HOLBROOK, N.Y. (Dec. 6, 2021)—Malena Smith, participant in the “AP for LIFE Creative Residency, recently recorded her debut EP of original songs at Royal Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. Smith was able to finance the project with the guidance of her AP for LIFE financial mentor, American Portfolios (AP)-affiliated financial professional Donna LaScala (Comprehensive Divorce Solutions, LLC | Port Washington, New York), along with additional funding from Life Creative Group and its founder, Brian Owens. The AP for LIFE Creative Residency was established by American Portfolios Financial Services, Inc.—a privately-held, independent broker/dealer that provides services and support for financial professionals across the United States—and its non-profit organization, The AP Foundation, Inc., to foster creative talent and entrepreneurship in the environs of Ferguson, Missouri.
“Of the many inspiring stories to come out of our work with Life Arts, seeing this particular project come to fruition is especially reaffirming,” states AP CEO Lon T. Dolber. “These recordings represent the intersection between creative expression and financial literacy. When we embarked on this partnership, it was with the hope of helping creatives in Ferguson become financially secure to provide a revenue stream in a struggling region and serve as role models for aspiring artists. Malena’s accomplishment, with the help of Donna as her financial mentor, is evidence that the model we’ve built works.”
AP’s residency benefits LIFE Arts, Inc., the non-profit arm of the LIFE Creative Ecosystem founded by Owens, which provides youth with a platform wherein they can fully express and develop their creative voices. Over the course of two years, the residency granted five talented artists much-needed funding, mentorship and financial guidance, affording them the resources essential to serve as role models and leaders within their community. Five of AP’s affiliated investment professionals serve as financial literacy mentors to each of the residents, helping them plan for their futures by managing a small investment account and stipend made available through residency funding. The residency is helping drive commerce to the region, effectively creating a burgeoning revenue stream with untold tributaries. Life Arts, Inc. Executive Director Darius Williams concurs. “AP for LIFE has the potential to become a nationally recognized, arts-forward, financial and workforce development program—one that shapes how society understands the ‘creative’, where ‘creatives’ are seen as ‘creative entrepreneurs,’ and whose art demonstrates a purposeful life that naturally results in social impact.”
On Nov. 16-17, 2021, the up-and-coming singer-songwriter based out of St. Louis, Missouri, recorded a collection of original music at the famed Royal Studios. “Watching Malena develop and grow as an artist and person is one of the true joys of my life,” imparts Owens. “She’s taken full advantage of the resources and experiences she’s been afforded and the best example of that is AP for LIFE and her amazing relationship with her financial mentor, Donna.”
LaScala was present to witness firsthand the results of her investment guidance. “Working with Malena and the AP For Life Creative Residency over the last two years has been a truly rewarding experience,” states LaScala. “As a financial advisor, one of the most important things I can do is share my knowledge about finance and to foster financial literacy in my clients. The bonus was to actually witness and be part of the culminating event for Malena—the recording of her first EP. It was a truly thrilling experience!”
Smith is excited about her EP and her experience in the residency to do. “The AP for LIFE residency, and my friendship with Donna, has been a huge highlight over the last couple of years,” Smith says of the program. “Donna and I have a very reciprocal understanding of each other’s fields: she’s a huge music lover and I’ve learned a ton from her this past year about finances and budgeting, which, of course, has a lot to do with me being able to contribute to this recording project. It was awesome for our two seemingly different worlds to collide in that space. I’m super humbled by the whole experience and thankful to everyone who made it possible.”
The recordings were produced by Owens, and engineered by 12-time Grammy Award winner Jay Newland and Grammy Award winner Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell. Rhythm section musicians included Adam Maness, Zeb Briskovitch and Miles Vandiver. Musicians Joshua “Paco” Lee (an AP for LIFE Creative Resident) and Jack Pordea, as well as writer Sonca Nguyen, who are also part of the LIFE Creative Ecosystem, contributed to the recordings. Smith’s untitled EP will be released in late 2022 on the LIFE Creative Group record label.
Smith and her production team chose the historic Royal Studios because of its iconic association to Al Green, who recorded all his music at the landmark space. Owens also recorded his most recent album, “Love Came Down,” at the studio in November 2018, a project on which Smith served as a production assistant. Just two years later, Smith was in the booth recording her own original music.
Smith will also be starring and performing in a holiday-themed musical titled “An Intimate Holiday” that will air on PBS just in time for Christmas (Dec.14 at 7 p.m. CT; Dec. 17 at 2 a.m. CT; and Dec. 25 at 10 p.m. ET). The short film will also be available on-demand through PBS Passport, along with Life Arts’ previously-aired 2020 musical, “A New Holiday”, which featured a star-studded cast including performances by nine-time Grammy Award winner Wynton Marsalis. Both CSR projects were sponsored by AP through the AP for LIFE program, which garnered two financial services industry awards recognition: a 2021 ThinkAdvisor LUMINARIES Award winner in the category of Diversity and Inclusion: Programs, Products and Services (Broker-Dealers); and a 2021 WealthMangagement.com Industry Award Finalist, “Wealthies”, in the category of Broker-Dealers – CSR.
About American Portfolios
Headquartered in Holbrook, New York, American Portfolios Financial Services, Inc. (APFS) is a full-service, independent broker/dealer and member firm of FINRA and SIPC, offering a complete range of financial services, including personal financial and retirement planning, securities trading, mutual funds, access to investment research, long-term care planning, insurance products and tax-free investing. Fee-based asset management is offered through its sister subsidiary, American Portfolios Advisors, Inc., (APA), an SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Both entities, along with technology entity American Portfolios Advisory Solutions, LLC, collectively reside under the legal entity American Portfolios Holdings, Inc. (APH). Full-service securities brokerage is available through a clearing firm relationship with Pershing, LLC, a BNY Mellon firm, the securities of which are held on a fully disclosed basis. The company supports independent investment professionals—inclusive of registered assistants and non-registered associates—throughout the nation.
American Portfolios has numerous recognitions by a number of industry publications and organizations. Such acknowledgment includes: multiple Broker-Dealer of the Year* (Division III) wins by Investment Advisor magazine; multiple ThinkAdvisor LUMINARIES awards; multiple finalist and award wins by WealthManagement.com Industry Award in multiple categories**; Corporate Citizen of the Year by Long Island Business News; multiple top placements as one of the Best Companies to Work for in the state of New York by the New York State Society for Human Resources Management (NYS-SHRM) and the Best Companies Group (BCG); and one of the Top Long Island Workplaces.
* Based on a poll of registered representatives conducted by Investment Advisor magazine. Broker/dealers rated highest by their representatives are awarded “Broker/Dealer (B/D) of the Year.”
** Wealthmanagement.com Industry Award finalists are selected by a panel of independent judges made up of subject matter experts in the industry. Award is based on support provided to AP’s affiliated people and does not reflect public customers nor their account performance.
About American Portfolios Foundation, Inc.
American Portfolios Foundation, Inc. (APF), a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that was originally created in New York in 2004 and amended in 2018 and headquartered in Holbrook, New York, is intended as a non-profit entity designed to advance awareness, assistance and support for charitable causes. Board members include AP CEO Lon T. Dolber, president; AP Chief Administrative Officer Dalchand Laljit, vice president; and AP Chief Financial Officer Damon Joyner, treasurer/secretary. Additionally, various roles are held by members of AP headquarters staff. The board meets on a quarterly basis to discuss its existing relationships with various charities and to determine the focus for various upcoming initiatives that will require the Foundation’s services and support.
About LIFE Arts, Inc.
LIFE Arts, Inc. is 501(c)(3) non-profit that provides artistic resources, opportunities, mentoring and positive experiences to help students develop the qualities and skills they need to live up to their God-given potential. The organization believes that, through the leadership skills and discipline of the arts, the youth of St. Louis can be a driving force, modeling the change that we all so desperately desire to see manifest.
About Malena Smith
AP for LIFE Creative Resident Malena Smith is a singer-songwriter from St. Louis, Missouri. Smith’s vocal style reveals strong jazz, blues and soul influences. She has performed on various St. Louis stages, around the country and abroad, appearing and touring with notable names in the music industry including Quincy Jones artist Clark Beckham; soul singer and LIFE Creative Ecosystem founder, Brian Owens; and the Adam Maness Trio. She was attending the University of Missouri St. Louis when she met Owens, who became her music mentor; this mentorship helped her become a St. Louis Symphony Orchestra IN UNISON graduate fellow, facilitating and managing outreach programs, such as the peer-to-peer mentorship for middle and high school students. During her residency, Smith—now a full-time musician working within the LIFE Creative Ecosystem—worked closely with her financial literacy mentor, Donna LaScala, who managed an investment account through the AP for LIFE program; this funding has made it possible for Smith to finance the recording of her upcoming EP.
About Brian Owens
A resident of Ferguson, Missouri, Brian Owens works tirelessly to uplift the community and provide hope through the gift and beauty of music. Owens has an extensive performance history that includes national television appearances, including Entertainment Tonight, FOX & Friends, The Ellen DeGeneres Show and more. He has also performed at the White House, as well as the 2011 MLB National League Championship Series and World Series. In 2017, a YouTube video of him performing “A Change is Gonna Come” went viral and has garnered more than 28 million views. In addition to serving as the community music artist in residence with the E. Desmond Lee Fine Arts Collaborative at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, Owens is the executive director of LIFE Arts, Inc.
About Donna LaScala, RFC, CDFA, CLTC
Donna LaScala is an affiliated financial professional with American Portfolios Financial Services, Inc. LaScala has been in the financial services profession for over 25 years and holds the professional designations of Registered Financial Consultant (RFC) with IARFC Ethics Approved Status, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) and Certified in Long-Term Care (CLTC). With her CDFA designation, LaScala has extensive training as a mediator, is a member of the New York State Council on Divorce Mediation, is trained as a Collaborative Financial Neutral and is a member of Long Island Collaborative Divorce Professionals (LICDP). In this capacity, she assists in the valuation of assets during separation and divorce proceedings, including retirement accounts, personal accounts and closely held small businesses. She serves as an FPA-LI board member in the roles of director of women in finance and symposium co-chair. Over the course of her career, LaScala has achieved a number of distinctions and received various awards.