Today we’d like to introduce you to Francesca Valle.
Francesca, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
I began music at a very young age. I was playing guitar and singing by four and formal lessons by the time I was about six years old. My mom scrimped and saved to pay for my guitar lessons. She paid something like seven bucks a month towards my first guitar that she had to put on layaway. Music was always my refuge as a kid. It was really the constant that kept my interest. It was essentially the only discipline I had as a kid. And every time I would get distracted or depressed, my parents would redirect me to my music. My grandmother bought me an electric guitar when I was 15 against my mother’s wishes. I had a bit of an emotional breakdown upon being diagnosed with ADHD and basically flunking my first term of high school. I’ll forever remember the note she wrote to me, “Never let anyone else define you. You are a whirlwind of divinity.” The feeling she renewed in me is something I try to connect with and share with my students regularly. My first introduction to playing in front of thousands of people was at Catholic Youth conventions. I wanted to be a nun at the time. Can you imagine? By the time college rolled around, music was the only logical thing to study really. Luckily, my family pushed for me to go to school and study music. I was blessed to have a few mentors in my college years that really pushed me to get deeper into teaching. Truthfully, the idea of teaching singing terrified me. I was a rockstar, and the teaching thing was intimidating. Ironic considering how cool I was in front of an audience performing. But, when your college instructors and the best voice teachers you know, promise to help you through and hiccups, it’s almost stupid not to heed their advice and start teaching people how to sing. They said I was a natural, but I must have been pretty awful at it in the beginning. Still, people liked my work, and I was teaching regularly. Around 21, I returned to my high school alma mater to teach music. That’s when I realized the blessings and privilege of writing my own curriculums and breaking out of the educational system that I had found so difficult as a teenager. I was a queer teenager that stuck out as a student and going back. I was still a horse of a different color. I hated it. It was probably PTSD, but whatever it was, I quit before the end of the year. I hated teaching like that. So I went back to private teaching. I have been my own ever employer since and I do it my way. I’ve now taught countless people in private lessons, classrooms, studios, choirs, and universities, how to find their own voice and develop their own unique styles. But in the classroom, I am a guest. I get to come in as a master and break down convention.
Today, I run a thriving business with a small but awesome team of talented individuals that help me do what I do best, teach people how to foster and improve their craft. Though my studios and the miracle of online teaching, I can now reach students all of the world in a single day. I’m lucky enough to have clients that have gone on to win Emmys, win Grammys and perform in top-notch productions. For the past decade or so, dozens of teachers have come asking for council, so now part of my practice is to regularly be mentoring teachers and interns to do what I do. Singing is a birthright, and anyone who’s been in a choir can tell singing is also a form of salvation. Songwriting is one of the most rewarding ways to express oneself. I feel like I get to preach that message all day, every day, and the work just continues to come in. And the added perk for me is, as a teacher, I get to dig in and obsess with the discipline I started at four years old. I would do this all day for free, but they pay me to do it. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that one. What did I do for such a blessing? I have just started saying, “thanks mom,” a million times a day. If she hadn’t worked so hard to afford that first guitar of mine, I’d probably be in jail or locked up in a basement, hiding from the world.
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
I find the most fulfillment in maximizing peoples gifts. Every human’s voice is unique; I love that. It’s our personal stamp in this world. A parrot has yet to break the top 40 charts, so there’s certainly more to singing than copying the perfections of our predecessors. We certainly learn a lot in the process of impersonating styles, but the reality is, we have to find what comes naturally and work from there. Otherwise, we will always be straining to be something we are not. Thats not just true in music, thats true in all aspects of life. Everyone is good at something, and my gift is finding that something. Then we use it as a vessel to connect. Art is about connection. Art that disconnects is a waste of time, in my opinion. But thats the whole thing, my opinion is just that, mine. We each get to have our own tastes, and my job isn’t to assign “good” and “bad” labels to art. We don’t have to have the same values musically. I don’t want you to sound like me. How uninteresting would life be if we all had the exact same values? If all of our songs sound the same? That’s all subjective stuff. In my work, I try to be objective. Either the art is effective, or it isn’t. Either it is sustainable, or it isn’t. I’m here to give people choices. Freedom really boils down to the ability to choose. I want everyone to feel free. I want their voice to come out freely. I want their songs to come out freely. I want them to have a choice in the way they represent their message. I want them to be mindful about their voices, their songs, and the impact they have on their audience. I’ve spent 33 years freeing my voice, freeing myself in front of audiences. Now I can sing any song that I want to. It has liberated me musically and in every facet of my life. I’m planning on spending the next part of my journey helping as many people feel that same feeling as humanly possible.
What do you think it takes to be successful as an artist?
Brene Brown has made Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena speech famous, but I have been quoting it for almost a decade. “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” After two decades in the music industry, I have watched countless talents fall by the wayside, and many mediocre acts shoot to fame, and it made me rethink notoriety. There was certainly a time when I thought success was about who you’ve worked with and what financially successful projects your name is on, but not anymore. I work with all sorts of artists. I have a client now, Madison, who is 21 years old and has down syndrome. Her pitch and timing are about what you would expect them to be, but she gives me goosebumps regularly and brings her mother to tears. Her courage is inspiring. Imagine how difficult it is for her to regularly hear that she needs to practice how to shape words in her mouth, how to pinpoint pitch and how to count the beat when her responses are usually delayed. She does get frustrated and not seldom. But she shows up week after week, wholehearted and ready to share her voice with anyone who will listen. It’s compelling to see how well she is able to move most anyone that sees her perform. As humans, we are forever incomplete. We will never have a flawless performance. Why would we want to? That’s what machines are for. You know, in sound engineering we have a term “humanizing.” When we create electronic music, it’s much more simple for us to polish out all the imperfections, but the best engineers recognize that each song needs to breathe. It needs a little fluctuation in tempo or drift in pitch to connect well. All in all, a successful performance requires one thing consistently, courage. The best artists aren’t fearless; they are courageous. Thats what makes us respect them. We are not defined by any one moment in life, good or bad. Success is about courage. The courage to be ourselves. The courage to neither bolster or recoil from our truth. The courage to calculate risk and dive in. Courage is not for rent; it is a lifestyle. It is more important than talent or aptitude. You can know every scale under the sun, but it won’t get you anywhere if you aren’t brave enough to offer us your song without apology.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
The artists I work with are on the biggest stages and in some of the best projects out there. If you watch shows like The Voice and American Idol, you’ve already probably seen my work unknowingly. I am also currently working with San Diego’s Voice’s of Our City Choir, spearheading a team of songwriters, both sheltered and unsheltered to amplify the voices of some of our community’s most vulnerable groups. Volunteering is a huge part of my work, and I am proud to say, my team at BugByte (my studios and brand) volunteer regularly with the VoOC as well. The choir was created in response to San Diego’s housing crisis and our seemingly countless homeless neighbors. This year we performed at TEDx and with the San Diego Symphony. In fact, the Symphony is recording an album of our songs from these workshops this summer with the choir. I invite folks to come to meet me at a workshop, sing and write some songs with us. I’m there most every Friday at 9 am. 1550 Market Street.
- Address: BugByte Studios
4456 Vandever Ave, Suite 7.
San Diego, CA, 92120
- Website: BugByteStudios.com
- Phone: 562-305-6033
- Email: Francesca@BugByteStudios.com
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/thefrancescavalle/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/francescavallemusic
Karen Stowell-Wagner and Abby Dorsey