Nashville based singer/songwriter Mia Rago is taking the music world by storm! In the summer of 2022, Rago participated in a music program for young singers. Rago lived in Caltagirone, Sicily, where she landed the lead role as Gilda in Rigoletto. “It was great to go back to my roots,” she said. Rago is originally from Chicago.
Where did you grow up and go to school?
I grew up in Western Springs. I went to Lyons Township High School.
When did you become interested in music and singing?
I’ve loved singing ever since I was little. My dad, Anthony Rago, loves to sing, as well. My dad sang Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Bobby Darin, so I grew up listening to that. My mom introduced me to Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. I grew up listening to many different music tastes and genres. Naturally, I fell in love with opera once I got to college.
How did your scoliosis diagnosis influence your passion for music?
When I was 9, I was diagnosed with scoliosis. I had to have Spinal fusion surgery when I was 10. For an entire year, I couldn’t play sports. During that time, I really focused on music. When I got to middle school, I started playing guitar and writing music.
What part of Italy is your family from?
My mom’s family is from Abruzzo and Sicily. My dad’s family is from Potenza and Brindisi.
What inspires you when you write music?
Life! I like to write about what I’ve observed. I’m inspired by all forms of art. I like to write songs about love and heartbreak.
What led you to Belmont University in Nashville?
I wasn’t originally going to go into music. It always seemed like something I couldn’t major in. I was interested in possibly becoming a nurse. Belmont University in Nashville offered a nursing program. I thought I could go to school to become a nurse while also pursuing music since Nashville is such a music-focused town. After I visited Belmont University, I started rethinking everything. I discovered I wasn’t super thrilled to go to nursing school. I took a chance and auditioned for Belmont’s music program.
How did you decide to major in opera?
During my freshman year of college, I was a commercial voice major. However, all music majors must also take classical voice lessons. My classical voice lessons are really what made me consider switching majors. I love that opera is mostly in Italian, which goes back to my roots and ancestry. I started to do some local opera competitions. I received a lot of good feedback, so I decided to become an opera major.
When did you graduate from Belmont University in Nashville?
I graduated in May 2022. I majored in vocal performance and minored in Italian.
What led you to Caltagirone, Sicily in June 2022?
I participated in a program for young singers. I was dying to go to Italy because COVID ruined my travel plans! I knew that this would be a great opportunity to pursue my music while being able to travel.
This program is for young singers. Participants must audition and then they are assigned a role in a musical production. The whole experience was amazing!
I ended up landing the leading role in Rigoletto as Gilda. I lived in Sicily for six weeks in a small town. I was able to travel around Sicily and I take lessons with these amazing instructors from all over the world. I got to meet so many talented musicians! I was in three operas.
What surprised you?
I was surprised with how well I fit in there! I felt so at home. I’m not fluent in Italian, but I was able to get by. It was great to go back to my roots. I loved seeing Sicilian traditions come to life.
What did you do for fun in Sicily?
We traveled quite a bit. We rented a car and drove around! We saw Mount Etna and took a day trip to Taormina.
What was the best thing you ate there?
Anything with ricotta in it! I’m a big dessert fan. The cannoli were amazing! I have such a sweet tooth. I loved the gelato.
Did you live in a dorm?
Yes. We stayed in this building where all the lessons and rehearsals were held. I made great friends and great connections.
How are you trying to get recognized in the music industry?
It’s been an interesting ride! In college, it felt like my music was on the back burner. Now, I feel like I have more time to focus on own music.
Tell me about your EP.
I released an EP with five original songs and two acoustic bonus tracks. I released that back in 2020, which was the COVID year.
Now, I’m trying to release my own album. I’m getting musicians together again and starting the creative process.
Do you want to stay in Nashville?
Yes. I really like it here. If an opportunity arises where I need to move to New York or back to Chicago, I’ll take it. But I like it for the time being!
What do you like to for fun?
In high school, I was on the golf team. I really enjoy it. My dad and I like to golf together. I like to cook Italian food. I try to make my grandmother’s recipes.
What artist do you look up to?
Brandi Carlile. I’ve been following her since I was 10!
Where can people listen to your music?
My music is on all platforms. People can listen to me on Spotify, Apple Music or YouTube. Everywhere!
Favorite Restaurant: Girl & The Goat, 809 W Randolph St, Chicago
Girls’ Night Out: Attaboy, 8 Mcferrin Ave, Nashville
Favorite Dessert: New Paradise Bakery, 5742 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago
Favorite Drink: Old Fashioned
Apple Music: music.apple.com/us/artist/mia-rago/1431625028