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Becoming Felicita Pineda

Photos by Silvester Silver III | The Signal

During her first performance in high school, she was so filled with anxiety that her voice trembled and all of the lyrics she had rehearsed slipped from her mind. The stage fright consumed her that night, but it wasn’t permanent.

Determined for redemption, she’d sneak into karaoke bars to get over the fear of performing. The first couple of attempts were similar to the experience on that high school stage, but eventually, she grew comfortable. 

Those moments of being choked by panic were worth it because now, when the stage lights are focused on her, she feels at home. This is the story of Felicita Pineda, a student-musician at Georgia State. 

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Becoming Felicita

Growing up, Pineda listened to all kinds of genres of music, from rhythm and blues to cumbia, a Latin music genre and dance. Selena, a famous cumbia style artist, was a major inspiration for Pineda.

Pineda is not only inspired by studying legends, but also by the people she surrounds herself with. 

“People inspire me. When I first started writing, people would tell me their problems and I’d write what they were going through,” Pineda said. “Once I started experiencing more life, I started writing more of my own. Every song that I’ve released has a story behind it.”

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Pineda wasn’t always a performer, though. In fact, she didn’t discover her talent until high school.

Photos by Silvester Silver III | The Signal

“We moved to Mableton when I was, like, 16. I had to go to a performing arts high school,” she said. “The only department I could get into was [either] voice or drama, and I chose voice,” Pineda said. “That’s what I ended up graduating in. I learned so much in those two years, and that’s when everything started spiraling.”

But Pineda doesn’t just sing in English but also in Spanish, setting herself apart from other local musicians.

“I’m bilingual,” Pineda said. “When I perform, it’s a mixture of the Latin culture that I grew up listening to and the American culture I grew up listening to. I try to mix both of them because my audience is also a mixture of that as well.”

A large source of her inspiration is her Latin American culture. Although Pineda is an Atlanta native, her family is from Guatemala. She believes her singing in two languages is a great representation of the blending of cultures, and to ensure that everyone can enjoy her music.

Something that’s very important to Pineda is representation and inclusion. She wants to make sure that no one feels excluded as she sometimes did growing up.

“I’ll go to Guatemala and I’m too American, but when I’m here, I’m too Latin. I’m Latin American. I’m both. Not either,” Pineda said.

That’s the source of Pineda’s sound.

“One of my goals is to make sure that everything is bilingual — English and Spanish,” Pineda said. “So, if someone only speaks English they can still listen and connect and vice-versa for Spanish. It feels natural; it doesn’t feel like I’m faking anything.”

Although she didn’t start performing until high school, music has always been an important part of her life. 

“It’s like my safe haven. It comes around in all parts of my life — when I’m sad, when I’m happy, when I’m angry,” Pineda said. “Spiritually, I’ve always found a really deep connection with music. It’s a nice getaway.”

 

The Life of a Student Musician

At 24 years old, Pineda is a media entrepreneurship major and attends classes on the Atlanta campus. She’s currently a junior transitioning into being a senior.

Going to classes, recording songs, booking gigs and performing may sound like a lot, but after being a singer for eight years, Pineda doesn’t seem to think so.

“At first I thought of it that way, but in recent years it hasn’t been that bad,” she said. “I’ve learned to navigate business situations and learned to network.”

Pineda sees it as an opportunity to better herself and her music.

“I really enjoy learning and everything that I learn,” she said. “I try to keep it for my business to make business decisions.”

 

Up and Coming

This past summer, Pineda released a video for her song “Cry Baby.” In the video, she had some of her friends and fellow artists who are also a part of the Latinx community make appearances — featuring their art in the video alongside them.

After the release of the music video, Pineda started to see a lot more engagement. She started getting more bookings and more followers, which allowed her to be where she is today. That’s why she considers it to be her most important song to date. 

“Cry Baby” also led to Pineda having the ability to open for other musical artists.

“Over the summer I opened up for Flor de Toloache. They’re an all-female mariachi band. They just won a Latin Grammy,” she said. “They’ve worked with so many artists — they have a song with John Legend. They’re one of my favorite artists. They’re everything that I aspire to be.”

Photos by Silvester Silver III | The Signal

Pineda has also opened for a ten-piece salsa band, along with a band from Kansas. 

“They [the salsa band] kinda do what I do. They have a strong American influence but it’s also very Latin,” Pineda said.

She’s also accomplished what other artists might consider a dream: opening for musicians she grew up listening to.

“I opened up for Nina Sky. It was really cool opening up for them because I listened to them when I was little,” Pineda said.

 

The Present and the Future

Currently, Pineda has two songs that will be released soon. “Out of Sight” will be released on Friday. Her second single is “Mi Suerte”  and the release date has yet to be announced.

She is also the founder of Travelin’ Music Lessons, where she teaches children piano and guitar. 

So, what’s next for Felicita Pineda?

“My goal right now is to be on tour. Once I release these songs, maybe go on someone else’s tour,” she said.

Pineda’s long-term goals aren’t too far out of reach either.

“Long term, I’d like to have a long career in music performing and singing,” she said. “I’d also like to open a music school because I really care about music education, like what it’s done for me and what it can do for other people.”

Another one of her dreams on her bucket list would be flown out somewhere to perform.

“I really like performing,” Pineda said. “There’s this adrenaline right before you go on stage, and it’s gone after a couple minutes. It’s a feeling I can’t really replace anywhere else.”

While Pineda doesn’t know exactly what the future has in store, she is sure about one thing.

“[Music] makes me super happy,” she said. “It’s all I want to do.”