JCU student Sabrina Valori discusses the soulful nature of her music and the challenging but enriching environment of performing arts.
By Sara Segat / Matthew staff || Edited by Arianna Zomparelli
Sabrina Valori – stage name savïa – is a sophomore John Cabot student majoring in International Affairs and minoring in Legal Studies. A brilliantly talented singer and actress on the rise, she performed at the 2022 JCU Talent Show on April 21 with a soulful version of Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi.” Prior to the event, I had the pleasure to sit down with her to explore her background, her relationship with music, and her goals for both herself and our university in terms of artistic expression.
How did you come into contact with music?
Through my parents, mostly my mother. Growing up, I vividly remember waking up on Sundays with Teddy Afro’s music pumping out loud in the living room while my mom was making food. It was always like this, in the car, at parties, anytime there was a free moment – music was always in the background. For a moment in my childhood, I was allowed to watch Disney Channel, and there I found my voice. I started by singing all my favorite movies’ soundtracks out loud for hours, and not one neighbor complained. Then, around 5th grade or so, with the help of my schoolmates and teachers, I realized that music was more than just a hobby. They saw something in me. Then I realized, I was music.
What would you say are your influences?
Oh my God, there are so many, yet none that I could think about at this moment. I get influenced by anything, anyone, at any time. Like everyone, I have some favorite artists, such as Frank Ocean, Drake, Rihanna, Daniel Caesar, Doja Cat, and many more. However, I would say I mainly get influenced by emotions: passion, love, grief.
What inspires you to pursue music?
The very reason why I love it: because of how it makes you feel. I am not going to lie, I am a people pleaser, and I trust that to be a trait of every true artist. There is an egoistic kind of feeling to it, making music, which makes the artist feel so good. When I sing, I want my audience to feel something, interpret my voice and the story that I am telling, and just make it their own. My friends hate hearing this from me at this point, but I could sing a song a thousand times at home and just feel good about my performance. Still, whenever I sing it in front of someone, it’s like I’m absorbing a part of the feelings they’re experiencing at that moment and, seeing that I unfortunately very much love making sad music, I end up crying a lot of times. That’s what inspires me to do music, being able to connect with anyone’s emotions.
You’re an Afro-Italian artist living in Italy. What is the scene for POC artists in Italy?
I feel so bad because I could barely tell you anything about it, and I don’t know if it’s because I’m terrible at keeping up with the current scene or because there actually is not very much one for Afro-Italians. Italy, in general, is not very second-generation friendly, in my opinion, and I could go on for hours talking about it, but this is not the place for it. The genre I would make is already hard to commercialize in the Italian music scene, and I can only imagine how hard it would be to do so as a Black woman. I feel like it would do much better internationally.
You attended two years of American high school in Nashville. How did that experience shape your artistic persona?
Nashville was one of the best times of my life. I completely remodeled myself while living there. Before moving to the States, I barely took any singing classes, and the most I had for my acting portfolio was my 8th-grade recital. I hated being at the center of the attention, could barely even sing or talk in front of an audience without wanting to run away and scream; then John Overton High School happened. I signed up for choir and musical theater without any second thought, and my life magically became a dream. It might sound like a cliché or like I’m romanticizing my time in Nashville, but I woke up feeling I was living in a teenage movie every day. By participating in those classes, I learned how to accept my talent and limits without feeling crushed at every single mistake. I was even picked for the top ten of a great radio station’s competition and managed not to be embarrassed but proud when my face was all over the school’s screens. Looking back, I can definitely say Nashville is the city where I matured into the young woman I am today, and mostly the confident artist I grew to be.
You also have some theatre experience. How did that improve your performance abilities?
As I said, before actively participating in musical theater, I couldn’t bring myself to perform or even talk in front of an audience. In elementary school, I remember standing everyone up and closing myself in the girl’s bathroom because I was too scared of embarrassing myself in front of everybody. Thanks to my theater teacher, however, I discovered my love for acting and began to embrace this new passion by working very hard on my stage presence, voice projection, and emotion control. Those are all valuable and important abilities to have if you want to make this your life job.
Why did you choose JCU? How did our environment help you meet fellow artists and explore your creativity?
I chose John Cabot because of its diversity in the student body and the overall opportunities it gave its students to approach their bachelor’s degrees in a more pragmatic way rather than the theoretical one offered by Italian universities. A very fascinating factor was also the clubs and student activities the school promotes, as I love for us to be involved in more ways than just going to classes – especially because, after COVID, it has been really hard to connect with people in real life. Thanks to JCU, I joined the African Cultural Club and met a fellow artist, Giggs Kgole, who’s not only involved in visual arts but also music! There are a lot of very talented people here.
According to you, how can JCU help its students pursue their creative interests outside of class?
Definitely by creating more classes, workshops, and events dedicated to the arts, not just visual arts! There’s a variety of talents at JCU, and I think it’s such a waste not to have them blossom and express themselves here. I know for a fact that there are a lot of singers, musicians, and dancers, but also actors! Ideally, I would like them to grow more as artists the way I did with the help of my teachers in Nashville, and to do so by surrounding themselves with like-minded people.
Any future projects?
This summer will definitely be a lot about me, therefore about my music. I’m hoping to travel a lot and connect with more creative minds so that I can create some music and maybe have a single or two out. I don’t like to plan everything out as, in my opinion, art cannot be scheduled, therefore you all will just have to see.