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Artist and Activist

Tonina Saputo, Kirkwood HS graduate, singer/songwriter and bassist, performs with her band in St. Louis and around the world.

After earning two degrees from Berklee College of Music, Tonina opened for Grammy-Award winning artist, Lalah Hathaway in St. Louis, and was listed as one of NPR’s top 10 artists of 2018.

What are you working on? 

My next album will include themes of womanhood. There have been amazing blues musicians and talented folk singers throughout history. They were never described as the “woman bass player.” She was just the bass player. When did we start placing the female descriptor in front of an occupation? 

What inspires you? 

I am inspired by my ancestry and the women in my linage. I was fortunate to have parents who nurtured my love for the arts. My mother’s family is from Sicily. Sicilian folksingers are the lead musicians, vocalists, songwriters, and storytellers. And the same is true on my dad’s side; there are a lot of blues singers who carry the stories through their music. Their collective voices are the inspiration for my next album. 

How have you grown as an artist? 

It’s interesting how art reflects the times. My artistry has connected me with people from all over the world. I was fortunate to have gone to KHS where the arts were valued and nurtured, but not a lot of us travel to Japan or Colombia. Through music, I’ve been able to travel, make friends and share stories through the common bond of music. 

What do you feel strongly about?

Representation matters. If we are around diverse people and different genders, we shouldn’t have an issue talking to someone who looks different than us. Representing anyone who identifies with my hair texture, skin, tattoos, or whatever it is that makes them feel insecure, is powerful. I'd love to be a role model to little white or black boys and girls who grow up and interact with girls like me. It starts in childhood. Being a role model is for every human in general. 

For more information about Tonina visit www.iamtonina.com and follow her @iamtonina on Instagram and Facebook.

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