I grew up in New Jersey with a piano in my living room. My mom was born in Bicol and when she moved to the United States, she continued the Filpino tradition of keeping in close contact with extended relatives. Every time there was an ate (sister), tita (aunty), lola (grandma) or neighbor over at our house for dinner, my mom would ask me to entertain them with a performance. I enjoyed having everyone gather around the piano and sing with me, and it didn’t take me long to realize that what I wanted to be when I grew up was an artist performing on stage.
At Montclair State University, where I went on to study music full-time, I would find myself locked inside a practice room for hours, all by myself. In the pursuit of my ambition, I turned into a self-conscious music student. I was constantly worried about every single note I played and had forgotten about the importance and value of sharing art and music with other people.