Musical artist Victoria Elise’s talent was first discovered by her aunt who heard the shy 6-year-old belting out Disney tunes in the shower. Elise was eventually persuaded to attend vocal lessons only after her aunt offered the promise of a cup of fruit from a street vendor after every lesson.
Now, the 18-year-old recent graduate of the East Los Angeles Performing Arts Magnet is a classically trained vocalist with a velvety voice, sultry tunes and big dreams. She’s penned her own songs and used the equipment at her school to edit her own music videos, both of which are now streaming worldwide on Spotify and Youtube, respectively.
“I take inspiration from my own experiences, my family members’ stories, and stories from friends,” said Elise, who songs touch upon critical issues like immigration and toxic masculinity in Latino culture.
Elise is one of two Eastside teenagers who recently completed Bringing Down the House, a program of the House of Blues’ Music Forward Foundation. Through the program’s series of workshops and showcases, young musicians from low-income communities throughout Los Angeles were connected with industry experts who shared their knowledge on the ins and outs of the music industry, like music business and marketing.
“These artists don’t come from homes where their family is in the industry, so we try to accelerate their access into the industry,” said Nurit Siegel Smith, executive director of Music Forward. “There’s still so many barriers, but we want to invest in these artists and create an opportunity for them to pursue their passion in music.”
Hybrid Odyssey’s, ‘60s-inspired rock and roll sound with a Latinx flair is what caught the attention of Music Forward’s talent buyers who handpicked the artists for the program. Hybrid Odyssey has all the makings of a successful rock band - a unique sound, chemistry amongst the band members, and gigs across Downtown and the Eastside. But the program helped the group to realize what they were lacking in order to reach success.
“Sometimes we arrive late to places, so the program helped us to understand the importance of being professional and that it’s not all just about music, but also about being strategic," said Hybrid Odyssey’s lead band member and Boyle Heights resident, 19-year-old, Gustavo Lopez. “It was all very eye opening.”
Earlier this year, the program culminated in an artist showcase at the Wiltern Theatre, giving the young artists an opportunity to perform for their friends, family and fans on a stage that has also hosted big-name artists like Elvis Costello and Sting.
“They have a confidence that is inspiring,” said Smith said. “ When I see young people grounded in who they are and committed to their own voice, its motivating for industry professionals, mentors, and the communities around them.”