Alina Celeste is a Parent’s Choice Award winning musical artist. Her third album for kids and families is a joyful, melodious expression of her Cuban-American heritage. Love is Te Quiero is a celebration of a childhood lived in two languages and will be released on May 24, 2019.
Alina Celeste’s music is creative, joyous, and eclectic, much like her hometown, Miami, Florida. As a child, she thrived in a multi-cultural, multi-generational environment that held no reservations about the phrase “I love you … Te quiero.”
The songs on Love is Te Quiero carry message of love, acceptance, and friendship in a fusion of bluegrass, Caribbean, Latin American, and contemporary styles that, like Alina herself, speaks to the unity of America: one loving, respecting, accepting hemisphere where North, South, and Central define location rather than division.
Alina Celeste has taught, performed, and presented workshops and master classes throughout the United States and internationally in cities as far-flung as Santiago de Atitlán in Guatemala and Kempsey and Melbourne in Australia. Alina is on the board of The Children’s Music Network and wholeheartedly believes in that organization’s mission to bring music education to every child and honor every child’s experience through music. With Hamlet Meneses, she co-founded the Being Bilingual Rocks Foundation. Through the Foundation, she hopes to celebrate bilingual life by working to make it the norm rather than the exception, to encourage children to not only learn multiple languages but also engage with other cultures, and to provide children in communities that are not typically represented in the media with mirrors of their own experiences and languages.
She recently discussed this new album and more via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you initially get interested in music and how come you focus on kid’s music?
Alina Celeste (AC): I’ve always made music of one kind or another. I studied music in high school and majored in it in college. After college, I got my first “grown-up” job teaching elementary school music in Miami. Even after I left the stable teaching life a couple of years later, I worked as a Teaching Artist. So really, I’ve always been working with kids and music. About 8 years ago, I decided to focus exclusively on kids’ music because I felt like I could contribute in a positive way, and because it brought me the most happiness.
MM: How did you go about breaking into the music scene?
AC: I think with anything you want to do, it’s just a matter of giving it a shot. My first tour started with a phone call. I have made A LOT of phone calls since then, and more and more often, they lead to shows. I started my YouTube channel by posting one song after the other, learning as I went. Slow and steady is a good refrain, as is figuring out how to balance your life so that defeats feel like little bumps in the road. One or two or even three rejections don’t mean much when you think of them as little lessons that help you move forward and learn.
MM: How much of an influence is your culture on your creativity?
AC: Music and dance are a huge part of Cuban culture and my grandmother and my father made both a big part of my childhood. In fact, I can’t imagine a childhood that isn’t absolutely awash in music, so I’d say it was a pretty big influence.
MM: How did your experiences growing up in Florida influence your music?
AC: Miami is a loud, musical place! I am lucky to have grown up within a really unique culture, and it has definitely influenced me. In Miami, you hear Reggaeton played next to Country, played next to Salsa, played next to Reggae, played next to Pop. There’s no way that doesn’t have an effect! I think that eclectic mix definitely colored my own style in all kinds of ways.
MM: Of all the songs, have you any special favorites?
AC: I have two. I love the song “Coquinas” because I wrote it about a childhood memory. My mom and I used to look for little shells on the beach, called coquinas. They are shaped like butterflies. We’d take piles of them home and decorate things with them. I also love hearing about how people have come up with their own verses to my song “Love Is.” Everybody has their own definition of love, and that is just beautiful, I think of that every time I sing that song.
MM: What can audiences expect from your concerts?
AC: I like to get people singing and dancing as quickly as possible, so lots of moving!
MM: What do you wish more people knew about the benefits of being bilingual and the importance of acceptance?
AC: I think that acceptance is about respect. and bilingualism is about understanding. I wish that opportunities to embrace and learn about other cultures and languages were available for everyone, especially every child. It becomes difficult to paint people as “other” if you have come to understand and enjoy their language and culture. I think that the more people engage with each other, the better they get to appreciate and understand new people and new ideas. Then from a purely educational, mental aspect, two or more languages does such wonderful things for the brain!
MM: Is there anything else that you would like to mention?
AC: I want to encourage anyone out there who is curious about another language to go ahead and try learning some. It’s like opening a door to a whole new world.
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