When watching a children’s show, you may fall into the trap of viewing the performers in a vacuum, as if their roles represent the totality of who they are. But life doesn’t always imitate art: Obviously, Miley Cyrus turned out to have much more to offer the world than her squeaky-clean Disney alter ego, Hannah Montana.
Such is the case with Kiki the Violinist from Nickelodeon’s The Fresh Beat Band.
But who’s the real Kiki? Miami native and University of Miami grad Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer. Her bouncy, bubbly, kid-friendly personality on the show comes easily and naturally, but it also masks a deep intelligence and artistic drive — she started high school at age 12 and completed her degree in opera at UM at 19.
Today, not surprisingly, Gonzalez-Nacer is in the process of breaking away from the creatively limiting realm of kids’ entertainment and embracing her inner sultry diva with a new upcoming, self-titled album, and even a new name: Ava Gold.
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So why the name change?
“Everyone’s creativity works differently,” says Gold. “Ava was always my favorite name growing up, and is a play on my name. Gold is a longer story, but in a nutshell, it means purity. There’s a great quote from S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders that reads: ‘Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold.’ I always want to stay curious about music and create from that place in my heart that remembers why I fell in love with music in the first place.”
Gold’s music — all of which she wrote and co-produced — is at once ambitious and grounded, drawing from the modern R&B/funk sound of Christina Aguilera and Bruno Mars (the sassy single Classy) and classic Latin sway (the wistful Havana). But all of it has in common a powerful yet fully in control voice, which Gold at least partly attributes to her opera training.
“I had an incredible teacher growing up named Dr. Beverly Coulter, who is still an active teacher in Miami [currently professor of music at Barry University] as well as a dear friend,” she said. “She is one of the most talented and generous people I have ever met, and not only did she teach me so much, she is actually a big reason why I am a singer today.”
Like many successful performers, Gold — who also plays guitar, violin and piano — knew what she wanted for a career at a very early age.
“Since I was a little girl, music has always been in my heart,” she said. “I always loved performing, writing, playing instruments, singing and being creative. Learning different techniques was just part of my particular journey. All I knew was that I wanted to do what I love, and I feel so blessed that I keep finding ways to do that.”
Young fans can still hear Gold’s voice on Nickelodeon's new series Fresh Beat Band of Spies, an animated version of the live-action series (“I can’t tell you how excited I am to be a cartoon!”).
Although Gold has lived in New York and currently lives in Los Angeles, her emotional ties to the Miami are still strong.
“I had a great time going to school at UM, working on my craft, meeting really interesting people and learning about myself,” she said. “I was really young when I attended, and I graduated with my BA at 19, so I didn’t have the crazy party life. I was more like the artsy music girl philosophizing at lunch with the jazz students. It was definitely an amazing chapter, and Miami is my hometown, so you’d better believe I am a Canes girl for life!”
Want proof? Just check out Gold’s cellphone number, years after she’s moved away from Miami.
“I’ve always kept my 305 number. Call me sentimental.”