Crestwood Middle School in West Palm Beach seemed like a bleak, depressing void to Gabriela Goddard. It filled her with anxiety. That is until a beam of light shined through in the form of her chorus teacher, Ms. Johnson.
“She pulled me to the side and told me I could make something of myself with this,” Goddard said. “That was the first time it occurred to me. So I clung onto that hope and I just ran with it.”
Goddard, known as G Luné, is a Colombian-American, South Florida native. She was raised by a single mom in a household of strong women that she describes as “berracas,” Spanish for females who persevere and are determined. Her journey felt dim at times but she was inspired by music.
She attended Boston’s Berklee College of Music, one of the most prestigious music schools in the United States, and is now living in Los Angeles to pursue her dream. And she’s proving to all first-generation American Latinos that they can do it with hard work and persistence. The student demographic of Berklee is only 12% Latino. It is an accomplishment for Goddard to have a seat at this table and it is telling of her musical talent.
Goddard has loved music since she was a small child. Growing up, her mother, Ximena, always listened to salsa and boleros. Her mom, her grandmother, Consuelo, and her great grandmother, Beatriz, always pushed her to achieve her dreams. These Latinas were once limited by cultural standards but they believed Goddard was the one to break this cycle.
“I always wanted Gabriela to have a voice, for her light to never be dimmed,” said Goddard’s mother, Ximena Zalazar. “I taught her that as a woman, you need to have a strong sense of self.”
Goddard says her mom and abuela were particularly influential. “I always talk about them being powerful women because the men they were married to were pieces of shit,” said Goddard. “They wanted me to have better.”
When Goddard was 12 years old, she developed depression and anxiety after her parents separated. She wanted to change the narrative of mental health in her culture and family, which normalized toxic behavior. She hoped to end cycles of trauma. Her musical journey brought her family together and healed their relationships.
Music helped her do that. She had played piano as a child and began singing seriously in middle school. It was both an escape and a mode of expression.
In the hard years that followed, her mother – who had been a homemaker for most of her adult life – returned to school to become a nurse and then worked long hours to provide for her daughter and support her ambition.
High school was a trying time for Goddard at Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach. Juggling her school work, relationships and mental health, she looked forward to the future when she could focus on music. She completed four years of classical singing and started getting into jazz her senior year. When she became a part of her schools’ jazz ensemble, she knew she wanted to go to Berklee and made it her goal to get in.
When Goddard was accepted to Berklee College of Music in 2018, her family was going through financial difficulties, but knew this was a window of opportunity. They decided that like always, they could persevere and find a way. Various family members, including her mother, grandmother, uncle and aunt, all committed to help fund Goddard’s education at Berklee. They did hours overtime, they went into debt, all because they wanted to see her succeed in music.
Goddard’s mother believes everything she did for her daughter was not in vain, “I wouldn’t call them sacrifices. It was just what I needed to do for my daughter…” said Zalazar. “I call them triumphs.”
Goddard has broken stereotypes in her family and has set a new standard of pursuing a passion. Her great-grandmother dreamed of being a singer, but because of the prejudice of their culture, she had to let go of it. But now Goddard – due to her talent, passion and dedication – is fulfilling her great-grandmother’s dream.
Victoria Jaramillo, Goddard’s cousin and childhood best friend, admires her determination.
“We all know the stigma in Hispanic culture coming from immigrant families,” said Jaramillo. “It’s not rare to be pressured to pursue a career you don’t want, but Gabi always had a love for music and she didn’t let any doubt, fear or criticism stop her from doing what she loves.”
When she was 18 she began recording music. She’s released about 7 singles on Spotify, Apple Music and Youtube. Her most popular single, “Blocked,” has reached over 550,000 streams on Spotify so far in 2022.
“Was I the one to hurt you?” she sings. “Remember when you made me cry? You left me at the party ’cause I wouldn’t stay the night.”
Goddard recalls writing this song after the end of a toxic relationship and its message is empowering those who need hope. “I want to make my platform for people who need an advocate,” said Goddard. She understands the weight of toxic societal standards and insecurities, so she is showing her audience that they can be free from all of that.
“Blocked” launched her social media presence as it became her hit single. She has over 36,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. Berklee gave her the opportunity to grow as an artist and performer and surrounded her with people who are like-minded in their love for music.
She says she grew in recent years as an artist at Berklee and is venturing on to new things. She is working to release her new EP called “Shut Up and Listen” in Los Angeles, coming out next year. In Los Angeles, G Luné is reaching new heights and performing at gigs with other upcoming artists.
“My childhood self would tell the person I am now she wouldn’t believe what we have done because I was in a really dark place. She would say that I should be super proud of myself,” expressed Goddard.
Goddard has overcome a cultural stigma and navigated many challenges with the help of her family. She is showing all the first-generation American Latinos that they can do it too.
Goddard recently made a big move from Boston to the west coast. It’s not her first time facing change and uncertainty and again she will rise above the challenges and hold onto her hope. Los Angeles is the next stop in her musical journey and she is just getting started.