Monica Cialona

NYU Steinhardt Songwriting Scholar Award, 2014

Monica Cialona is a Singer-Songwriter, Composer, and Producer based in New York. She was born to Italian-Africans parents and grew up in Milan, Italy. At the age of 6, she approached singing as a game when she took part in a televised singing competition for children. On her 9th birthday her parents enrolled her in classical piano lessons; that was the best gift she could have received, because from that moment she completely fell in love with music. Her approach to singing was derived largely from listening to great artists like Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, and Celine Dion, whose songs she used to sing at the top of her voice when nobody was home. With time she realized that her voice was her main instrument and that she had stories to tell with it. She simply woke up one morning and realized that she wanted to sing. At 12 she started taking voice lessons and began putting in major effort toward fulfilling her dream.

Monica began studying singing and piano at her town’s music school, the Green Music School, and after a few years she continued her piano studies at the Civic Music Institute “G. Puccini”. After high school she enrolled at the MAS (Music, Arts & Show) Modern Music Academy in Milan and simultaneously enrolled at the University Politecnico di Milano to study another passion, Architecture. These years were very intense, because she had to divide her efforts between University and the Music Academy every day; however, her passion has sustained her.  In 2008 she graduated from the Music Academy, and in 2009 she completed her degree in Architecture with a thesis in “Acoustic Architecture,” where she developed a unique project about the relationship between Music and Architecture.

During these collegiate years, she participated in several performances. Perhaps the most important was when she was selected to be one of the eight backgrounds singers of the renowned Italian singer Andrea Bocelli, participating at his televised tribute at the Italian Talk-show “Che tempo che fa”.   Other significant collaborations included performing with a big Gospel Choir directed by the American Gospel singer and composer Richard Smallwood at the “Auditorium of Milano,” and singing at the Blue Note in Milan with the MAS Gospel Choir and American singer CeCe Rogers. She later started singing as one of the vocalists of the Italian Music TV Show CD Live aired nationwide on Rai2. She lent her voice to the recording of the opening theme song “Idols” for the Italian TV Show “Wanna Dance” on Boing TV and also voiced the character Aisha, acting and singing part, of the cartoon Winx for the musical “Winx on Ice.” Her last significant performance in Italy was on the Gospel Show “Stand up! A Gospel Revolution,” where she was chosen as one of the soloists, touring to several major theatres throughout Italy.

In 2009 Monica was accepted at the Berklee College of Music in Boston with a scholarship award. The Berklee experience enabled her to meet talented musicians from all over the world and professors who transmitted their love of music into their profession. One of them was the Professor Dennis Montgomery III, Director of the Gospel Choirs at Berklee, who was a very important figure to Monica. From the beginning he really believed in her vocal potential and approached her with various performance opportunities, including joining the Gospel choir in his church.  While in Boston, one of her original songs was selected to be performed at the CWP/EPD Writer Showcase at the Berklee Performance Center. In 2012 she performed at the “Regent Theatre” in Arlington, MA, for the funeral/memorial concert in honor of Herb Reed, vocalist and founding member of The Platters. At the end of 2012 she graduated with Summa Cum Laude with the Major in Contemporary Writing and Production.

A Scholarship Award allowed Monica to study Songwriting at NYU Steinhardt in New York where she is pursuing a Master of Music Degree in Music Theory and Composition with a concentration in Songwriting and a additional focus in Film Scoring. During her first semester at NYU she had the honor to meet and collaborate in the studio with the Grammy-Award Winner Lisa Fischer, who selected and recorded one of her original songs.