Alumni singer-songwriter iLana Armida reflects on her journey from university into the music industry

Former university student, now singer-songwriter advises aspiring students to trust in their own journey.


Photo courtesy of Rick Newman

Darlene Antoine, Features Editor

Born in western Massachusetts, but raised in Bradenton, Fla., iLana Armida first found her passion for music in musical theater.

“I grew up there and there were not a lot of options for somebody who wanted to be in music. I got into musical theater, luckily, but I had to drive my mom and drag me like thirty minutes away to do theater. But I loved it. That’s kind of where I fell in love with performing and being on stage,” Armida said.

The former university student, now singer-songwriter, explained that she specifically chose FAU for their Commercial Music program.

Throughout her journey in the entertainment industry, Armida has not only created her own music, but also written songs for artists including Doja Cat, Etana, and Common Kings, and performed alongside Lil’ Dicky and John K. 

“I work with her producer, Yeti Beats, and I wrote a song on her last project. I actually never met Doja Cat face to face other than like a FaceTime call, but just being a part of [Planet Her] project was incredible,” Armida said. 

Before her jump into the entertainment industry, Armida said when she met Michael Zager professor of composition and commercial music, and Alejandro Sánchez Samper professor of music during a tour of the university she knew it was where she wanted to be.

“They showed me they have state-of-the-art studios there and you know, he, Zager, has all these, like Platinum records on his wall, and I was like, ‘okay, this is something that I want to be a part of.’ And it’s funny because the first person I met when I toured the program was Solomon Palacios, who is now the Junior Vice President of Universal Music Latin, and still like my mentor, and my really good friend,” Armida said.

After graduating in the summer of 2014 with a degree in music business, Armida set her sights on pursuing her career in the entertainment industry with the help of her family. 

“My dad and I built a studio in my childhood bedroom. And when I say ‘built a studio,’ it was my closet. We put foam on the walls, and we had the microphones and everything, but you know, after I graduated, I locked myself in that room and wrote music and like, try to meet up with every producer I could,” Armida said.

However, Armida explained that her surroundings didn’t offer her many opportunities to pursue the kind of music she sought to create. 

“Living in Bradenton, Florida, did not have a lot of outlets for somebody who makes pop, r&b, funk, disco music, you know, there’s usually just the guy at the beach, strumming the guitar, and singing. But I also that’s where I started forming again, you know, gigging at beach clubs and bars, and places that had trivia on karaoke night. I would just do a set whenever I could,” Armida said.

In 2017, Armida moved out to Los Angeles and she said it was where she was not only able to grow as a musician, but also make vital connections within the industry. 

“So coming out here and like I became such a better songwriter just overnight because I had to be you know, I was in the sessions with really important people and people who I admired, really talented people so I definitely had to step my game up,” Armida said. 

When asked about what keeps her motivated, Armida said that her parents supported her the most in her journey. 

“My mom and dad are so supportive and so invested in my career like in the last music video I put out my dad filmed and edited and we created together. My mom has played my publicist before. A few weeks ago, they were in town and I pulled her into the session and she helped me write the song. She’s helped me choose outfits for music videos like they are so supportive. So I just want to be able to return on that investment that they’ve made into me in my career,” Armida said. 

Armida also explained that her music served as more than just a means of entertainment, but her songs are also for advocating on behalf of her beliefs. 

“I put out what earlier in the year called ‘THC’ and I am very involved with advocating for people who are in prison for cannabis charges when other people are out making generational wealth off of it,” Armida said. “So that part of that song was just written for fun with friends during a writing camp. But the reason I put it out was because a hundred percent of the proceeds are going to an organization called the ‘Last Prisoner Project,’ which helps is working towards changing laws and freeing people who are incarcerated for cannabis charges,” Armida said.

Despite graduating, Armida’s ties to the university still have influenced her music as her last two songs “Summertime Love” and “Fly” were produced by former university student Alex Kinsey

When asked about advice for aspiring students who hope to have a career in the entertainment industry, Armida advised that they be cautious of anyone who may want to take advantage of their dreams.

“Don’t sign that first contract that comes your way, and don’t think that somebody knows more than you about your art. If you’re truly an artist, a creator, a performer, you have to know, know and recognize your talent, but obviously be open. But you just got to trust your gut in this industry because a lot of people are fighting for it,” Armida said.

Armida also noted that aspiring artists who identify as women should be careful, but also should have confidence in their talents. 

“I could see how easily you know, young women moving to L.A. or into the industry could get taken advantage of and that needs to change. My biggest advice is just for, like young girls, to be wary as you are on your own. Your independence is your power so hold on to it,” Armida said. 

When reflecting on her beginnings before her path into the industry, Armida noted that she would give her past self one key piece of advice.

“I would definitely tell my younger self just to be true to who you are. And like, don’t let people say that you have to focus on one thing. It’s also okay to pursue multiple things and see how far they will take you. I was so afraid to stray from what I thought that I should be doing that I might have missed opportunities. So definitely, open yourself up to as many opportunities as you can,” Armida said. 

Armida’s music is available to stream on Spotify, Youtube, and Apple Music, and more information about events and the latest songs can be found on her Instagram, Twitter, and website

Darlene Antoine is the Features Editor for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected].