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Rising Stars: Meet JoAnn Simone Roberts

Today we’d like to introduce you to JoAnn Simone Roberts (artist name: JoAnn Simone).

Hi JoAnn Simone, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I am a Bermuda-born Jamaican, an artist, a scientist, and a teacher. I have two older brothers and my parents (now retired) were both K-12 educators. For as long as I can remember, I have been singing and writing. Short stories, poetry, long letters to whomever I could write it to, free-write journaling and of course songs. Car rides would be spent singing songs with my parents and my brothers begging me to stop singing the only line I remember, which only made me sing louder (little sister syndrome, haha lol). My earliest memory of singing is around the age of four. My mom knelt next to me holding a microphone to my lips and singing along in my ear at church. After that, the microphone felt safe, and so did the stage.

The first complete song I wrote was in high school. I sat at the piano in the choir room and out flowed these words “It’s a shame how love can fade away. How a perfect sunshine can be clouded by the rain.” I’ve never published this song, but it forever holds a defining moment for me. It was the first song I had the courage to share with other people and affirmation that my voice and my words were a gift that people resonated with. But music also shared space with science as a passion and career.

For as long as I’ve been singing, I have also been doing science fairs, research projects, and experimentation (trying to make my own hair cremes, recipes, counting the number of baby frogs that appeared after a rainy day in South Florida, and just studying the world around me). Science just seemed like the best career option at the time. 

But where did music fit in? Well, writing songs to express my heart and to heal came pretty naturally. It was like a language I just spoke but don’t really know where I learned it. I also sang in church and I wanted to share my music in a bigger way, but I really didn’t know how. Balancing the pursuit of science with the pursuit of music didn’t seem to work at the time. So music went on the back burner.

While completing my PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology, I was still trying to figure out where do I really see myself, what truly brings me joy, and what does God desire for my life. Most days, I feel like I’m still figuring that out, but I always aim to be open to the unfolding of God’s plan.

It wasn’t until I moved to LA for my postdoctoral fellowship that music suddenly seemed like an option again. So, while doing research and teaching, I was writing and finishing songs that I started years ago.

I was singing in a church in LA when the pianist asked me where do I record? Since then I’ve been in the studio creating and learning so much about how to move what’s in my mind onto the track. It has been and continues to be a phenomenal journey from my first album release in 2020 titled “He loves me” to solo producing my version of the Black National Anthem “Lift every voice and sing” and releasing it in Feb 2022.

I’m still waiting to see how the rest of life unfolds but I’m definitely excited for it. Until then, I’ll walk in providence, purpose, and provision.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The road hasn’t been smooth, but my faith has sustained me and helped me to endure and thrive. With music, I would say my biggest challenge has been trying to market myself in this space, to integrate into the network of LA music, and to balance time in my academic career and music pursuits. 

For anyone who has pursued their PhD in any field, the process of proposing, researching, and dissertating is challenging. However, as a Black Caribbean woman in STEM, I have also faced unique challenges on this journey. I found myself early in my career, feeling unsure if I “fit” in the academic space because the space wasn’t created for people like me and didn’t tend to serve people like me. I think that’s why I am so passionate now about bringing awareness and sensitivity to the unique challenges people from marginalized groups endure in racialized spaces. I’m still in the process of unlearning and relearning who I am in the academic space but I have been blessed to have met supportive people along the way.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I am a singer, songwriter, vocalist, and budding producer. I love to blend genres and create new experiences from older music. I’m most proud of my songs “Be Free” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (because it’s the first production I did solo). Mostly, I’m proud of myself for showing up and being brave enough to share myself with the world.

I am also a higher ed biology educator, an advocate for equity and justice in STEM, and a scientist. I am most proud of the opportunities and partnerships that I have led to create more opportunities for underrepresented students of colour in STEM. The possibilities of better for the next generation is what keeps me motivated.

Alright so before we go can you talk to us a bit about how people can work with you, collaborate with you or support you?
Follow me on Instagram and/or Facebook. Instagram @joann.simone.music

My email is joann.simone.music@gmail.com and I always happy to talk to anyone who wants to support or collaborate.

My professional pages are drjoteaches.com (academic) and joannsimone.com (music) where you can book me to speak or sing, respectively, depending on your needs and interests.

Contact Info:


Image Credits
Jonathan Adjahoe – image credit for Image labeled Jo_039

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