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Local Band Canary Breaks Down Music Industry Barriers

State College is known for many of its trademarks, including, blue and white, ice cream, and much more. Something many folks overlook in Happy Valley is the local bands right at our fingertips.

Many of our favorite local bands help to build the borough’s nightlife scene while putting out a product that’s uniquely their own. For local bands like Canary, rising to success is directly rooted in State College.

Canary is one of State College’s most well-known bands due to its consistent drive to make a true statement. The group is an indie pop and rock project made up of five instrumentalists who have come together and found their rhythm.

Kat Leverenz serves as Canary’s vocalist while also tackling the roles of one of the band’s leaders and songwriters. Zach Dennis is the second band leader, who is also the guitarist and vocalist. Together, Leverenz and Dennis work together to write their own songs and independently produce their own music.

Joining the duo are three Penn State students — Alex Mijangos on bass, Sam Horn on the keyboard, and Nick Perella on drums. Finally, Canary has found its proper “creative fit.”

In 2018, Leverenz started her journey at Penn State as a music major. She had worked to find her fit as a student within University Park, but her mind was focused on only one thing: creating her own music.

“I was thinking to myself, ‘I’m a music major, but I’m not doing what I want to do,'” Leverenz said. “I wanted to perform and make my own music.”

She took matters into her own hands and started the journey of learning guitar. After finding a guitar lesson poster in Webster’s Bookstore, she met Dennis, who is not only Canary’s guitarist but Leverenz’s boyfriend. From then on, the band originated.

“We decided we wanted to start a project together. At first, we [were named] ‘Jazz Kat,'” Leverenz said. “With my name being Kat, and his middle name is actually Jazz.”

The two started performing as a duo but recognized they weren’t playing enough jazz. After navigating through the performance world, they decided it was time to add more instrumentalists. As new performers came to play, they landed on a new name of “Live Wire.”

“We were known as Live Wire around town for a while,” Leverenz said, “But that name didn’t fit our vibe. We knew it wasn’t what we wanted.”

As the pandemic struck, instrumentalists within the band went their separate ways and it was “time for a fresh start.” Given Leverenz’s love for birds, she knew something rooted in nature would fit their work best.

“Canary is the singing bird, and it’s musical,” Leverenz said. “There are so many implications with just one bird.”

Since 2020, the group has rebuilt its band and taken State College by storm. Because this is Leverenz’s full-time job, each day is entirely different for the band. Because it does not have a set work schedule, it can be “fun, but a bit challenging.” Between early mornings and late nights, Canary stays on top of its performance schedule.

Canary is solely determined to search for new places to perform, establish relationships with business owners, reach out and network with locations, and create set lists. While they create the set lists, Leverenz and Dennis need to write music, form the chords, present it to their bandmates, and plan rehearsals for performances. For them, it is a cycle that they never want to end.

“Marketing is a huge piece for us,” Leverenz said. “We’ve really valued becoming friends with musicians in town.”

Networking with new musicians within the scene has not only helped the group later down the line but assisted it in growing, sharing notes, and providing constant support. Canary runs independently and strives to make sure each performance is its best. Hopefully, that sends a message to the younger crowd.

“A challenge we have found is that bands that are 20 years older than us are more established and have more connections,” Leverenz said. “It’s hard to break into that. Even though we think things through, it can be hard for people our age to break those barriers.”

Courtesy of Canary

Being in Canary has changed the group’s members’ lives in many ways. For Leverenz, Canary has helped her find acceptance both from herself and her peers. From performing to writing original music, the band has forced her to see who she really wants to be.

“Through finding myself, we have to make art out of it,” Leverenz said. “It has been really therapeutic to take all the parts of yourself and put it into songs.”

After releasing the band’s first single, “Love Me While You Can,” in December 2021, Leverenz realized this was a way to communicate her emotions and what exactly she felt within those moments. Leverenz says that having people connect with Canary’s art has been “the best feeling ever.”

When bringing a song to life, Canary needed to search for a mixing engineer the group connected with, find a mastering engineer, learn how to market it, and get it all down to what the cover art was going to be. Looking back, Canary has dug deeper than they ever have before.

“You really have to love what you’re doing to keep going,” Leverenz said.

Canary will release an EP in mid-April that’ll be available for streaming alongside the group’s newest single. Before the EP drops, you can find Canary performing at THON 2022 in just a few weeks.

“Being in a band is one of the best life experiences ever. If you’re thinking about it, you should totally do it,” Leverenz said.

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About the Author

Larkin Richards

Larkin is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. The only words that leave her mouth are "yinz" and "dippy eggs." Luckily, her writing has much more substance than that. As a Steelers and Pirates fan, sports can become a hot debate. Share your thoughts on dogs (specifically Boston Terriers) with her at: [email protected]

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