Making your mark with melodies

Sydney Malone, better known as Kiyomi, has a large following on Instagram as well as TikTok. She is from Orange County School of the Arts, OCSA, one of the most renowned high-schools for fine arts training in classical voice. The 14-year-old musician first started performing in public in 2020 and has since then sought out more musical opportunities.

Kiyomi recently performed in the Kaleidoscope with her ukulele and microphone set up.

She answered some questions before she began performing in the upper plaza next to the theater and some outdoor seating.

Q: Where have you performed in the past?

A: I performed in a variety of places, I’ve performed at malls kind of similar to this one. I performed at San Clemente outlets. I performed at Tony Pepperonis, that’s really where I got my start playing at restaurants. I’m playing more regular gigs like every other weekend; Harmony Tea Bar and most recently, I started playing at Hidden House Coffee in San Juan.

Q: How big is your following?

A: Last I checked, I think I had almost 300 followers on Instagram, which is really where I have the most because you know, more people have Instagram. But yeah, I only started I think during summer, like in May, but really only just started posting. 

Q: So why do you play the ukulele?

A: Well, I actually started playing ukulele to kind of bridge the gap because I wanted to play guitar. And it just so happened that a family member knew guitar and ukulele, so I was like, oh, that’s perfect, he can give me lessons. So at the time, my hands were too small to play guitar. So I was like, OK, I’ll start with ukulele. And I just loved it. And I still do love it. And I’m trying to move to guitar now. But ukulele is really what I enjoy playing.

Q: What style of music do you consider your music to be that you play?

A: I really just play the music that I like to listen to. So a lot of that is just like, oldies, you know, like classic rock. Also pop, indie pop, grunge, just a mix of all my favorite music to listen to.

Q: How did you first get into performing and playing music?

A: Well, it all started when I was really young. So from that moment, I think even before I could talk, I’ve always just sung. Like my parents would tell me stories about sometimes I would just sing instead of talking when I was little. And so I got recruited very, very young by my church to sing in their children’s choir.

Q: Which church was this?

A: Laguna Niguel Presbyterian Church. And from there, they kind of gave me more musical knowledge, just really taught me how to sing and gave me the voice that I have today. So that’s where I started learning how to sing and also perform because it’s been, like, 10 years that I’ve been singing at my church now. I started when I was just a little over four years old. Through those 10 years they really helped me grow with technique and stuff, but also gave me the opportunity to be able to perform and have that experience.

Q:And is there anything more you could tell me about being a student at OCSA?

A: Being a student at OSHA, it’s really unique. And I’ve really come to learn a lot over the past two years, and especially this year because as a freshman I’m meeting all these people. I feel like I’ve kind of forgotten what it’s like to be at a normal school. At OCSA, I feel like it’s kind of the exact opposite of the norm. It’s a really inclusive and accepting environment.

Q:  Have there ever been any difficulties being your age and getting gigs?

A: I mean, there’s a few places that I knew did live music. When I went to go ask them, I got as far as speaking to whoever’s in charge of music, and then they were like, “oh, actually, you just can’t play” or “you need to have this” or “you need to have that.” And I was like, OK, I can get that. And then it’s a lot of procedures just because of my age. And a lot of times, it’s really complicated to go through with them. So places with bars, usually I can’t play. And also the fact that in a lot of gigs that I’m doing, I’m not being paid up front. I’m going off just tips, except for this gig. But a lot of places that I play I just go off tips because, you know, they’re not really allowed to pay me. 

Q: For my final question, do you have any tips or strategies you’d like to share with other younger musicians who are in the same boat as you?

A:  I feel like a lot of times whether it be on the internet or just playing for people, there’s just a lot of hesitation and kind of self consciousness that comes with being an artist because we’ll always be our biggest critic. To anyone who’s in my position, no matter how successful they are, it’s always just about applying yourself anywhere you can. You never know where you could stick and you could get rejected by a million different places. I asked probably like five different restaurants. I was sending emails to so many different places but Harmony Tea Bar for example were really the people that stuck. So just apply yourself as much as possible. And don’t hesitate to put yourself out there.

At the Kaleidoscope people stopped by to listen to her performance. Thankfully with all the dark clouds it didn’t rain and she finished with one of her own songs.

You can follow her at mykiyomimusic on Instagram or TikTok

Kiyomi will next be performing at Harmony Tea Bar on Nov. 16. Be sure to catch her then.