By Brittany Miller – Features Editor
Performing for a third year at the Grand Rapids Festival of Arts, local band Aria Flame takes Clock Tower Stage on Saturday with their neo-classical tunes.
Band leader, and Grand Rapid Community College student Aziza Poggi, 39, who has been performing for 11 years, described the band’s previous performances as “exposed, and raw, in the nice, open air.”
It was at just 10 years old that the artist found her passion for art, having begun to play the piano, her family couldn’t help but notice that she was going to do great things, especially when they heard her “closet singing” around the house. However, her journey to the mic wasn’t a smooth one. The singer originally started at Grand Rapids Community College, right out of high school in 1995, majoring in acting and marketing.
“As the years came by, I didn’t love it as much as I thought I did originally,” Poggi said. “I wasn’t very devoted, and I didn’t have a lot of encouragement then, so I dropped out.”
She returned for a second time in 2010 to pursue a major in Music Performance, which was a new experience for her. Devoting more time to her studies, as well as her singing, she said she was able to recover from being torn down.
“The band schedule took me out of school for a bit, so I seized the opportunities I had in Europe,” Poggi said about the balance between school and performing with Aria Flame. “But I have just a few classes in theory left to finish. I plan on finishing in fall, or winter of 2016 for my Associate’s.”
When asked if she considered music to be her calling in life, Poggi said, “I do. I’ve been told by a vocal coach that I had no business being a singer. But when I found a new teacher I was told different, so I went with my gut.”
It was then that everything changed for her musically, as her confidence grew.
“I was the little bottom duck that came out of this hole,” Poggi said about the beginning of her music experience, which eventually led her to performing in honors recitals, as well as part of the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus.
“(The experience) was totally different. (In the symphony) there were no solos, we arked as unit and depended on the same melody. You can’t really falter from that since everything is so unified, but it was absolutely amazing,” Poggi said, comparing her time in the Grand Symphony Chorus to her experiences with Aria Flame. “Now it’s just me, I can sing a different melody and it won’t hurt anyone.”
Poggi and Aria Flame were able to perform in front of over 7,000 people as a part of Belgium’s Metal Female Voices last October. Poggi went on to describe the experience as completely different and awesome.
“I think our music style is appreciated more (there) than here,” Poggi said. “Here there’s so much competition, and I think it becomes somewhat catty, but there it’s more warm and welcoming. Everyone is in this ‘Hey you’re in a band? So am I, let’s hang out’ kind of mentality. We’re not fighting each other.”
The band is excited to captivate the crowd once again, but it doesn’t stop at the Clock Tower Stage on June 7. Aria Flame will be performing in Detroit in July , and the group plans to embark on a ‘mini-tour’ through Europe, from Belgium to Paris as they hope to continue with the expansion of their fan base.
“We just premiered our second music video ‘Realm of Hate’ today,” Poggi said. “We’re hoping to start recording our next album in June. I like to think that we set realistic goals as a band.”
“It takes a lot of confidence, and connection,” Poggi said when asked about advice for other aspiring performers. “It’s a big world out there, so keep your eye on the target and never give up. Always shoot for the stars.”
Aria Flame will be on Clock Tower Stage at 7:45 p.m.
Q&A with Aziza Poggi of Aria Flame
How would you describe your music to new listeners?
I always say that our music is very neoclassical, as we have that classical mix in the background, but I added the elements of rock in there as well. People who are fans of Dream Theater, NightWish and Evanescence are the kind of people that are into our music.
Is there a single person that you think helped you become successful?
My mom. I came from a family of entrepreneurs and because of that I followed suit, making business plans for my band. Even though I didn’t even have a band at the time.
Can you tell me about your experience as a musician?
There’s so much, where do I begin? In my last band –Dendura- we did quite a bit of things, but when our lead guitarist decided to retire, I made the decision to disband. But I learned so much from this band and experience that it would be a waste to not start another band so I started Aria Flame.
Do you think your group dynamic in Dendura differed from what you have now in Aria Flame?
Definitely, the music in Dendura was more guitar driven with having two guitarists at the time, and they did more of the writing, but now the roles are more reversed and I do the writing now.
Do you always have expectations of how you want each performance to go?
Yes, but for some of it, it’s out of your control, there could be sound issues- you never know. You have to leave a window open for experimenting, and also it’s all based on the crowd’s energy.
Do you get nervous before each performance?
I used to, when I was in Dendura my voice would choke, and my hands would shake, but I haven’t (been nervous) in a long time. I get the jitterbug every now and then, but it’s not hard to breathe or anything, I just need some quiet time to myself to get ready for the performance.
What would you say your music is about?
Me. A lot of me, life stories and what I see in the world. It’s all about adapting, evolving and growing as a person.
What do you do when you’re not on the stage?
I work as a receptionist for a real estate agency?
So would you say that performing is a stress reliever?
Definitely. I’m an aggressive person, and a mad woman without music. I feel this surge of energy, after performing and it’s a wonderful feeling.
What else do you enjoy doing when you’re not performing?
I’m always doing something. I still take voice lessons, I spend a lot of time making my body butters and perfumes. We have a lot of barbecues at home, where I can spend time with my family and my fiancée (Jason), but I also enjoy watching a movie, and cuddling to relax.
Can you tell me about what made you interested in creating perfumes and body butter?
Well I was always into perfumery, I would always take my mom’s old perfume bottles and mix them up to create something new. She always says I have a good nose for smell, I can smell around the corner, which is good and bad. But I started making my candles, perfumes and body butter around the same time Aria Flame was born, which was 2011. What’s great is my perfumes I make are vegan and eco-friendly, so I don’t use any of the alcohol you smell in other perfumes.
Are there any messages you want listeners to remember when you perform on stage?
Yes. I try to be an influential singer, I don’t want to be like to pop singers out there today. I think it’s important for me to influence little girls and show them that we can be sexy without wearing the bikini tops and shorts that show your buns. Pop singers today don’t have that vocal training, and I mean I didn’t have a whole lot either, but I want to show listeners that learning the craft is the way to go.
UPDATED 12:30 p.m. 6/3/2015: A previous version of this story listed Aria Flame as performing on the Calder Stage instead of Clock Tower Stage.