Tag Archives: Josefina Loza

From the Heart

September 30, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Cristina Bertuldo caught herself singing—and lowered her voice to a slight hum. 

“Sometimes, I’m very selfish with my gift,” she explains. “So many of my friends ask why I don’t sing as often.”

She’s a sensitive soul, that Bertuldo, always looking for the good in others even after she’s been burnt. She’s an Omaha singer-songwriter who battles depression and anxiety.

Bertuldo has the unique ability of conveying the passion and pain in songs yet somehow maintaining a playful mood. She preaches from her scars. The local 101.3 FM radio personality, yoga instructor, photographer, and mentor uses music as a healing force.

“I just want people to know that they aren’t alone and not to be afraid to reach out,” she says. “If I could preach one thing…be kind because you have no idea what another person is going through.”

Bertuldo, now known as Lady Scientist, is (by all appearances) a well-adjusted woman whose voice dances with delight as she recalls a favorite anecdote or takes stock of her good fortune. In college, however, Bertuldo encountered her first bout with depression after her best friend’s parents died in a car accident. Overwhelmed by emotion, she returned home early from college. She turned to music, which soothed her soul.

Shortly after that brief stint in college, Bertuldo attended a Nikka Costa concert at the Music Box, a now-closed Omaha venue, and met producer Printz Board, who put her in touch with musicians to sing backup.

In 2006, Bertuldo sang onstage with Allan “apl.de.ap” Pineda Lindo of the Black Eyed Peas at a Council Bluffs concert. She met Lindo when recording in the same studio as the Black Eyed Peas. He was on the video shoot of “Don’t Lie,” when Bertuldo approached him and threw her spiel about her talent. He asked her to freestyle. She did. They linked up, and Bertuldo moved to LA, but the pressures of the music business, and the big city, brought back demons.

“I was dealing with depression and anxiety on top of that,” she says. “When you’re caught up in that…you can’t grow.” 

In 2008, she moved back to her Nebraska home to heal. By way of random and not-so-random connections, she was occasionally booked as an opening singer at area concerts and music venues. Her sultry  yet soulful voice kept her on stage. In 2011, she won an Omaha Hip Hop Award for Best Female R&B singer. 

“Whenever I tried to push music out of the way,” she explains. “It always fell in my lap.”

Right now, she prefers to be behind the scenes helping others. She helped a friend broaden her reach in fashion design with pop-up boutiques. She began consulting another friend through the use of her photography. And she began mentoring Chikadibia Ebirim, a local self-produced musician whom she assisted with music promotion. 

“I wasn’t trying to heal myself,” she says. “But I was healing myself by helping other people.”

Life has been a roller coaster, she adds. “I’ve hit rock bottom several times. [Because] I deal with dark thoughts, I think people who are capable of so much light have this darkness they also battle.” 


Follow @ladyscientist on Facebook for more information.

This article was printed in the September/October 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Lending Book and a Helping Hand

June 28, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

On a recent Monday evening, Omahan Kalli Pettit wheeled a squeaky book cart down a hospital hallway. A pair of teenagers jostled each other as they walked past.

Kalli, not much older at age 18, continued pushing the cart toward a family waiting area where she spotted a father busy on his cellphone and a preschooler bouncing from seat to seat.

“Book on a cart,” the young boy shouted with excitement.

“Would you like to pick out a book?” Kalli asked. 

The father placed the caller on hold to help his son.

“Look, Dad! Dinosaurs!”

Even though the interaction was brief, Kalli says seeing the young boy’s smile stretch from ear to ear was worth every bit of time she spends volunteering at Omaha Children’s Hospital & Medical Center.

The Marian High School senior started volunteering with the hospital in summer 2017. Teen volunteer services at Children’s Hospital and Medical Center typically increases in the summer months as young students are on break from school. Kalli started volunteering a few hours each week in June at the hospital’s Kids Camp, which is an area designated for siblings of family members attending routine clinic appointments to long-term care.

Friends and family say she’s always gravitated to helping kids. Perhaps it’s because not so long ago Kalli was in their shoes.

Kalli had a recent episode that forced her to spend a few nights at that very hospital’s sixth floor—the next area in which she planned to wheel the book cart. 

It wasn’t her first trip to the hospital. In 2009, Kalli—daughter of Mark and Kristie Pettit—was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 9.

“I remember being so young when nurses and doctors explained what was happening to my body,” Kalli says. “I was worried all of the time, but remember how calm the nurses and doctors were. They really inspired me to give back. It’s why I’m here today volunteering.”

She wants to spread that support and positivity to other kids.

“Having been a patient there initiated the whole idea,” says Kristie of her daughter’s volunteer work. “She loves to work with kids. Always has.”

“These kids have so much going in their lives. They’re trying to stay strong,” Kalli says. “As a volunteer, you can’t show them you’re sad.”

Kalli volunteers in the Teen Connection at Children’s Volunteer Services with roughly 50 other students to help in various capacities from the book cart to kids camps and hospital greeters.

“She’s been a great volunteer,” says Angela Loyd, a spokeswoman who oversees the Volunteer Services department. “She’s so cheerful and nice when helping families.”

“I want to make kids feel welcome at the hospital. Just knowing their minds are at ease a little bit as we play is worth my time,” Kalli says. “Sometimes we would paint or draw or play house. Really whatever they wanted to do that day. I always felt bad when it was time to leave because I didn’t want to leave.”

Knowing she has the power to make a difference in someone’s life is rewarding, Kalli says. She encourages other young people to consider service opportunities in their areas.

“No matter what, always have a positive attitude,” she advises. “How you express yourself can affect the way other people view you and how they’ll react to you.”


Visit childrensomaha.org for more information.

This article was originally printed in the Spring/Summer 2018 edition of Family Guide.

CJ Mills

December 23, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

On a fresh autumn night, chatter filled a Lincoln home-turned-music-venue. A few guests trickled through the front door. “No big deal,” CJ Mills thought. It was just a handful of people. Moments later, more appeared. The trickle turned to a flood. All of a sudden, there were 80 people jam-packed against the makeshift stage.

An astonished Mills stood two feet from the standing-room-only crowd. “I couldn’t breathe,” recalls the 31-year-old singer from Omaha. “I went out the side door to take a few deep breaths.”

The moment was surreal.

This was all new to her. The jam-packed house party. The live acoustic sessions. The impromptu performances and scheduled studio time.

Life as a new musician moves fast—a constant hustle.

Three years earlier, Mills (a self-proclaimed introvert) could have never fathomed performing in front of other people. Yet, her soulful, bluesy-folk voice has garnered quite the reputation as a crowd-pleaser. Singing her most cherished words—short poems in lyrical form—only heightened the level of intimacy.

cjmills1Mills has a profound gift for turning raw expressions of human frailness into something bordering on sacred. There’s something about her voice that commands complete attention. She can make a song cry.

She began singing in church as a young child. “I had always been singing since I was a kid. My family was very religious…Because I could sing, I was always made to,” says Mills, who began writing poetry during her early years.

“As a kid, I was huge into reading,” she says. “When I did something well, my mom would take me to the library or buy me a book.”

Soon after, Mills felt compelled to write her own short stories, which turned into poetry she later sang. That was, perhaps, her earliest simultaneous personal and artistic growth.

As a teen, singing wasn’t much of a highlight. She attended Marian High School, then ran track at Kansas State University, but was injured her junior year. While weightlifting, she squatted heavy one day and suffered a bulging disc. “Only time heals that wound,” she says.

Six months to be exact. With all the down time, she saw a decorative ukulele and taught herself how to play. She progressed to a guitar rather quickly. “I didn’t like the way it was strung,” she says of the first right-handed guitar she purchased, “so I flipped it upside down and restrung it so I could play it left-handed.”

Ambidexterity is kind of her thing. “I’m pretty even-handed. I write with both hands,” she says. “[But] I could not play that guitar. I don’t know why. Seemed so odd to me. After a month of trying, I Googled how to restring it.”

In terms of playing chords, she learned by listening to others. She was influenced by the stylings of Lauryn Hill, India.Arie, and Tracy Chapman. “Simple chords, yet, powerful lyrics,” she says. Their music spoke volumes to how Mills hoped to be perceived as an artist someday. Writing songs was a natural next step.

Mills graduated from college, then went on to the workforce. She became a health inspector, not the restaurant kind. More like the Breaking Bad kind. Off stage, she has been sent to investigate meth labs.

Mills has been playing live music for about three years, and with a band for one year. The band—featuring Mitch Towne, David Hawkins, and Max Stehr—has been a great collaboration of like minds, she says.

Mills began to develop her own individual style after college. Blending a mixture of reggae, folk storytelling, jazz melodies, and atmospheric harmonies. She performed her first show at Pizza Shoppe Collective in December 2013. There, she met All Young Girls Are Machine Guns frontwoman Rebecca Lowry, who took to Mills. She asked her to take the stage with her at a local venue.

Now for the whirlwind. Mills released her illuminating debut EP Quiet in 2015, which appeared on multiple lists of the year’s best Nebraska releases. She played the inaugural Femme Fest (organized by Lowry) that same year and returned as the festival’s headliner on Sept. 2.

Since then, Mills has stayed busy playing shows in Omaha and Lincoln. The music newcomer was featured at this year’s Maha Music Festival. Most notably, Mills was nominated for two Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards: Best Singer-Songwriter and Artist of the Year.

Although she’s insanely talented, she’s modest and humble. “The only time I feel comfortable with music is when I’m by myself creating music or on stage playing it,” she says.

Back to that special autumn night. Mills turned that ordinary Lincoln house party into a musical theater.

She composed herself before stepping back on stage, frenetically rapping as she moved through her song “Retail Star” before launching into “I Can’t Be.”

Visit soundcloud.com/cjmillsmusic for more information.

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