Stars Making a Social Impact: Why & How Cassandra Pinataro Is Helping To Change Our World
We are past the days when you play your song at a dive bar and get discovered by an agent in the audience and become a star seemingly overnight. You have to create a business first before anyone will pay attention to you.
As a part of our series about stars who are making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Cassandra Pinataro.
Born in Rockville, MD, Cassandra Pinataro began singing as soon as she could speak. She grew up in Duluth, GA before moving to Binghamton, NY for middle school and high school. Her family resides in Jacksonville, FL. “Every city I’ve lived in has taught me something about myself and the world around me,” she explains. “Although it was difficult to move often, I’m grateful for the memories I have made and the lessons I have learned in each place.”
In high school, Cassandra began to dabble with her songwriting skills, composing several pop songs but never releasing them. It wasn’t until the Coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S. in 2020 that she found what she loved most about the creative process of music. She started writing and co-writing pop music and began recording soon after.
As a trained opera singer, Cassandra has a vast vocal range that spans over four octaves. She has a fierce sound, with the ability to seamlessly weave in and out of tricky vocal runs that would trip up most singers. As an artist, her goal is to never treat two songs the same, thus developing a new sound for each one.
Cassandra graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music with a Bachelor’s degree in Classical Voice Performance and is currently studying for her Master’s degree in Music Business through Berklee College of Music’s online program.
Cassandra was crowned Miss Boston in 2022 and was first runner-up to Miss Massachusetts that same year. While still reigning her title, Cassandra decided to chase her dream and move to Nashville, TN, where she was crowned Miss Music City in 2023. She is currently competing for the title of Miss Tennessee and hopes to continue on to the Miss America competition later this year.
As a Miss America local titleholder, Cassandra has provided meals for over 250,000 homes in the past year. She plans to release a cookbook this year, with 50% of those proceeds going back to the Middle Tennessee Food Bank.
With a combined total of over 420K streams on Spotify, Cassandra uses her talent to spread encouraging messages through her music. She released her latest single “Love You Back” on March 31, 2023.
Cassandra is currently visiting schools across Tennessee, building bonds through music and speaking with students about the importance of mental health.
Thank you so much for joining us on this interview series. Can you share with us the backstory that led you to this career path?
I’ve been singing since I could carry a melody! When I was 4 years old, my mother taught me to sing the Sound of Music. I used to create dances and sing all around the house. I was simply doing… my favorite things! When I was 11, my parents decided it was time for me to begin taking vocal lessons. I started training with Beth Buckzowski and eventually transitioned to training with Barbara Powell who helped form my classical training foundation. When it was time to go to college, I knew I had to continue training classically. I went to New England Conservatory to study with Lisa Saffer and developed rapidly, discovering myself to be a coloratura soprano. I loved singing classically, but when the world came to a halt during the COVID-19 pandemic, I took a moment to look inward and ask myself what I was missing in my musical journey. I realized I needed to write my own songs and had always wanted to sing pop songs, so I contacted my friend Bryan Ruby who was heavily involved in the singer-songwriter space here in Nashville, TN. He and I began writing songs over Zoom and before I knew it, I was in a recording studio in Nashville cutting my first EP. I continued on to write and release several songs throughout the course of 2021 and 2022 while graduating from New England Conservatory. In my senior year, I decided to compete for Miss Boston in the Miss America Organization and found a new way to realize my passion of helping and healing others. I was able to bring my original pop songs, namely my single “Made for Me,” into classrooms to talk with students about mental health and its relationship with healthy eating. I found a new sense of purpose I had always searched for and now had found. Once I had graduated and placed as first runner up to Miss Massachusetts 2022 and won the Miss Massachusetts talent award, I knew it was time to continue my dream of creating and move to Nashville to record. Today, I am your Miss Music City 2023, a music business master’s student at Berklee College of Music Online, a full-time songwriter and pop artist, and am bringing a message of self-love and positivity to students across the country with my new song “Love You Back”.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not taking enough risks! When I competed for Miss Boston in February 2022, I had no idea I needed to prepare a 30 second social impact initiative pitch until the night before competition! Thank goodness the other competitors were kind enough to make sure I had everything ready to go. I hurriedly created and memorized a pitch to perform on stage the next day. Although I won the competition, that certainly taught me to ask many more questions before the next competition, so I was more prepared.
What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?
Don’t be afraid to dive into your passion and be curious about your passion. I probably would have started writing and recording pop songs at a much younger age if I wasn’t so afraid of the industry and had researched what it really took to be an artist. It’s not as glittery as I originally envisioned it, but that’s part of what makes it even better than what my younger self envisioned. Nothing glitters like hard work paying off.
Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?
Francesca Simone, Miss Rhode Island 2008, has been like a sister to me. Francesca was assigned to be my manager when I won the job of Miss Boston. Little did I know she would take me in like family and help me not only realize my goals of spreading self-love and the significance of mental health to young children, but to also discover more about myself. Francesca helped me see myself more clearly by encouraging me to explore my values and opinions on important social issues while preparing for interviews. I learned more about myself in five months than ever before because of our work together.
How are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you’re working on right now?
The “Love You Back” campaign is in full swing! I am bringing positivity and goodness to the world with this song by telling people to give the best of themselves to the world but to also take time to love themselves back. I’ve been volunteering at elementary schools to spread this message to young students. I think now, more than ever, particularly after the recent shooting at the Covenant School, people need to know that their voices are heard and their mental health matters. I want this message to reach as many people as it can touch.
Can you share with us a story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?
I am the queen of burnout- at least I used to be. A previous version of me used to fall into a people pleasing trap of constantly working and doing work for others while neglecting to take time for me. This really became apparent when someone asked me what hobbies I have in my free time, and I stared blankly realizing I had no hobbies or free time! That had to change, so I began to take time for myself and love myself back. I want other people to know they can do this too!
Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?
I’ve been shocked by the number of students who have come to me saying my music has helped them and their mental health. Many of them decided to follow along this journey since the “Made for Me” campaign and are ecstatic to hear “Love You Back”!
Are there three things or are there things that individuals, society, or the government can do to support you in this effort?
Individuals can spread this cause by sharing the song with their friends and family and taking time to love and celebrate themselves. Society can spread this cause by sharing videos of what they do to love themselves or of them dancing to the song with friends and family and share it on social media. Government can support me in this effort by making tangible strides toward mental health support and advocacy. We cannot stay silent or idle any longer. This needs to be at the forefront of our discussions.
Why do you think music in particular has the power to create social change and create a positive impact on humanity?
I think music will always connect in a way that words can’t. It’s a universal language that brings people together and can make them feel happy and want to dance!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started”?
1. We are past the days when you play your song at a dive bar and get discovered by an agent in the audience and become a star seemingly overnight. You have to create a business first before anyone will pay attention to you.
2. There is no “one way” or “right way” to make it. You create your own path!
3. It will always be scary, and you will never have job security, but you will have the most fulfilling career in the world if you can crack the code.
4. Allow yourself to enjoy the process. Songwriting, recording, and creating are so special. Don’t miss out on the moments because you’re too busy worrying about the future.
5. If you created it, it’s authentic. Don’t bother putting yourself in a box. Make the box fit you and your sound.
You’re a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I am starting a movement of self-love, positivity, and mental health awareness with “Love You Back”. I think our world needs an advocate for self-love that can also admit her struggles. Perfection doesn’t exist. Self-love is a constant choice and journey. I want to be the leader that helps people find themselves in the midst of so much noise in the world.
Can you please give us your favorite life lesson quote? And can you explain how that was relevant in your life?
My favorite quote was said in passing during a lesson with my vocal teacher, Lisa Saffer. We were talking about an aria I was singing for my graduation recital, and she said, “The high notes are about everything that happens before them”. While she meant this about vocal attack and technique, I took it as a larger statement about life. It’s easy to look at someone else’s accomplishments and only see the glittery award, but all of the work that went into that award is what it’s really about. With each new win, I try to take a moment to realize every bit of work that went into it. It keeps me motivated to work hard too.
We are blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I would love to have lunch with Jewel. Her focus on music and mental health aligns so perfectly with my goals and her passion for authenticity relights my own personal spark for this. Not only do I work in mental health awareness, but I am also an advocate for healthy eating and food inequity and do this through music and volunteer work. Knowing Jewel’s background and partnership with Kroger, I believe we could make a larger impact together as I embark on a mission to write my first cookbook centered around healthy eating and donate 50% of its proceeds to the Middle Tennessee Food Bank. Additionally, if Jewel were to hold another of The Wellness Experience, I know we could create a fabulous collaboration. Also, I’d love to volunteer for the Inspiring Children foundation and put our heads together to reach and inspire even more children. She and I seem to align on so many values and missions that I believe this would be an incredible lunch that I hope to make a reality!
Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!
Thank you for having me! Please follow along this journey by following me on social media @youknowcassandra or going to my website, https://www.cassandraofficialmusic.com.