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Amazing Kid: Francesca Tarantino

The local teenage singer/songwriter who’s paving — and playing — her own future.

Francesca Tarantino (age 14) has had a love for classic rock since an early age. While her peers may have been tuning into Radio Disney or Top 40, she was jamming to the likes of Aerosmith and Deep Purple. “Music has always been a big part of my life,” she explains. “My parents would always play [classic rock] around the house, and I’d be screaming along the lyrics.” For her first-ever performance, she closed out a school talent show in second grade with Rock and Roll All Nite by KISS.

Fast-forward to today, and the Windermere Prep ninth grader is still performing, but this time at local venues across town. While it seems like a natural evolution,
her success so far has been thanks to hard work and dedication. Francesca chatted with PLAYGROUND about her musical journey and what she’s learned along the way:

PLAYGROUND: Obviously, you’ve always loved music, but performing in front of a crowd is a huge next step. What made you decide to take your passion public?

Francesca: When I started musical theater in fourth grade, it gave me the confidence to start performing onstage. I was also working with a voice coach at the time since for a while I was hesitant to let anyone — even my parents — hear me sing. Once I felt more comfortable, I had my first audition, and I was cast in my school production of Beauty and the Beast and even served as Belle’s understudy. From there, I began continuing to perform at school productions along with local community theaters. 

Not long after, my dad began teaching me guitar. As I learned, I began to be able to play songs I actually listened to, which made me fall even more in love with it. Eventually, I realized that singing with a guitar was what I wanted to do instead. 

PLAYGROUND: What influences your sound today? 

Francesca: Mainly rock … classic rock, punk rock, pop rock, anything like that. I’ve performed a few times with a band, so those performances have a rocker feel. Then other times, my sets are pared down with more of an acoustic vibe. I always close with KISS’s Rock and Roll All Nite, and I’ve recently been very into singing Kansas’s Dust in the Wind since it’s such a beautiful song. 

PLAYGROUND: Tell me about your songwriting. Where do you find your inspiration?

Francesca: I always wrote little sentences and phrases or thoughts and struggles down to one day be lyrics when I was younger. When I started working with Dreamwalker Music Evolution, a music artist development and production company in Orlando, they began to help me write all the originals I have today. My songs right now are about real-life scenarios, stories and people from a 14-year-old perspective. I’m planning to release my debut called My Runaway by the end of the year. 

PLAYGROUND: Performing in front of a crowd must be nerve-wracking. What do you do to prepare ahead of time? 

Francesca: Pre-show, I always do a vocal warm-up to make sure I’m ready. Any song I perform, I always practice a lot beforehand. It’s also crucial that I choose ones that I truly like to sing because if I don’t really enjoy them, it won’t be as authentic. 

PLAYGROUND: Where around town do you perform, and is there one gig that really stands out?

Francesca: I’ve performed at the Winter Garden Fall Festival and at Daytona’s Rock Bottom Brewery, and planning on hitting up a lot of other local open mics this fall. I’ve also gotten the opportunity to sing the national anthem at a number of high school sporting events and even the Miami Marlins game. However, one of my most memorable shows was when I got to open for country artist Jordan Moore at Tin Roof Orlando on International Drive. I played a 30-minute set. It was actually my first time playing alone, but once I got onstage, it was really fun.

PLAYGROUND: Ultimately, whose career would you like to emulate?

Francesca: My dream is for more and more people to hear my music. Hopefully, throughout the country one day and maybe even worldwide. In terms of people whose career I admire, I first look to Paul Stanley, the lead singer from KISS. I think it’s so cool he was born without an ear, and he didn’t let it stop him. I was also recently inspired by seeing the movie Elvis. I had no idea about his childhood, what got him started, and I was very surprised to learn how nervous he got before performing. 

PLAYGROUND: What advice do you have for other aspiring musicians?

Francesca: There are two things. Number one, don’t worry about what other people are going to think of you even though I know it’s easier said than done. I struggled with it a lot, but it’s something you need to overcome when you’re performing. The second thing is to have fun. If you’re doing something and you’re not enjoying it, then it’s not something you should be doing.

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Written by
Maddy Zollo

Maddy Zollo Rusbosin is writer, editor and stylist living the downtown life in Thornton Park. She's a new mom thanks to her sweet baby daughter, Jackie, and loves writing about her adventures in motherhood for PLAYGROUND. The Winter Park native spent almost a decade in New York working as a beauty editor before returning to The Sunshine State. Check out her other work at maddyzollo.com.

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Written by Maddy Zollo

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