Sound Krayons Music:  STUDIO SPOTLIGHT

former student of Kay Pere at Sound Krayons Music.
Cassie received vocal coaching with us before moving to NYC in 2004 to pursue her dreams.

Hitting It Big
by Ben Johnson
Published on 7/9/2006 in The Day

While she was growing up in New London, Cassie Ventura probably never expected to one day be avoiding Diddy in the club.

In fact, most 19-year-old girls would kill to be invited past the velvet rope, to watch a performance by Prince from the VIP area at a venue in the heart of Manhattan, sitting in the entourage of the CEO of Bad Boy Records. But three weeks ago, when Cassie found herself in that exact situation, she was just hoping she wouldn't get in trouble with Diddy for being there.

“He had wanted me to work on this song, and I was kind of afraid he'd be mad at me for being at the show,” she says. “But I'd finished the song, and everything was fine. Whenever I get a call from Bad Boy and they want me to do something, I imagine him (Diddy) saying it in my head. I don't know why — it's kind of weird I know.”

Ventura has Sean “P. Diddy” Combs as a boss — and as anyone who has seen “Making the Band” knows, Mr. Combs is quite the task master. As you can imagine, running into your boss at a club when you're supposed to be working — on your debut record — is one of those uncomfortable scenarios that most people would shy away from. So it's no surprise that Mr. Combs is able to get into Cassie's head a little. Good thing she was raised well in a small town.

Cassie, whose parents and older brother still live in New London, attended both The Williams School and the Interdistrict School for Arts And Communication. At both schools she studied the arts: piano, flute, dance, composition, and voice. At ISAAC, she and two other students composed an original score for a half-hour stage production. But when many of her classmates in The Williams School's 2004 graduating class headed off to college, Cassie had other plans. She wanted to head to New York City and pursue a career in modeling. While a student at Williams, she had already laid the groundwork, taking modeling jobs in the city as her schedule allowed.

“She was always beautiful, even when she was in middle school,” says Kate Fioravanti, ISAAC's arts director and head teacher. “If there was someone who was going to be famous from ISAAC, I'm glad it's her. She's just a wonderful person and a phenomenal student, and very talented. I'm so proud of her. There's just not enough wonderful things I could say about Cassie.”

If you haven't seen Cassie, you obviously haven't been watching MTV's “Total Request Live.” She's been on the show, and her video has been in the top five for several weeks. Her single, “Me and U,” is also blowing up the radio airwaves and making a mark on iTunes.

Cassie has talent, but she admits wholeheartedly that she was in the right place at the right time. How else would you go from struggling to find a landlord who will rent to a high school graduate to having a car drive you between photo shoots for GQ and meetings with the biggest music moguls in the world?

After moving to New York City with her best friend and struggling to find an affordable place to live, Cassie met producer Ryan Leslie at a party. The two started hanging out together, but Cassie didn't tell the successful producer that she sang.

“I didn't say anything to Ryan at first,” she says. “But I also knew that I wanted to do more than modeling. There's nothing wrong with modeling — I have lots of friends who still do it and that's fine — but I just knew I had something more in me, and I wanted to explore that.”

When Cassie told her mother that she had started hanging out with Leslie, her mother requested that Cassie record a song for her birthday. The song, a duet with Leslie called “Kiss Me,” which Cassie claims was only meant to be a present, went really well, and Leslie passed the track on to famed producer and former Sony chairman Tommy “I discovered Mariah Carey” Mottola. Mottola offered Cassie a management deal almost immediately, and signed her to Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment Group, of which Bad Boy Records is a subsidiary.

Like many artists who've achieved some fame in the 21st century, Cassie has the Internet to thank in part for her expressway to success. Myspace.com, along with Leslie's blog site www.NS4life.com(Leslie's music-focused media company is called NextSelection Lifestyle Group), which both have up-to-date blogs about Cassie's whirlwind experience, have helped to generate a healthy amount of buzz for the young singer even before her record is out. Internet buzz, along with the help of Bad Boy and some promotional touring in Germany and the United States, has put Cassie in the kind of position that rockets artists into the upper echelon of stardom.

It doesn't hurt that Cassie was first a model. Her beautiful Filipino and African American features put her on a giant Target billboard in Times Square, and landed her a gig as the face of rapper Missy Elliot's Adidas “Respect M.E.” clothing line. And the lyrics to Cassie's single, “Me and U” are textbook sex-sells stuff (“I'll love you all the way down/ get you right where you like it/ I promise you'll like it/ just relax and let me make a move/ it's our secret thing/ we'll keep it between me and you”).

“It's definitely a risqué song,” Cassie admits, “but everyone's supportive — I don't even know if my grandparents really listened to the lyrics. Maybe they did. That's why we kept the video kind of clean. People keep asking me who the song is about, but it's not about anybody. I didn't write it. It was demo'd and I heard the tune, and I thought it would be wonderful to sing.”

Of course, for a beautiful young woman — or anybody impressionable for that matter — the modeling and music businesses aren't exactly the safest industries, and they don't always draw the most scrupulous people. Cassie says she's already had to deal with a number of difficult situations, and anyone's parents would worry about a daughter who isn't old enough to buy a beer navigating these treacherous waters.

“I was really worried when she first moved to the city, but the building was secure and she came home a lot,” says Cassie's mother Regina, who works at Pfizer. “And the tabloids scare you. When she first got this deal, I wanted to go and look these people in the eye and let them know that I'm not far away. Tommy Mottola and P. Diddy were very gracious — they didn't have to meet with us at all since Cassie's old enough to sign contracts herself, but they did anyway and I appreciate that.”

Regina says that she gets a weekly update from one of Mottola's assistants, letting her know exactly what is planned for her daughter, where she will be on what day and what her schedule includes. She also calls her daughter every day.

“I need to hear her voice” she says. “I'll probably keep doing that for a long time, even if she doesn't like it.”

For now, Cassie loves being in touch with her family, and gets to New London whenever she can, visiting Captain Scott's for seafood and spending time at home. Just as she did when she left for the big city two years ago, Cassie knows what she wants.

“I'll always love performing, like that's my thing,” she says. “I want to be able to do major tours too over the next five years or something. That's sort of what I did with modeling, like I did it for five years and then moved on to something else. Who knows, maybe in five years I'll take a break from music and try to do some acting, or go back to modeling. You never know what can happen.”

Cassie's debut full-length CD, which is tentatively self-titled, is slated for release in August.


CONTACT: Kay Pere c/o Heart&Spiral Studios, PO Box 145, Mystic, CT 06355 USA
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