We had the good fortune of connecting with Amanda Pascali and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Amanda, why did you pursue a creative career?
I was 12 years old when I picked up a guitar and started singing in front of one of my teachers. I didn’t consider myself very unique, extraordinary, or particularly talented. It only took a few seconds after I started for him to stop me. He was in awe. “Can I record you?” We turned a small room into what I considered, as a 12-year-old, a Hollywood film set and I made my first YouTube video. The description, written by my teacher read “Meet Amanda. She’s 12 years old, and she sings and plays the guitar.” Fast forward a decade later; I am a touring, bilingual singer/songwriter and that same YouTube channel has hundreds of thousands of views. As the daughter of two immigrants, I saw music as a way to tell the story of my family’s diaspora. Like many children of immigrants, I was raised as the personification of my parents’ sacrifices. When I saw the look on my teacher’s face the first time I sang for him and the joy I brought to others by singing to them as a teenager, I knew that I found what I was born to do. I was born to be a messenger; of my family’s stories and the stories of millions of other immigrants in the world’s universal language: music.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Growing up in a multicultural family, I became fascinated with the concept of “home”. One Christmas, I was gifted a big atlas book by my parents. My favorite thing to do was look at the world map and point out where my mom was born, where my dad was born, and connect my fingers in the place where they met and where I was born: New York City. As a little girl, I promised myself that I would travel to the strange and unheard-of places on Earth. Now I’m a 22-year-old singer/songwriter who travels the world with a guitar on my back, eager to discover my roots and learn the cultures of others. I am constantly inspired by the everyday person: fishermen, grandmothers, nuns, taxi drivers. They are the inspiration for my songs. Deep down, I believe that I am quite ordinary. When I see people in awe of my songs it shows just how many extraordinary things the ordinary person can do. I have performed these songs internationally, from the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., to packed houses in Italy, Romania and across the eastern hemisphere. My music, now coined “Immigrant American Folk” delivers a powerful narrative on being “too foreign for here, too foreign for home, and never enough for both”. Earlier this year, my group and I were awarded a grant from the City of Houston to create an asynchronous, online ESL program that uses music to teach English to immigrant students whose classes had to be transitioned online as a result of COVID19. I was constantly inspired by the students, most of whom were learning English after a full day of work and/or taking care of their families. In collaboration with Music to Life, an organization started by Liz Sunde and her father Noel Paul Stookey from the famous 1960s band “Peter, Paul and Mary”, I created the Immigrant American Folk Project. The project uses multimedia content such as audio interviews, writings, and photos to bring to light the stories from Houston’s immigrant community that refute the outdated archetype of what “American” looks like. Growing up, I had to build my own definition of what it meant to be “American”. Today, I make art that urges others to discover what it means to be “American” in their own unique way.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
One of the best things about Houston is the food. The reason for this is our huge and diverse immigrant population. Even more than music, it is food that brings people together. It’s no secret that our fusion food trucks, taco trucks, and Koren BBQ are a result of our large Latin American and Asian population, but what many people do not know is that Houston has a big Italian community as well. If you want authentic Italian food and romantic vibes, visit chef Angelo Cuppone at Roma Ristorante, or my friend chef Giancarlo Ferrara at Amalfi Ristorante. If you want something more casual, visit chef Roberto Crescini at Fresco. Houston has a restaurant for almost any type of food you can imagine. By supporting family-run restaurants in Houston, you are supporting the hard work of immigrants who come to our incredible city to offer you a little piece of their home. Others I recommend are Pasha for Turkish food, Thai Spice for Thai food, and Lucy for Ethiopian food. The second best thing about Houston is our museums. One of my favorites is the Menil Collection. I am a huge fan of surrealist art. The Menil Collection is home to my favorite René Magritte painting: “The Telescope”. If after all of this art and culture you are craving a glass of wine, visit Szilvia at Sable Gate Winery, a winery owned by a Hungarian family in Midtown.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I am inspired most of all by my parents. Their love for one another has always defined “true love” for me, even as a little girl. Their love is one that survived poverty, working-class jobs, and broken English. So many of my songs that speak to the experience of love and national identity in America are inspired by my parents. I owe so much of my musical success to my mentor, singer/songwriter Ken Gaines, who upon hearing me sing as a teenager, believed in me even when I didn’t yet believe in myself. I am grateful for the talented guys who perform with me: my best friends James Kesley Richarson, and Addison Freeman. I would also like to give a shoutout to my former professor Dr. Alessandro Carrera who has mentored me in translating songs and poetry from Italian into English and whose teachings have inspired me to develop creatively as well as Dr. Peter Copeland for showing me that sometimes, being an artist can make you a better scientist. Thank you also to Liz Sunde and her father Noel Paul Stookey from the 1960s band Peter, Paul and Mary for pushing me to grow as an activist while working with Houston’s immigrant community.
Other: Support us on Patreon to help fund our new collection of studio recordings! www.patreon.com/amandapascali
Kat Ambrose, Abhinav Kumar, Raresh Pascali, Demi Lee Navarro, Luca Della Savia, Anna Pascali