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Make Music Champions: Sara Ontaneda transitioned from instrumental music to songwriting, and now is thriving with new original songs!

Sara Ontaneda is an Ecuadorian-American singer-songwriter from NYC. She started making music as a kid playing the piano and pursued a musical career in college. She has released a handful of albums and original songs, and her two recent singles “Hey Maria” and “Inútil” are part of a bilingual album she developed as a part of her new musical era. Last January, she released the single “Tu Recuerdo”, also an original composition.

How did you start making music?

I grew up in Miami and lived in Ecuador during my teenage years. Since getting into college I have lived in Boston. Music has been the most permanent thing in my life. I started at 7 years old with classical piano and, throughout my life, I stayed very much in that classical music world. As a teenager, I loved to write songs and record little demos, and that’s how I got interested in songwriting. Then, as I was studying at Berklee College of Music and I was learning different things such as instrumental, composition, and production, I started getting really into instrumental music. I thought I was going to write for things like advertising, film, and video games, and I even developed some projects for that. But I felt something was missing, and I realized I wanted to keep doing songwriting to go back to singing, which I had been missing. I wanted to go back to being able to express myself through my voice and lyrics, so I decided I had to begin the songwriting part of my life.

What genres do you like exploring?

Most of my music is a mix of folk, Latin, a little bit of pop, and R&B. My latest music is a little more electronic. It’s more like eighties synth-pop which is what I’m experimenting with right now. 

I know you love doing songwriting, do you also like doing covers?

I do! I think it’s fun when you have a live gig and you throw a couple of covers, so there is something familiar to everyone. I usually do ‘Radiohead’ and ‘Creep’, those are my go-to’s. 

Are you a full-time musician? Or do you do other stuff on the side?

It’s all pretty much related to audio and music. I do podcasts and audio editing and engineering for podcasts, apart from that I do a lot of just my music. Right now, I’m actually in school.  I’m doing my masters in Songwriting and Production.

How did you find out about Make Music Day?

I believe I found out about it through Instagram. I was seeing people from my network performing at Make Music Day and it looked very cool and interesting. In 2019, I signed up for Make Music Day for the first time, in Brooklyn. I performed there and it was a really nice experience! There were people of all ages and backgrounds, and I just got a sense of community which I loved. I also performed in 2021 and had another wonderful day. There was music in every corner of the Seaport District, and I spent my whole day there for many different shows, it was the best experience!

How would you describe what music means to you?

I feel like music is like breathing to me. It’s such a necessity. It’s in our lives in so many moments and it’s such an important part of expression.

Finally, what would you say your goal in music is?

To be able to connect with people and leave them with a message and make them feel that they’re not going through anything alone. My music is very message-based and healing, and my composition process is kind of therapy for myself. You can be playing in front of a crowd where no one knows you, but for a moment you are connecting with them, and that for me is special and powerful.