Bella Salazar | Portraits of an Artist

What is your name and what do you do?

My name is Isabel, but everyone calls me Bella. I'm a musician. I like to write songs about my life; I play and I sing. 

How did you start making your art? Why do you keep going?

I started playing the violin when I was young. I loved it, but what I really wanted was to play the piano. When I was a little girl, a family that we knew was moving out of state. They had two pianos and asked if my parent’s would keep one for them. It stared at me day in and day out, begging to be touched. I couldn’t ignore it; for years, I asked my mom for piano lessons. In the 6th grade I finally started taking lessons. The first song I learned was "Mary had a Little Lamb." The middle-aged beautiful upright piano became my new best friend. I felt life come to my hands whenever I played, and I felt so much pride each time I learned a new song.

As I grew older, I started to write my feelings into songs. I banged on the piano, my emotions flowing through my veins as I hit the keys. You know the feeling you have after a good cry? Like you just lost 300 pounds off of your back? That’s what writing started to do for me. I wrote about loneliness and hurt. I wrote about boys. Aside from my faith, expressing my emotions through writing and playing music is a most freeing experience for me.

To this day I am so grateful to the family who left us that piano. My family would never have been able to afford one. In my heart, I know the Lord knew I would need it. It’s like a token of His love for me, intimately and specifically for me. Growing up as part of a large family, I needed something that was just mine . 

Music became a part of my soul. As I grew, my songs became more and more exposing. Every single part of writing is healing for my soul, my personal therapy session. My number one rule in writing songs is to be utterly and completely honest. I do my very best to leave it all at the piano. In the Lord’s goodness, I believe He knew that I would also need this release .

I could never stop playing or singing. 

How do faith and creativity collide for you?

I see every element of my music as a gift I don’t deserve. I was gifted a piano; I was gifted a voice to sing; and I’m grateful that I also get to use these blessings to worship Him.

 “Every good and perfect thing comes from above”(James 1:!7).

My first time on stage was singing worship, I loved every single moment of it. I loved being vulnerable while leading the body of Christ into a place of adoration for the Father. I have a tattoo that comes from a scripture in psalms that reads,

 I will praise the Lord as long as I live, I will sing praises to my God with my dying breath. 

- Psalm 146:2

I never want to live for anything other than to worship Jesus, whether that be in my actions or the literal form of musical worship. It’s who I am. A child of the King, an adorer of who He is. Some of the most intimate and profound moments I have shared with the Lord have been the two of us seated at the piano. I feel so honored He meets me in those places and grateful we get to share that.

What are you thankful for in this season of your life, your work?

In this season of my life I have so very much to be thankful for. Goodness, there is so much for me to write about because I’ve been in such crazy places these past months - I feel like I could explode with lyrics. However, I've realized that it’s in these moments that I find my limited skills make it difficult for me to write what my heart is aching to hear. I have been sitting down to play the piano more for practice than for leisure.  I’ve also started teaching myself the guitar recently. Because of the season I am in right now, I actually have the time to practice playing both instruments. That is an amazing blessing in itself. In addition to that, with my line of work I am surrounded my creatives on a weekly basis. It’s revitalizing and inspirational. I am challenged to think of myself as a creative and challenged to think like one. I love it!


What are you working on now?

I’m working on breaking out of my creative box. I hate it when my music sounds redundant. It’s so hard not to naturally go towards what you already know. I’m trying to be open to expanding my vocal and musical creativity. My goal is always to make this song sound different from the last.

What inspires you? 

Circumstances inspire me the most. A few years ago, I was stuck in a heavy depression. I didn’t know how to explain it because I didn’t fully understand it myself. I wanted to will myself into feeling better, into feeling at all, but I couldn’t. One day, I sat at my piano and I focused on the frustration, the lack of emotional sensations and the pain that had driven me into such a place. I wrote about feeling stuck, I wrote about feeling lost and damaged. I didn’t start feeling better right then and there, but I started feeling something. I was released. I felt like I had a voice again. Time and time again, my circumstances inspire me. 

What does "being creative" mean to you?

This word “creative” frightens me mostly because I have never considered myself a creative. I love the arts (fashion, music, theatre, museums, and etc.), but being put in the same category as people that I consider to be brilliant seems absurd. Looking at the people I admire and interacting with artists that I personally know, I've realize that a creative is someone with the ability to create, someone who takes their talents and makes it into something. A creative is someone who pushes their boundaries and unveils a part of themselves we may not always see. This is what I love about creativity! The unveiling of one’s true self - it’s beautiful! This also means we all have that ability within us and I love that, too!

Any advice for women who are aspiring creatives in your field?

Sharing your talent is absolutely biblical. If you’re anything like me, you probably hate that and wish everyone would just forget that one time you decided to sing. However, hiding your  talents away is unfair to everyone else. It  When we are given a gift, it is right to say, "thank you for that gift," and then to share that gift. I do not say this with pride at all, but you never know if and/or when your gift can change someone else's life. For me, I hope my music can give words to the feelings someone else didn't know how to express. 

Don’t be afraid of raising your voice, your words, and your heart. Your gifts are important. 


Illustrations and hand lettering by Sojung Lee.

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