Events, Music July 5, 2010 By Derek Peck

niabertino Niia BertinoAlthough I’ve lived in New York many years now, one thing that never ceases to amaze me — and that I love — is that, on any given day, you never know who you might meet. Walking down the street you might cross David Bowie. Or sitting in a café, you might look next to you and receive a smile from Natalie Portman, and then proceed to talk with her about the latest French cinema. But not only is it true you might meet a famous person, even one of your own personal giants, there are plenty of unknowns — unknown people, that is — who have crawled onto this island in one way or another to pursue a dream. New York City is an ocean of aspiration — and, as they say, a sea of flesh. Put the two together and you have the world’s greatest, scariest, and most wondrous density of striving and struggling artists…and those…who somehow make it. Walking down my street the other day I met one such dream-seeker, a young woman who I often see walking her dog but had never spoken to.
     Her name is Niia, and she moved to New York City from Needham, Massachusetts to attend the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music as a Jazz vocal major. The great part about her story is that while studying at the New School she met Wyclef Jean, who was so impressed with her voice and musical skills that he began working with her and later featured her on his 2008 single, “Sweetest Girl (Dollar Bill)”, which reached number 12 on the pop charts and took her all over the world to perform. All this I learned later, after we parted.