MEET OUR GRADUATES: Songbird Making Her Mark in Music Industry

Jessica sings into a microphone

Zeltzer started writing lyrics at age nine and has copyrighted more than a dozen songs.

Psychology major Jessica Zeltzer is crisscrossing the country to make her dreams of a music career come true.

Zeltzer has been writing, recording and performing her emotionally charged music while attending school and bouncing between Los Angeles, New York and Rhode Island.

The 23-year-old songstress says she would have it no other way.

“Music has always been my priority,” she says. “I’ve taken every form of theater and music class you can imagine. The first time I heard my voice over the airwaves, it sent shivers down my spine. That was when I thought to myself, ‘This is what it feels like to be an artist.’’’

Zeltzer, who uses only her first and middle name, Kaela, professionally, signed a performance artist development deal with Siri Music Group, an Orchard Sony music collective, in 2021. Her latest single, “Crying,” was released in March. She’s scheduled to perform the song on “Good Day New York” on May 19.

“Crying’ is a song I wrote about feeling like I lost my sense of self after a breakup,” Zeltzer says. “I was calling my team and record label every day and they were pushing me to put the pain I was feeling into a song. I was literally crying in the recording booth while I was singing the song.”

Zeltzer was nine years old when she started writing lyrics and has copyrighted more than a dozen songs since then. A soprano, she was classically trained by vocal coaches and performed with the HaZamir International High School Choir and the Barrington High School Choral Ensemble.

Zeltzer says she decided to enroll at Rhode Island College after hearing about the success of its psychology and music programs.

“I’ve put a lot of hard work in my schooling and I’m glad to see it pay off by graduating,” she says. “I had amazing professors who were supportive of my journey. They were so accommodating of my schedule, which got busy sometimes between performances and meetings.”

Eric Christensen, a RIC adjunct faculty member who taught Zeltzer how to play guitar, says she is a true talent. “She has the voice, attitude and determination to succeed in the music industry,” he says.

Zeltzer says she intends to weave what she’s learned from her psychology courses into her career. “Knowing how the brain works is especially important in the music business,” she says. “It gives me insight into why people act a certain way. When I have to take on difficult conversations, I’ll know how to maneuver.”

Zeltzer’s creative process involves constantly writing lyrics in her notebook or on her phone. She counts her ability to be emotionally vulnerable as her biggest asset.

“It can be either happy or sad emotions, but I use both to fuel my music,” she says. “Sometimes it’s scary to put your stories out there into the world. But that fear can be beautiful, as well.”

Zeltzer has won several awards for her music, including the Texas Ultimate Shorts International Romantic Music Video Award and Best Music Video Award from Los Angeles Films. She’s performed live at iHeart Radio and appeared on platforms such as Music Choice, Pandora, Fab TV and BMI Music Monday.

If she weren’t a singer, Zeltzer says she’d contemplate becoming a psychologist.

“At this point, it’s hard for me to think about anything other than being a singer because I’m focused on my career,” she says. “This industry is not easy, and I know there will be times when I fall and must pick myself back up. But at the end of the day, I will always push through and grow from whatever happens.”