At 15 years old, Renata P. Thomas, a ninth grade student at Hudson County Prep, may already be on the road to musical success.
Thomas, who also studies in the Snyder High School JC Arts program, recently released a new CD of music she describes as “modern pop.” Thomas had signed a contract last year with a new record label, Yeldir Music Group, founded by Troy Ridley, a teacher in the Jersey City school district.
But she also has plans to get an education, to avoid some of the pitfalls that many talented people fall into, thinking they can rely completely on their art to carry them through life.
“I’ve been singing all my life since I was about 3 years old,” Thomas said during a recent interview.
Her mother, a member of the Monumental Baptist Church, helped Thomas develop her voice and technique as part of the children’s and adult choir.
“But my mom didn’t hear me sing until I was 6,” she said, recalling a trip she took to Virginia where she got to perform a solo.
“Nothing is given to you. You have to work for it.” – Renata P. Thomas
She has been a member of the New Jersey Youth Choir since 2010. In 2013, Thomas won Jersey City’s Martin Luther King Oratory contest, and has been involved in a number of activities with her school and around the city.
Thomas will be performing in a play called “Angie Jackson, the Musical,” at the Loews Theater on April 26. The play is produced by Vincent Kee.
Songs on timely subjects
Her CD “Cell Phone Love” was released in 2015. The song is a ballad focusing on the millennial generation’s obsession with cell phone.
But she has performed other songs, including some dealing with cyber bullying.
She has been described as a singer, orator and critical thinker, and someone who is focused on things that concern young people.
Although her cell phone song makes fun of obsession, Thomas doesn’t focus on negative things, and much of her life involves volunteering to help the community.
She said she never takes anything for granted, and makes backup plans. If one plan doesn’t work out, she has something else she can turn to.
“My dream to become a professional singer,” she said. “But I always have a backup plan. I want to go to Howard University to study music. This is one of the best schools for music.”
But she also has an idea that she might like to get involved in government, and so she will also be pursuing a degree in political science.
If that wasn’t enough of a backup plan, she will also make sure she has the credentials so that she can become an educator.
“I used to teach in my classes,” she said.
She said she’s learned a lot about art, music and life in general. If she has words of wisdom to share with others seeking similar dreams, she said, “Watch your back, be careful of your surroundings. Don’t let negative criticism ruin your dream. Don’t let another person destroy your dream.”
She said it’s okay to dream. But you also have to make it happen, and that takes work.
“Nothing is given to you,” she said. “You have to work for it.”
Thomas still sings in the church, although she says there is no direct connection between church singing and her pop singing except that both allow her to communicate.
“My immediate goal is to perform around the county,” she said. “But I want to finish high school first. Education is key for me.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.