Middle and Upper School Arts News & Stories
Alessia Cara was a quiet teenager living in Brampton, Ontario, attending Catholic school and recording her own songs on YouTube.
She kept at it for several years. Then one day, her big break came: She was discovered by EP Entertainment, which led to a record deal with Def Jam Recordings.
Now she is a rising star, whose debut single, Here, is “a genuine viral smash” in the words of The New York Times. She has appeared on Ellen and Jimmy Fallon, and performed in concert with Taylor Swift. This month, she announced a national tour.
In presentations to Upper and Middle School students today, Cara described how she went from a shy, unremarkable teenage life to the big stage. She had no professional training and no leg up. What she did have, she said, was a passion for music, the ambition to practice and learn, a work ethic learned from her parents, and a clear sense of her self.
Young artists today have a tremendous resource in social media, she told the students, and these tools can help them get their work out to a broad audience. But she cautioned: “Don’t jump into anything too soon until you’ve figured out who you want to be as an artist. If you don’t know who you are, people will think they can make you into someone else. Know who you are and who you want to be. Take time to learn about yourself.”
Her songs explore her own deeply felt experiences. Here tells the story of a party that she attended and the discomfort that she felt. That ill-at-ease feeling has resonated with thousands, and she described a thrilling moment at the Taylor Swift concert when the audience began singing her song. “It’s every artist's dream to have thousands of people singing your lyrics back at you,” she said.
A student asked her if she felt a sense of responsibility about being a role model to other teenagers. That was never her intention, she replied. “I made songs about things I was going through myself,” she said. “I didn’t know that anybody would hear them.”
Yet she is happy that she has the opportunity to talk to other teenagers and encourage them to rise above social pressure and recognize their own self-worth. "I have so much to talk about, and all of a sudden I have this voice," she said. "I want to come to these places and talk to you guys and learn from you guys."
As she thinks about her next steps, she wonders what direction her music will take. She knows she won’t be writing about her life as a teenager much longer. Whatever happens, she will stay true to herself. “This is me now,” she said. “I think it is important to stay me now.’’