Auburn teen’s Catholic faith inspires her music, songwriting - Catholic Courier
Catholic teen songwriter Juliana Grantz of Auburn NY plays her original song using a keyboard. She is wearing a pink shirt and standing in front of a brick wall. Juliana Grantz plays an original song written for the dedication of a statue of St. Gianna Beretta Molla May 15 at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Auburn. (Courier photo by Jeff Witherow)

Auburn teen’s Catholic faith inspires her music, songwriting

Seventeen-year-old Juliana Grantz has been making music for as long as she can remember. And for almost as long, people have been praising her musical talents.

Three years ago, however, she received a compliment that changed the way she thought about her music, transforming Juliana’s passion for singing and songwriting from a hobby into a ministry. Now, that ministry has attracted the attention of Catholics as far away as Milan, Italy, who will feature one of Juliana’s songs in an upcoming celebration of the life of St. Gianna Beretta Molla.

Auburn teen puts musical talents to work ‘singing for Jesus’

The turning point came in 2019 when Juliana, then 14, was at a summer camp for Catholic youths. She had just finished performing a song she’d written when a missionary approached her.

“He told me I really had a gift for songwriting, and I should really keep writing and singing for Jesus. I think the words were, ‘For the sake of our church, please keep writing and singing for Jesus,’” recalled Juliana, who belongs to St. Mary Parish in Auburn.

The compliment stood out to Juliana because when praising her voice, most people also suggested ways for her to use her talents to attain secular success through such venues as NBC’s “The Voice,” a televised singing competition. The missionary made no such suggestions.

“It was just like, ‘Well, you’re really good, but you need to use this for a purpose,’” Juliana said. “It was a really good way of thinking about it.”

Yet the notion of combining her faith with her passion for music was nothing new for Juliana.

“It’s been in her heart for a very long time,” remarked her mother, Deanna Grantz.

Catholic songwriter began writing, performing at a young age

Juliana began taking piano lessons when she was 6, and she began writing songs around the same time, Grantz said.

“I think I just liked how it sounded, and it was kind of like writing but put to music — writing that you could hear,” Juliana mused. “That’s kind of cool. It was just something that I really enjoyed doing, and I found that I had a talent.”

Songwriting also provided Juliana with a way to express herself, especially when it came to her faith. The songs she penned were very personal and written from the heart, she said, noting that songwriting is “the way that I talk to Jesus.”

“I’m open to writing about anything. I’m sure one day when I get married and stuff I’ll write a love song, but … faith is never something that I would step away from in my songs,” Juliana said.

“The Holy Spirit is working through her when she’s writing songs,” her mother added.

When she was 11, Juliana joined a band called Perform 4 Purpose, which travels around central New York performing benefit concerts for various causes. Juliana’s involvement with the band helped her hone her performance skills, Grantz said. By 2019, Juliana had become quite comfortable singing in front of an audience, but she didn’t understand the effect her songs had on people until that week at the Catholic summer camp.

Once she realized her songs were touching people’s hearts, she made it her mission to use her music to spread Jesus’ message, Juliana said.

“That’s kind of like my way of being a missionary,” she explained. “There are some people that are going to go preach, there are some people that are going to go to different lands. I think the gift that God has given to me is to write songs and perform.”

Grantz’s song captured St. Gianna’s family’s attention

Although Juliana may not soon travel to faraway lands, one of her songs already has. Several years ago, she penned a song about St. Gianna, who was born in 1922 in the town of Magenta in the Archdiocese of Milan, Italy. While researching the lives of saints for a school project, Juliana learned that St. Gianna, who was canonized in 2004, had been both a pediatrician and the mother of four children.

During St. Gianna’s fourth pregnancy, doctors discovered she had a uterine fibroid, but she refused treatment in order to save her unborn child’s life. She died a week after the child — named Gianna Emanuela Molla — was born.

Juliana felt an immediate affinity for the saint and not only chose her as her confirmation namesake, but penned “Gianna’s Song” about the saint’s life, love and sacrifice. In 2020, the song came to the attention of St. Gianna’s daughter, who praised it. A video Juliana created of the song will be screened this month during the Archdiocese of Milan’s centennial celebration of the saint’s birth. The video also may be viewed on Juliana’s website, https://julianagrantz.com.

“Just the fact that a whole different country is listening to my music and being touched by it is amazing,” she said.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “Profiles in Faith” highlights Catholics in the Diocese of Rochester of all ages and walks of life who are role models for living the faith. To suggest someone to profile, email Newsroom@CatholicCourier.com.

Tags: Cayuga County News, Profiles in Faith
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