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Finding Her Voice

She interprets stories to process emotions

KIMAYA DIGGS ’15 has not yet recorded her second album, but the experience has already gone gold.

She underwent surgery to fix her vocal chords in January, then suffered through two weeks of complete silence and torment: Did it work?! Will I ever really sing again?!

But at last the switch flipped, and the songs poured out.

“I was reveling in the fact that I could sing again,” says Diggs, an artist, teacher, polymath, and more. “These songs feel like a celebration.”

She wrote the new album in—and to—her new voice. Diggs deems it more upbeat and “dancy” than her debut, Breastfed, on which she struggled to sing because of her injury, and plans to record it with a full band. “This one is feeling really good,” she says. “It’s been a much more joyful process.”

At Swarthmore, she majored in English literature and threw herself into musical performances of Here in My Garden, South Pacific, and The Royal Singer. That devotion likely led to the calluses on her vocal chords.

After performing around the world with the group Northern Harmony, Diggs moved to western Massachusetts to direct a chorus of more than 100 children. There, she spoke and sang so much that a callus hemorrhaged, and she could use her voice only 20 minutes a day. “I attach so much of my self-worth to my performances that I developed a very diminished sense of myself,” she says. Helping her through that pain was a fulfilling music-therapy position, as well as the private music lessons and graphic-design gigs, all of which contributed to supporting her music.

It’s a path Diggs did not foresee while at Swarthmore. But it was there that she caught the bug, recording her first demo (which became “Bus Stop” on her debut) on a cracked iPhone.

“It was such an incredible moment to realize I could do this sort of creative, analytical, storytelling kind of thing,” Diggs says. “And that’s still what fuels me today.”