Ada Pasternak’s journey to Toluca Lake has had many stops along the way. Her family immigrated to the United States from Moscow when she was 6 years old, an experience Ada describes as “being very challenging for my mom and dad — they left everything behind to start over, giving their children a better opportunity and religious freedom.”
The family settled in New York City before relocating to Fairfield, Connecticut. Despite living all over the globe, Ada has always had one constant presence in her life — music.
Born into a musical family, Ada was trained as a classical violinist from a young age and quickly became known as a child prodigy, performing as a soloist with professional orchestras and winning numerous awards and competitions.
But at 15 years old, right when her bright music career was taking off, adversity struck. After countless hours of rigorous practice, Ada developed tendinitis, which made playing the violin extremely painful and nearly impossible. For three years, Ada didn’t take the violin out of its case, not knowing if she’d ever play again.
“At the time, I didn’t know what I know now, which is to relax my body, take breaks when needed and stretch before and after playing,” she says. “Playing an instrument is like a sport, so it must be treated as such.”
When all her friends were applying to college, Ada had no plans of doing the same because she says her parents couldn’t afford it. But one night, while at home drinking tea with her mom, Ada submitted a last-minute application to the Berklee College of Music in Boston, one of the most prestigious music schools in the country. She picked up the violin to prepare an audition piece and chose one of her favorites, “Nigun” from Ernest Bloch’s suite Baal Shem. A few weeks later, her dad drove her to Boston for the audition and accompanied her on the piano. Not only was Ada accepted into Berklee, but she was awarded a Presidential Scholarship, a full-tuition scholarship and the school’s highest honor.
It was at Berklee that Ada started experimenting with various styles of music, such as jazz and country, and she even joined a mariachi band. After breaking up with her college boyfriend, Ada surprised herself when she started writing songs. “I never in a million years thought that I’d be writing songs and singing them!” she says.
Ada’s first taste of the West Coast came when she was invited to collaborate with Postmodern Jukebox, a popular music collective based in Los Angeles. She was featured in two of the group’s YouTube videos, which accumulated more than five million combined views.
Following her work with Postmodern Jukebox, Ada decided to stay in California, even though she had no place to live and no jobs lined up. “After crashing on couches and living in different parts of L.A., I ended up in Toluca Lake,” she says.
The neighborhood is now a place Ada proudly calls home. “I love walking around and meeting the neighbors and the doggies,” she says. “I love being able to walk to Trader Joe’s or get a coffee or lunch in the neighborhood. Everyone is friendly and it reminds me of the movie Pleasantville.”
Toluca Lake’s impact on Ada has been sizable. Not only is it where she met her significant other — and where the couple later added a puppy named Mila to their lives — but it’s also served as a huge source of inspiration for her music.
She shot the music video for her song “Feelin Good” around Toluca Lake because “What better place is there to ride your bike and enjoy the sunshine?” she says. “The people, the houses, the nature, it’s all inspiring, and it’s all connected.”
Ada won first prize at the International Acoustic Music Awards in February for her song “Grow Older,” and she is a featured artist in the Netflix movie Love Hard. Her goal for the remainder of the year is to tour her latest album and share her musical gifts with the world.