Katherine (Kate) Helen Light, 56
Kate Light, long-time member of the orchestra of the New York City Opera, died on April 13, 2016 of complications from breast cancer. A concert violinist, librettist, lyricist, poet, and teacher, Kate was known for her insistent curiosity about the interplay of words and music. Full of laughter, life, and light, she possessed an eternally inquisitive mind.
Born in Illinois on February 14, 1960, and raised in West Lafayette, Indiana, Kate expressed an artistic bent almost before she could speak. She designed miniature books, wrote poetry, performed in Lafayette Civic Theater productions, and studied dance, violin, and piano. By age 12, as a violinist, Kate was the youngest member of the Lafayette Symphony Orchestra, and as a young teenager, she played in orchestras at the Aspen Music Festival and Chautauqua Institution. Kate graduated high school from the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan and earned her Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in violin performance from the Eastman School of Music. While a full-time performer, she received her MFA in poetry from Hunter College and completed a program at the BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop. In addition, she was a 2011-2012 Resident Artist with American Lyric Theater's Composer Librettist Development Program.
As a poet, Kate drew inspiration from working within traditional forms such as the sonnet and the villanelle, "not only to honor them, but to work against them sometimes, and to feel them fight back." Her musical background and use of syncopation, metrical shifts, and variation added another layer of richness. A winner of the Donald Justice Award, the Nicholas Roerich Prize, and an award from the Academy of American Poets, Kate was known for her books The Laws of Falling Bodies, Open Slowly, and Gravity's Dream.
At the intersections of poetry, prose, and music, as well as theater, art, and science, were Kate's performance pieces, which include the libretto of The Life and Love of Joe Coogan (composer: Paul Salerni); the one-act opera Once Upon the Wind (composer: Theo Popov); the musical-in-progress Metamorphoses (composer: Masatora Goya); and the concert pieces The World Beneath the Waves (formerly Oceanophony) and Einstein's Mozart: Two Geniuses. Her lyrics for the original song "Here Beside Me" are heard in Disney's Mulan II.
Kate narrated her pieces herself nationwide with sparkle and delight. Until her death in New York City, at age 56, Kate taught poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction at Hunter College.
Kate was preceded in death by her father, Martin, a professor (retired) in the English Department at Purdue University. Her mother, Dorothy, retired Reading Specialist in the Lafayette and West Lafayette public schools and former teacher in Purdue's Department of Education, survives her. Other survivors are sisters Judith (Charles Wannan III) and Betsy, and brother Steve (Kathryn Rand). Contributions in Kate's memory may be made to the West Chester University Poetry Conference (checks to WCU Foundation, with "Poetry Conference in Memory of Kate Light" in memo; WCU Foundation, PO Box 541, West Chester, PA 19381; or www.wcufoundation.org/give
); The Actors Fund (c/o Donations, 729 7th Ave., 11th Fl., New York, NY 10019; www.actorsfund.org/donate
); Interlochen Center for the Arts (Attn: Advancement, PO Box 199, Interlochen, MI 49643; www.interlochen.org/give
); or Eastman School of Music (c/o University of Rochester, Gift and Donor Records, PO Box 270032, Rochester, NY 14627-0032; www.rochester.edu
, click on Giving). Kate's family, friends, and colleagues plan to celebrate her life and work at future dates to be announced soon on her Facebook page and elsewhere: https://www.facebook.com/kate.light.3?fref=ts
Published by Journal & Courier from Apr. 29 to May 8, 2016.