Monalisa Arias is a Panamanian born musician. She began playing piano at age 8 and switched to classical guitar and drums at age 10, when she joined her church choir and played most every Sunday for 7 years. By age 16 she was performing on the local Panamanian scene. Monalisa continued her musical studies at The College of William and Mary, and continued to pick up other instruments. She also plays the recorder, penny whistle, stand up bass, and most notably, the cowbell. She comments, 'Ever since Christopher Walken went on Saturday night live, I've had a fever for it. Thank you so much, Mr. Walken!' Monalisa began writing her own music at 22, something she considers a 'late start'. 'I always felt pressured to write my own music-mostly by me. The more pressure I felt, the less I wanted to write. Finally, some heartbreak made me put a stop to the world so that I could take care of myself, and that's when my first song came out--when I needed to express what I was feeling. After that, the songs just came.' 'As the songs sprang out, I realized that all of my influences were now emerging in my guitar playing. I'd spent my early years steeping, percolating, and preparing. I love Sarah McLachlan, Soraya, and The Cranberries, Ani DiFranco...I grew up singing Cranberries and cracking my voice like Dolores O'Reardon. You gravitate to those artists that you feel are expressing your emotions through their voice, music and lyrics. After a while, I felt guilty that I wasn't creating my own material like the artists that I admired...but their music gave me a structure to prop myself on...then I started doing my own thing, and realized that I have an independent style, but one clearly influenced by the artists I grew up listening to.' Monalisa also credits her culture for her percussive nature on the guitar, 'I witnessed and learned a lot of Panamanian rhythms through my church choir, and from typical Panamanian music. It's all in there.' She thanks her parents and family for the immense support they've given her every step of the way, 'To encourage your kid to make a living in the arts takes very trusting and faithful parents. Gracias, mami, papi, y mama. Es gracias a ustedes que yo puedo cantar y tocar.'
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