Photo by Kasia Baran
Monique Golding, 40, moved to Chicago in 2017 and quickly became enmeshed in the city's music communities. She's a member of vocal group Mosaic Soul, which recently self-released the live album Blessed. She also sings as part of the Damon Locks Black Monument Ensemble, whose second-full length, Now, is due via International Anthem on April 9.
As told to Leor Galil
I grew up in a small town in central Louisiana called Alexandria. That's where I spent my childhood until I graduated high school. Small but powerful little community. A lot of church going on—that pretty much was all you could really do growing up, back in those times. So it was a lot of church and a lot of singing, which was a great influence in my life.
I was really shy when I was younger, with singing for people. It was really my mom pushing me to sing in the church choir and sing solos. I wouldn't say I was as involved as some of my counterparts that went to church. I have friends that went to church every single day; that was their life. I didn't grow up in that type of household, but we definitely were there every Sunday. I was moderately involved, not extensively. I could tell it totally makes a difference when you're singing every day, versus singing a piece of a day or a piece of a week.
I mostly sang at home, when I wasn't singing at church. I was always singing in front of my brothers, and I was always coming up with songs in my mind. It was just something that was a natural part of me. I really didn't think of it as a gift or a talent either. I thought of it as something that was a part of me that I loved doing.
I sang for the first time onstage in my high school for a Christmas performance—this was back in my senior year of high school. People would say, "Wow, you really have a nice voice." Hearing other people sing and comparing my voice, I realized, "OK, I seem like I'm a little more advanced in that area than some other singers." And it's because it was something I was always doing, and just really because of the compliments that I received from other musicians and artist friends reassuring me. And I'm always like, "Are you telling the truth? You guys are lying." I realized, "Wow, this is actually bigger than me just doing it and loving it."
When I went to college, I didn't major in music. I kind of figured my only options would be either to teach music or do some type of side job that wouldn't really sustain me financially, so I didn't go to school for music. Originally I went to school for biology, and realized that that wasn't my calling. I still sang; I sang in talent shows in my college, and sang for my suitemates and my roommates.
In the back of my mind, I always knew that this was something that I wanted to do. I ultimately wanted to be onstage and perform. To a certain degree, I'm still getting to that point in my life where I want to be able to perform on my own, with my own band, and on my own platform. My move to Chicago was really the biggest game changer for me.
My husband's job led us here. For the last few years, I had been working as a business education teacher. I met this young man, Phillip Armstrong, at a school in Oak Lawn. I was talking with him about my love for music. I recorded myself singing one day, and I sent it to him. He was like, "Wow!" He knows quite a few people in Chicago music, and he started inviting me to different functions—if he needed an alto voice and I was available, he would see if I was interested. He was a big, big factor in connecting me with the music world of Chicago.
One of the performances that I remember was for Bethany Pickens. This was for a dedication service for her father, Willie Pickens, a legacy jazz artist. I was performing with people like Dee Alexander. We performed at the Fine Arts Center.
Damon Locks is also someone that I was introduced to from Phillip Armstrong. He heard me sing, and we've just been going on since then. The next thing you know, I'm on a live recording at the Garfield conservatory doing this live album, Where Future Unfolds. I'm also a part of a singing group called Mosaic Soul, which was originally founded by Phillip Armstrong and Greg Woods.
My daughter, Rayna Golding, is also in the Chicago Children's Choir, learning music and theory. She sings on the Black Monument Ensemble song "Rebuild a Nation," and she also does a few little cameos here and there. She's getting her experience. She's definitely a phenomenal singer already, and she's nine. I'm just so excited to hear where her gifts and talents are gonna take her. That's my little mini me.
We can harmonize, and she can harmonize her own note. This girl, she has it. She has it going on, so it's exciting to share the experience. She's teaching me, I'm teaching her, and she's branching out into her own sound and developing her own voice.
The biggest part of being involved in the music community is actually being in a community of people who feel the same way about music as you do. It doesn't necessarily mean we have to like the same type of genre, but it's just a passion for the art, and to create music just because we love music. One of the reasons why I always stood back from trying to pursue music as a career is because it becomes about money, and that was always something I was afraid of. It was a turnoff for me. At the end of the day, a music community is a group of individuals that create music because they love doing it, and I think that's the most important thing for me. v