Published : Monday, October 9, 2017 | 5:36 PM
Someone who didn’t know Vela Perez Casiano might have misinterpreted her first words at the Idyllwild Arts Academy Music Department’s Songwriters Concert, held outdoors on a perfect evening on September 29.
“I have good news: I heard from my mom and dad today.”
A case of extreme homesickness, barely a month into the school year?
In fact, Vela’s home is in Ponce, Puerto Rico, and Hurricane Maria had made landfall nine days earlier. It didn’t injure anybody that Vela knew, but she’d been in the dark about that until communication with her parents was reestablished.
The good news probably made it easier for her to focus on her song, a commentary on the culture that stems from Puerto Rican reggaetón music. And Vela’s irrepressibly melodic voice surely made it easier for listeners to put Puerto Rico’s struggles out of their minds for a few minutes.
But what the hurricane did to Puerto Rico remains on her own mind. She urges donations, especially to Americares or the American Red Cross.
Not that Puerto Ricans are the only people whose misfortunes concern Vela.
“I’ve also written songs about the Syrian refugees—from the point of view of a Syrian child—and child abuse, and homelessness in the LGBTQ community.”
These are emotional songs, whose power is augmented by a soprano voice that has benefited from six years of classical training.
“I write mainly in a pop/ballad style, though I’ve been trying to expand my range since I came to Idyllwild Arts last year as an eleventh-grader.”
Vela’s pop/ballad style would be a good fit for Berklee College of Music, in Boston, while her classical training would be suitable for The Juilliard School, in Manhattan.
“If they both accept me,” she says, “I’ll have to make a decision!”
Idyllwild Arts, 52500 Temecula Road, Idyllwild, CA 92549-0038, (951) 659-2171 or visit www.idyllwildarts.org.