Once signed to Warner Bros., Anika Paris has had quite the journey as she’s an artist, author and educator who has taken her place in front of classrooms all over Los Angeles from UCLA to USA to the Musicians Institute. While she’ll be back in the classroom this year, she’ll also be busy recording her new album since she just cut a deal with a licensing company for film and TV and have been commissioned to record a 10 song record that will be released in the coming months. She notes it’s been “too long” since she’s worn the artist’s hat, but that she’s “enjoying it.” On top of her own work, she shared a lot about what it means to teach people the gift of music, something she’s been doing for almost 15 years now.
Kendra: In your journey you’ve been able to call yourself an artist, composer, author and educator. Which did it start with though, and are there any other titles you hope to have in your life?
Anika Paris: I would say that I am a writer first and foremost. That is the one through-line in all my creative disciplines; songs, poetry and books. But, I began writing and singing songs as early as seven-years-old. I felt this desperate need to express my emotions by sharing stories through songs and performance. However, the songwriting came first, and then the performance followed.
Kendra: Let’s talk about some of the things you’ve done. You’ve had your music featured in movies, but if you could personally choose a recent film to go back and rescore – which would it be and why?
Anika: This is an interesting question, I always remember scores and soundtracks to films because they inspired me, and I loved them. So it would be hard to pick a film to rescore. But if I were to “rescore” a film, it would have to be one I haven’t seen or heard.
Kendra: You’ve also shared the stage with a number of Grammy winners. Are moments like that ones you personally file away and promise yourself never to forget?
Anika: When you are in the presence of someone who is your idol, and a musical icon in the world, it’s a surreal experience and not easy to forget. Those magic experiences stand an octave above you’re the rest in 3D Technicolor. I find the more routine days are the ones we tend to gloss over, and find difficult to separate from others.
Kendra: Everyone has a belief and yours is that music unites us. Can you think of the most important moment in your life, thus far, that music has united you with someone?
Anika: I met my husband writing songs. It is all music’s’ fault! All kidding aside, by far the most important relationship in my life. And, there is one other experience that came most unexpected. When I was touring with my first album On Gardner Street, I had a lot of airplay in Japan and the Far East. I was asked to sing for the royal family in Thailand. During the concert, there was a school of deaf children invited to sing alongside us on stage in “sign language.” They were moving to the vibrations from the floor, smiling ear-to-ear and we were all in sync somehow. It was obviously not because of the actual “sound” we were playing that united us, but the feelings awakened in each of us, connecting us on a spiritual level. It was a beautiful experience, and one I will cherish for the rest of my life.
Anika: I would say I have to do both. Universities are accredited, meaning a curriculum is held to educational standards ergo midterms, finals, homework assignments etc. All the requirements must be met for courses that accrue credits. I’m fortunate that my own published books are the texts used for my classes. So, I am able to design lessons and teach my own creativity exercises, performance secrets, songwriting skills and artist development methods each week.
Kendra: What is the one thing you’ve told all your students so far and will continue to tell them about learning music?
Anika: Learning in not linear. In music it’s not 1-2-3 as in mathematics. Your musical journey is throughout your entire life. Aspiring to be a musical artist is about self-discovery and rediscovery over and over again. But, I believe one must start from a place of authenticity. I always say, try to express yourself not by “copying” others, but by creating your own niche, and tapping into unique qualities you already hold and develop those over time.
Kendra: When I set out to find music teachers, I noticed many high schools didn’t have any female teachers in that department. Why do you think that was?
Anika: I don’t know why. And that’s very unfortunate. At Universities, I work alongside many female teachers. Perhaps it’s due to the dwindled music programs in high schools these days, and thus those positions are scarce. Truth be told, we are in a male dominated industry, so women are often the second choice. I hoping that will change. We need art, drama and music to be re-implemented into high schools.
Kendra: We’re in Back 2 School mode right now, so with that – if you had to make a mixtape for a teacher who was having first day jitters, what five songs would have to be on it?
Anika: I’m going for strictly “feel good” music. These are my current top five. In fact, I’m going to make one for myself too!
Justin Timberlake – “Can’t Stop the Feeling”
Coldplay – “Adventure of a Lifetime”
Adele – “Send My Love”
Pharrell Williams – “Happy”
Bruno Mars – “Uptown Funk”