BY LAURA BETH JOHNSON
ISSUE NO. 30 | AUGUST 2021
Last week, I sat down with Moriah Formica of PLUSH to discuss the group’s upcoming tour with Evanescence. At 20, most young adults are knee deep in collegiate studies, midterms and microwave dinners.
This year, Moriah signed with Surface Management, started a new band, and landed a spot on tour with a Grammy-winning Rock group.
THE OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF MODERN DAY MUSIC SCHOOL
2021 aside, Moriah’s achieved more in her career than most musicians do in a lifetime. From her first television appearance on The Voice at 16 years old, to playing alongside some of America’s most beloved Rock icons, Moriah keeps showing up aces.
“I didn’t always have that confidence, ” she said, “When I started at MDM at 11 years old, I was so shy I barely talked.”
She continued, “I did not know how to use my voice. I did not feel comfortable opening up to use it. Working with my MDM coaches completely transformed me as a person.”
She explained to me how her coaches were patient and made her feel comfortable to do the silly warm ups. Through over a decade of lessons, she learned the techniques and skills she uses every day as a rock star.
“MDM is the place where I really learned to use my voice, ” she said, “It was absolutely life changing. I would not be the singer that I am without MDM. The growth from 11 to 20: my entire career, everything I know is from MDM.”
Moriah had her first “band” experience with MDM’s Band Program when she was 12 years old! She shared, “I remember performing at Trick Shots and it just clicked for me. I was like ‘Wait, I can take all the things I’ve been feeling and the all things I’ve been writing and I can show them to people and connect with people?! It was a career defining moment for me.”
The Band Program was directed by Ben Zoleski during that time. Moriah looked up to him tremendously. “He taught me how to be in a band. I learned how practices should run, how to play shows, how to work with people on stage.” Ben also accompanied Moriah for her acoustic shows during those early days. “He was someone I looked up to and trusted,” said Moriah, “MDM is full of people like that. I love that about this place.”
She started listening to Evanescence around that time. She said, “They were my absolute number one band and they still are. Just seriously amazing music. I had never heard something that put what I was feeling into words before.”
PLUSH is an all-girl Rock band on a mission to empower young women. They’re an electric blend of feminine energy and honest grit. Moriah noticed that there hadn’t been a big all girl Rock group and wanted to change that! She explained, “Rock is a genre dominated by men. Our group has such a good energy - it’s a different type of powerful. I mean, we want to empower anybody, but we’re aware that young women will be looking at what we’re doing and seeing themselves.”
More diverse representation in Rock & Roll is long overdue. It’s something Moriah takes seriously. She shared, “There’s a different level of release when you really feel heard by someone who gets it.”
As a gay woman of color, Moriah understands the importance of representation. “It’s something you realize when you're older and you re-watch that shampoo commercial where the ‘before’ hair looks exactly like your hair which is frizzy and curly and you wonder wow, what did that communicate to me as a kid?! It seems like a little thing. But little things add up.”
Moriah explained her role in Rock like this, “There’s a huge longing for something genuine. I think about all the little gay kids who are growing up in a religious household or just in a world that doesn’t see them. They feel like they can’t be themselves and don’t have support. I think about the kids struggling with mental illness. I want to tell my story for them. I want them to feel heard and seen in our music. It’s incredibly important to me that people feel heard and if I can make it possible, I will.”
PLUSH just finished tracking their first album together in Chicago last week! Moriah’s very first studio session, and many more to follow, was at Modern Day Music with owner Paul Benedetti. She explained, “Paul really took the time to help me understand how to record a song/album in the studio and how to really sing each song with emotion and passion. He taught me that you gotta be extra in the studio. (laughing) You might think you’re singing something great, but the emotion won’t really come through unless you’re getting extra with it and going over the top, ha ha. Fast forward years later and I used that exact technique when I was tracking with PLUSH! It really really really was a career defining, life changing thing to work in the studio over the years at MDM with Paul”
When a whole generation of young people see a young, gay woman of color lead PLUSH to the next level and hear their music, so many more people are going to feel heard and represented. That’s incredibly exciting for us to be a part of, and in line with our values as a school. We couldn’t be prouder to be a part of your story and your journey, Mo.
“I’ve been searching for the reason why I’m in this position with these gifts,” Moriah said, “and I think it’s to share my story so more people feel heard.”
We couldn’t agree more. Go get 'em!
Maria Carvajal is a Colombian singer/songwriter that makes music and performs as “Ria Carval”. She is a recent St. Rose grad and one of MDM’s newest vocal coaches! At a very young age, Maria found music to be her safe space and passion. Growing up, she won various singing competitions and opened for a big music festival in Colombia. Maria’s debut album “Ignorance” wracked up more than 56k streams. She has been featured in multiple blogs, magazines, newspapers and TV appearances worldwide. Having experienced multiple vocal teachers, from remarkable opera singers to gospel, musical theatre and contemporary singers, Maria has gathered a variety of knowledge to share.
“I’ve worked with several vocal coaches over the years that taught different genres,” shared Maria, “what they all had in common was developing student’s strengths rather than focusing on what they lacked. I teach the same way. I’m most interested in building up students' existing skills, gaining confidence and finding that special quality that makes their voice unique!”
Maria believes there's much more to music than memorizing intervals. She shared, “The safety and happiness that music can create, along with the confidence one gets from seeing themselves improve…there is nothing more rewarding.
By teaching, I can share what I love and have the possibility to better someone’s quality of life, and for them to better mine!”
She continued, “The most important thing my vocal coaches taught me throughout the years was to pay attention to what my body does when I sing. At that point I tell my body what I want it to do. I imagine it and we make it happen with breathing, stretching, and focus exercises. You can’t get where you want to go if you don’t know where you’re coming from.”
We’re excited to have you on the team, Maria!
A Performance Tip from Ria Carval!
“A performance is always better when you are relating to your subject. If there's a lot going on in your life and you aren't happy or taking care of yourself, you won't be able to let go on stage and reach your full potential. Music theory can be very important, but processing your feelings, stretching, breathing, centering yourself: these things help to channel your true self into your music. THAT will elevate any performance!”
You can learn more about Maria’s music here: www.riacarval.com
2 - Open Mic Night at Cafe Lena, 7pm
3-14 - Matilda the Musical, Park Playhouse, Washington Park, 8pm (free)
4 - Kids Open Mic Night Talent Show, Clifton Commons, 7pm
5 - Mia Scirocco Trio (Ben), Saratoga National, 6:30-9:30pm
6 - Girl Blue, The Hollow, 8pm
7- Mia Scirocco Trio (Ben), Freedom Park, 7-8:30pm
8 - Under the Den, (Ben) Clifton Commons, 8-9pm
Open Mic at Black Bear Inn, (full backing band) 8pm
9 - Open Mic Night at Cafe Lena, 7pm
12 - LAUR (Laura’s band), The Crossings in Colonie, 6-8pm
13 - Under the Den (Ben), Spa City Tap and Barrel, 10pm-2am
14 - Ben Zoleski Solo, Spa City Tap and Barrel, 6:30-9:30pm
15 - Ben Zoleski Solo, Bound by Fate Brewing, 2-5pm
16 - Open Mic Night at Cafe Lena, 7pm
18 - David J (Ben), Gaffneys, 7-10pm
19 - Mia Scirocco Trio (Ben), The Lighthouse, 5-8:00pm
20 - Ben Zoleski Solo, 151 Bar & Restaurant, 7-10:00pm
21 - Irisbrook Bluegrass Festival, Cambridge, 1pm
21 - Capital Region’s AFRO PRIDE, Troy, 12pm
21 - David J (Ben), Nashville of Saratoga, 9-12am
22 - Tae Lewis (Ben), Altamont Fair ,1-2pm
27 - Ben Zoleski Solo, The Cellar, 6-9pm
27 - 25th Annual Albany LatinFest, Washington Park, 11am
28 - Under the Den (Ben), Pauly's Hotel, 8-11pm
31 - Open Mic at Black Bear Inn, (full backing band), 8pm
Our next virtual showcase will be in September! Speak with your coach if you're interested in participating and sign up with the office! We ask you send a two minute or less video of you performing.
It will premiere on Facebook live, with two separate virtual showcases for under 18 and over 18!
A ROUND OF APPLAUSE FOR OUR NEW STUDENTS in JULY!
JT (John) W
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