped right into memorizing all Chuck’s songs, creating parts with him, and studying and learning from what members of his other bands have done to play the ultimate game of catchup. I got to find where the cello’s place was in the band. Where my place was. Through countless hours of practicing and stressing about that first gig, I felt like I finally made it to a place of making real, worth-whole progress. Thank God for the patience of these men. Because with their belief in me and my own effort came growth, and strength, and an even deeper love for music that transcends every time we play. Then when I got more comfortable with my cello parts, the vocal parts spilled out of me and I never looked back. I’ll sing and play cello with these amazing gentlemen as long as they’ll have me. I’ve always loved playing with them, and loved when we’d hang out after rehearsal just as much. We were always laughing about something. I never anticipated how quickly we’d all become our own little family.   

I get into trouble with Quatro as their cellist and vocalist. I also tag team our Marketing and design efforts with the boss.

CS: What do you like best about playing music; and playing with the Quatro?

HK: As much as it has always driven me and made me so incredibly happy to see others enjoy my music, the best part is how playing and singing make me feel. When my energy is in line with the performance, it’s a mentally, physically, and spiritually euphoric experience.  That has been the case for me since Elementary school concerts. In our Quatro configuration, to be in flight connecting with the music, while locking in and connecting with each other, it’s magic.

CS: What are some of the highlights in your music path thus far?

HK: Truthfully, I was really proud to be a member of the Syracuse City Children’s Choir. Fast forward to my senior year of high school where I was an All-State vocalist, another big accomplishment. Since then I haven’t competed, but I did have the privilege to travel to California and perform with Quatro. We also got to play at the 2023 SAMMY awards; that was quite the honor.

CS: What do you think about the Central NY music scene?

HK: I think there’s so much more to discover than what I’ve experienced, and so far it’s all incredible talent. I’ve had my face melted on more than one occasion by acts around CNY over the years. And getting to experience playing with some of them is even more of a treat. 

CS: What and who are you influenced by?

HK: I’m influenced in the world of harmonies by anything I’m listening to, which stems from my love of the Beatles (and being an Alto my whole life). Influenced by my band mostly.

CS: What would be the one thing you’d share with somebody new and aspiring to be a professional musician?

HK: Always have your own back! Stand up for yourself and your creativity, be kind to yourself and strangers, and enjoy the ride. While always putting in the work. Be curious, never stop learning, and soak up as much knowledge and as many stories from your mentors as you can. Your music is a gift, and if it feels good to put in the effort (80% of the time), because there are those times it feels real shitty, you’re a baddass and I believe in you. 

CS: You have a wide scope of musical interest. What are some of the genres you take interest in?

HK: I love listening to the Beatles, Pink Floyd, classic rock, cruner jazz, showtunes, funk. 

CS: You have a busy music summer, yes?

HK: Busiest one for me on record. We’re playing all over. Catch our full schedule of shows for the summer at chuckschielemusic.com/quatro.

CS: Please tell us how we stay in touch with you and your music?

HK: We’d love for you to follow us on Facebook and Instagram (@ChuckSchieleQuatro).

Chuck Schiele
Chuck Schiele is an award-winning musician, art director, producer, editorialist, artist, activist, member of SaltCityChill.com and fan of the CNY music scene. To be considered for this column, please write chuck.schiele@gmail.com.