Nursing student makes noise

Kari Quimpo balances musical aspirations and accelerated nursing program


Kari Quimpo is an accelerated nursing student and for the last year, she’s been tackling 59 class credits, intensive studying and a seemingly never-ending workload.

But she still finds time for her music.

Quimpo doubles as a singer-songwriter and practices an hour every day in between her 700 required clinical hours and hefty course load.

“I always make sure that I play, even when I don’t feel like it in the moment,” Quimpo said. “Once I start playing the guitar I get reminded of how much I needed it and at the end of the day, it’s always a service to me and never a burden.”

Her determination has led to thousands of YouTube views, open mic appearances in Buffalo and her own efforts to inspire fellow students to pursue performing.

Quimpo’s first time performing in front of others was 10 years ago at a school-wide talent show. With only her guitar, her first original song and a streak of red hair, Quimpo worked up the courage to play in front of her peers.

She was just twelve-years-old.

“I wrote a song about what it felt like to be different and how I didn’t know how to express how lonely it felt to be different … . All of those feelings you have in that adolescent stage,” Quimpo said, now an accelerated nursing student at UB.

The musician didn’t see herself as a songwriter until months before the talent show performance. She was listening to the radio one day and stumbled upon a Taylor Swift interview. The then-rising country star’s words caught the attention of young Quimpo.

“She said that any bad situation could be turned into a positive one if you could make something beautiful out of it. That really resonated with me,” Quimpo said.

Swift’s interview inspired Quimpo to “organize her thoughts” and write songs as a form of self-expression.

Swift’s influence can still be heard in Quimpo’s sound, which is composed of feel-good acoustic tracks, love songs and honest lyricism. Her songwriting and melodies are reminiscent of an early Swift, but with less of a country feel.

In “As Bad as It Seems,” the songwriter sees the positive side of things even in a difficult situation, a parallel to her bright personality and ability to stay focused on both her studies and music.

But during her first semester at UB, Quimpo, then a health and human services major, didn’t think she was managing her time well. She often fled from her studies to write songs and record music. Her drive to write music and attend open mic events nearly “messed up” her freshman year academically.

“I was not prioritizing really well. I wasn’t focusing on the important things,” Quimpo said. “When I realized that I didn’t have good balance, I gave myself two years where I really just focused on school.”

The student put down her guitar to keep up with her studies, but the Buffalo music scene didn’t make it easy. She slowly found herself attending open mics around the city, and was well received by her peers and show-dwellers.

“The first open mic that I did in Buffalo that wasn’t school-affiliated was at Nietzsche’s in Allentown. They invited me back to do an hour showcase and they invited me to do that again this past November,” Quimpo said.

“[Being asked to come back] reminds me that people are willing to listen to my stories. I’m just grateful for it because I don’t really go out of my way, and I know that’s not going to last very long.”

Quimpo’s balancing has inspired her peers to pursue their passions even when it may be difficult.

Isabelle Cañeda, a recent UB alum, was a CA with Quimpo at South Lake Village. Quimpo’s musical drive inspires Cañeda, a fellow performer, to stay involved with open mics in New York City despite now working at a record label.

“Watching her really pursue music while being in not just nursing school, but the accelerated nursing program just proves that there are no excuses for giving up on music just because you're a student or work all the time,” Cañeda said.

“I really think that when she becomes famous, that'll be the biggest message she can give to people. Demand that your strengths, talents, quirks get taken seriously ... and become a nurse for fun.”

But the singer doesn’t just find joy in sharing her own music. When she was an RA and CA, Quimpo hosted her own open mic events. She encouraged residents to attend and share their talents.

Residents who attended the open mics have gone on to perform at music events around Buffalo. She won a program of the year award at UB’s 2015 paraprofessional banquet.

Quimpo feels proud knowing she gave the students a place to share their craft.

“When I go out and I see [my old residents] at Nietzsche’s or just playing on the street, I think that it’s so amazing,” Quimpo said. “I just provided another outlet for them to practice. I gave them permission to make noise.”

Julio Ramirez, a senior speech pathology major, doesn’t just see Quimpo as a former RA and friend, but as an inspiration.

“It is so inspiring to see Kari pursue music while being in nursing school,” Ramirez said. “She is so talented and she is going to be an amazing nurse. I think it’s so cool that she always makes time to do the thing she loves even if she is busy with school.”

As for her future in music, Quimpo has been writing a lot of music for herself and hopes to keep writing and performing in her spare time once she graduates.

“There’s never going to be a point where I’m not singing or not writing,” Quimpo said. “I’m really excited to be done with school because then I’ll be able to actually have the time to figure out what I want to do with music. But I’m always going to be singing.”

Brenton Blanchet is the senior arts editor and can be reached at