Maria Tsiokantas, a spirited singer-songwriter from Fadden, ACT has pledged all proceeds of her 2019 release single Unreal to a charity close to her heart.
The first-year University of Sydney Economics major who goes by the name Ria took part in television’s The X Factor at 15 years of age says her new song is a comment on how adversity can bring people together to make a positive change.
“Most of us are incredibly lucky,” said Ria. “The first two lines of Unreal are so important;
You think life is so easy
but you don’t know what you’re missing
and really speak to my message that we should never take anything for granted – family, our health, education, anything.”
Ria spoke from a depth of experience beyond her 18-years as she opened up on why she chose The Kids’ Cancer Project, an independent national charity funding childhood cancer research, as the recipient of the song’s proceeds.
“I was very close to my Aunty when she passed away from breast cancer in October 2013,” said Ria. “I was only 12 and the experience was incredibly confronting. It ended up having a huge impact on me and altered my perspective on the world.”
From that time on, the bubbly teen found herself searching for a way she could make a difference, but she’d have to wait until she was sixteen for everything to fall into place.
“Col Reynolds, the founder of The Kids’ Cancer Project, visited my school when I was in Year 10,” said Ria. “I was enthralled by his message that one person can make a huge change. I was also devastated to learn that more children die of cancer in Australia than any other disease.”
“Knowing what my Aunty went through when she was diagnosed, I couldn’t imagine a child enduring what she did. Particularly the treatment.”
“After speaking to Col for about 40 minutes, I knew I could use my voice to make a positive change for all kids with cancer.”
Immediately, Ria set to work with two of her fellow students at Canberra Grammar School on producing an event to raise awareness and vital funds for childhood cancer research. The result was the inaugural Moonlight Concert where she performed along with other student acts raising $3,000 for The Kids’ Cancer Project.
Ria’s tenacious spirit was ignited a year earlier when she met The X Factor judge Guy Sebastian.
“Guy (Sebastian) not only gave me great advice about making music, but also shared the attitude and mind-set of a successful musician,” said Ria. “He instilled in me the importance of pursing my goals and not let anything hold me back.”
Kylie Minogue is also an influence in Ria’s life, and not just because one of her treasured childhood memories is of her father cranking up the stereo to the chanteuse’s disco beats so they could dance around the living room together.
“I think the way Kylie handled her career and breast cancer diagnosis was very admirable,” Ria said.
The talented teen’s biggest musical influence however is global artist, Yanni.
“My mum would play Yanni’s music to me a lot as a child. His music has definitely shaped my style,” said Ria. “I learned to play piano, guitar, violin and of course sing.”
“I admire Yanni because he was the first composer to integrate genres using a lot of different instruments. His take on ethnic fusion is very progressive. It’s fair to say he’s influenced me and inspired me the most throughout my song writing career.”
“I was so lucky to have Steve Zumstein at Rob’s Garage (Canberra) recording and producing Unreal with me,” said Ria. “The creative process was collaborative and really fun. It was a joy to work with experts on the curation of the sounds you’ll hear on the track.”
“I was particularly excited to shy away from synthetic technology instead using organic items like salt and pepper shakers along with other cooking utensils to make unique and authentic sound effects. We were making music in its rawest form.”
As much as Ria is passionate about music she is equally enthusiastic about raising awareness and funds for childhood cancer research.
Ria meets with Owen Finegan, CEO of The Kids' Cancer Project, to discuss her fundraising plan.
“We just have to raise more awareness for kids with cancer. My hope is that I can help raise as much knowledge about The Kids’ Cancer Project because it focusses on scientific research and solutions that will really make a difference,” she said.
“It’s really important and would mean so much if as many people as possible could get involved.”
Download Ria’s Unreal from Apple Music or Spotify and proceeds will go directly to The Kids’ Cancer Project to help kids with many different types of cancer.