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Omaha Magazine

Force of Nature

Nov 05, 2013 09:00AM ● By Katie Anderson
Kaitlyn Hova has a superpower.

True to the standards of superhero split identity, Hova appears by day to be a mild-mannered 25-year-old who happens to work at the New BLK, an ad agency and creative think tank. But she’s also a professional violinist, former child prodigy, neuroscientist, designer, programmer, businesswoman, and inventor.

And we haven’t even gotten to her superpower yet.

While Hova has many interests and talents, music is her ultimate “lasso of truth,” determination her guiding force.

Omahans will recognize newlywed Hova by the name Kaitlyn Maria Filippini, which she’s performed under locally and around the world with acts as well-known and diverse as Mannheim Steamroller, Rod Stewart (Hova was 14 at the time), Josh Groban, Trans Siberian Orchestra, Mary J. Blige, Tim Kasher, and Michael Bublé—first when she was in high school and then again recently in the christening concert for Lincoln’s Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Born with an immune system illness, Hova wasn’t supposed to live past age 6, but armed with a stubborn nature and with a pediatric nurse for a mom, she beat the odds. Hova started playing violin at 10, soon connecting with her mentor, Chuck Pennington (Mannheim Steamroller). She graduated from Berklee College of Music before earning a degree in neuroscience from UNO and working in that field for five years.

Hova found the nexus between music and neuroscience while working on Chip Davis’ Ambient Therapy System.

“It’s a sound and light device used in some hospitals to help patients deal with the setting,” she says. It also incorporates natural sounds and has been approved by NASA for use by astronauts on long-range space travels.

Interestingly—especially for a musician—Hova has synesthesia, a condition where the stimulation of one sense evokes a response from another. Her senses are interconnected in a way that she “sees” sounds as colors.

“But you don’t realize it because it’s totally normal,” at least to her, she says. “You were just born with it. Whenever I hear any sound—and it’s not emotion-based, it’s a stimulus—I see a color, a shape, and I can feel it on my face.”

Tone is color, timbre is shape, and the shape determines the tingly sensation she feels on her face. “I didn’t know I had it until someone told me that it wasn’t normal,” she says. “My husband put it the best way: It’s just like X-Men. Characters each have their powers, but no one’s is the same. It’s always a little different.”

Hova shares her superpower in a synesthesia-inspired video where she covers the Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights.” Viewers see the lights she sees when experiencing music.

“We do it as a live light show, too,” she says. “If I play a note, a light will come up with the color that I want it to be. You can’t just make random colors because it’s actually my synesthesia.”

Hova makes her success sound much humbler than that of superpowers at play.

“My music comes from my synesthesia,” she says, “my ability to improvise came from Berklee, and the rest of it’s just showing up—and it’s Omaha; you can do anything in Omaha.”

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