A pandemic was the last thing 20-year-old Isabela Leonor of Jersey City, N.J., expected to deal with fresh out of college.
She graduated with a two-year certificate in Musical Theatre from The American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) in late 2019 and was excited to take the next big step in her music career.
Leonor had not only started to write and compose her own songs, but she had planned to start scanning New York for musical theater roles. But, on March 12, the doors of Broadway’s major theaters closed as the city became a COVID-19 hot spot.
For the people who work in the theater industry, the announcement was a sudden jolt but seemed like just a temporary, necessary precaution to keep lives safe in the midst of a worsening situation.
In the grand scheme of the pandemic, the continuation of live performances seemed like a trivial matter.
But for the thousands of performers — dancers, singers, writers, stage crew, and others dependent on the revenue that live theater brings in — the extended shutdown brought fear and uncertainty.
“It sucked to hear that Broadway would be getting shut down until next year. I thought, ‘if that happens, what am I going to do?’” Leonor said in a phone interview. “I don’t have any other degree. I don’t have anything else to offer. In terms of security, that put a fear in me. That made me extremely nervous.”
Leonor had moved to New York to pursue her dream school of AMDA just months before her high school graduation.
The coursework at the school, backed with a rigorous syllabus meant to train up-and-coming artists toward success, is one of the most intense programs in the city. It has a 24% acceptance rate, with notable alumni including DC’s ‘Cyborg’ Ray Fisher and multi-platinum selling artist Jason Derulo.
“The experience at AMDA changed my entire perspective,” Leonor said. “It was a reality check. Seeing the competition, and seeing everyone pick up the pace while I struggled was difficult. But in the end, I was better for it.”
Leonor got her start in music when she was just in middle school, taking up the violin, the keyboard piano, and the flute.
She started singing in the seventh grade. After graduating from Rosa L. Parks School of Fine & Performing Arts in Paterson, N.J., she began writing songs, drawing from more alt-based sounds.
The uncertainty brought on by COVID-19, while daunting at first, allowed Leonor to reflect on life. She found solace in one other passion: politics.
“I feel like if I hadn’t gone down the music path, I would have gone to school for law and studied criminal justice,” Leonor said. “Now, with the pandemic, that is what I’m focusing on moving forward. It’s going back to college. My goal is to become a police officer.”
While her priorities have changed, the young artist plans to keep writing and recording songs on the side. She hopes to compile her own portfolio and, from there, decide what to release and put out into the world.
Leonor already has one very special piece in mind for her first release: it’s about love.
“There’s this one song that I recently wrote,” Leonor continued. “I am working on getting it copyrighted and releasing it somewhere down the line, when this is all over. It’s a song that I wrote about a former relationship. It’s the first song that I’ve ever fully constructed, so I want to re-record it and get it done the right way.”
The pandemic may have caused a roadblock in her plans, but it instilled Leonor’s faith in other parts.
And no matter where Leonor goes in life, you can bet she is just getting started.
The uncertainty of the pandemic is what makes RecordDrop a valuable tool to artists and music fans. We know the personal challenges and struggles of independently promoting an album or EP, especially during these difficult times. With RecordDrop, indie artists have a powerful new tool to grow their fan base and increase sales, and music fans have a convenient way to discover thousands of talented recording artists. For more on Isabela Leonor and her music, she can be found on Instagram at @itsbelalala and soon on RecordDrop.