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Spartans of UD - Kaylee Knight

By University Relations Staff

Spartans of UD highlights what makes the University of Dubuque special - the people.

Kaylee Knight, of Decorah, Iowa, is a senior psychology major. A member of the UD Concert Choir, UD Chamber Singers, and UD Treble Choir, Knight is excited to perform once again in Christmas at Heritage Center. The concert will return this holiday season with "O Come, All Ye Faithful" at 7:30 p.m. Friday, December 3, 2021, in John and Alice Butler Hall, Heritage Center. For Christmas at Heritage Center ticket information, please visit

"O Come, All Ye Faithful" will mark your fourth time performing in Christmas at Heritage Center. How do you prepare for this annual holiday tradition at UD?

"This will be my fourth time performing for Christmas at Heritage in all three choirs offered. I prepare very delicately! Choir and academics have always been a struggle for me because I am much more invested into music rather than studying, so Christmas at Heritage makes me crank down and study harder for my exams and work harder in my classes. I am a Christmas fanatic where once Thanksgiving is over, I am immediately setting up my decorations. I grew up in a family where holidays were everything; I believe that has helped me be more prepared for holidays in college because I get so excited to start decorating and to be on stage again. I love seeing all the trees light up on campus after the advent service. I also love seeing the wreaths being hung up. My most favorite part of this tradition is watching Butler Hall transform.

"Since this will be my fourth performance at Christmas at Heritage, I have seen so many faces come and go and so many decorations be added to campus. But Butler Hall being transformed from an auditorium to a holiday stage makes me extra excited to perform. I love Christmas and every holiday that leads up to especially how holidays are presented on campus."

What do you look forward to most with Christmas at Heritage Center?

"Every year I always am excited to see the guest performers. My freshman year was the year of transitions where we did not have an orchestra or band, so the choir was the big showcase. That was my favorite year because we truly got to share the love of choral music with the community and family members. I am a fanatic for Christmas music and different renditions of music itself. Therefore, singing Christmas music in a choral aspect has my heart and soul. I love sharing the holiday I love most with friends and family in a way that lights my heart up like a Christmas tree. This year coming back from the pandemic version of Christmas at Heritage will drive the motivation to sing on a stage to bring happiness to the community again in such a difficult time."

To mark the first Christmas at Heritage Center with the custom-crafted John and Alice Butler Pipe organ, the Department of Fine and Performing Arts commissioned Gloria by composer JoAnne Harris in honor UD Trustee John Butler (DHL'17) and his spouse, Alice (DHL'17) The Butlers gifted the pipe organ. Gloria will highlight UD's choirs, concert band, and pipe organ. How does it feel to be able to perform in the debut of Gloria alongside the concert band and pipe organ?

"It truly feels angelic and ethereal. In my high school in Decorah, we always did a piece by the name of 'Hallelujah Chorus.' This piece is very common for not only high schools to do during Christmas time but also colleges. That was the piece where the orchestra and our choir would come together to perform for alumni, and it was crazy to experience all the talent in one space. That is the effect I hope bringing the band and pipe organ together with the choir will have on the audience listening. It always brought tears to my eyes to have that experience to share with my fellow students and friends. Gloria is a complex piece where many talents will be challenged. I believe it will be an experience that everyone will leave the auditorium saying, 'Wow. That was amazing.' Bringing the pipe organ into any piece brings me to the effect of what a true Christmas or holiday concert should be portrayed like."

Where does your passion for singing come from?

"I could go on and on about where my passion for singing came from. But I do know one answer: my brother. Growing up, my brother was the all-star student, athlete, and musician and that truly had an impact on me. I wanted to be just like him. So, growing up, my parents made sure that what my brother did I also did even if I was not as talented at it whether it be sports, choir, band, or even academics. It was a challenging lifestyle to try and step into his shoes throughout life.

"I was driven by music starting at my freshman year of high school when I got to be a part of musicals and speech and drama and band and everything. It really opened my eyes to what I could accomplish through the fine arts. I loved choir growing up. I always found joy and excitement in singing even if I was not the best in the choir. Being at UD has really driven my wings for music even more because of my amazing mentor Kristen Eby. She has become more of a motherly figure to me than just a director. She gave me the opportunities to be great even when I did not see it for myself. Being in an atmosphere like the University of Dubuque has shown me the opportunities I never thought I would accomplish.

"I chose UD for the small campus setting, which I thrive upon being academically challenged with ADHD, and the relationships I knew I could create. I had seen Kristen Eby for a one-on-one meeting to talk about choir and she auditioned me that day and told me I would be accepted into each choir. That was the day where my passion for music grew. She was my mentor since freshman year and now coming into my closing years with UD she will continue to be my figure that I can go to for any questions that may arise about UD, academics, or even my future."

How do you balance your academics as a psychology major with the UD Concert Choir, UD Chamber Singers, and UD Treble Choir?

"Simple answer: I do not. It is incredibly hard for me to balance academics and choir because I knew my drive for music was much more important to me than remaining on an honor roll. I was an academically inclined student going through high school and remain that way, but being in choir is the reason I get excited to be on campus every day. I believe being busy all the time helps me to keep my sanity. If I was not involved in the choir here, I would have no passion for continuing with my education because it is hard. When COVID hit campus, I made the hard decision to retract myself for the spring 2021 semester and that was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Being away from singing and choir for even a semester was so much harder than I ever expected. But returning for this fall semester made me try my hardest to finish and to graduate and to continue making music with some people that I have made music with since my freshman year.

"Being a psychology major, I have learned a lot more about time management skills that I possessed even in my high school years. I love learning about human behavior and how therapy impacts others. I want to pursue post-graduation a master's degree in music therapy where I can take my passion for music and drive it into my passion for making others feel happy and helping others. Driving music and academics can either make you a better student or make you a better musician there really is not in between. There have been many times in my years at UD that I have sat in the practice rooms between classes either practicing solo music or studying for an exam for the next class. In the end, music has impacted my life and my outlook on how the creation and interpretation of music can impact others. I want to continue to leave that legacy upon others and help to make others see music in a different way.

"Music drives the soul, and the soul drives the heart."