For my birthday a couple of Decembers ago, I went full rock and roll and played a show at my favorite bar in State College. Chumley’s Bar was packed with friends, family and music-loving strangers. By the glow of Christmas lights and decadent decorations, my husband, Dan, and I played our favorites: The Avett Brothers, Fleetwood Mac, The Killers, Stone Temple Pilots. We did the mushiest Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga version of “Shallow” we could muster. I opened the show with a silly song I wrote for ukulele and then played a few more of my moody and more serious guitar originals throughout the night. It was my first time officially “playing out,” as musicians say. And it was a blast.
One of my favorite things about living in State College is our vivacious music scene. It is expansive, by which I mean you can find just about everything here, from singer songwriter sessions, to experimental and electronic funky stuff, to hipster cowboy harmonica hyped jams, to classical and jazz. The people who live here are making all kinds of music and playing in a variety of venues beyond basement bars (not throwing shade on Zeno’s Pub, which will forever be one of my favorite places to catch music). And while it’s fun to see bigger acts come to The State Theatre, Eisenhower Auditorium and the Bryce Jordan Center, I enjoy the more intimate experiences where I get to be just feet away from the performer — or to be the performer myself.
As a quirky and tender hearted singer songwriter, I have been moved to make more music and step onto some welcoming local stages with my voice, guitar and growing collection of songs. Years ago, I brought my guitar out to the arboretum to meet my friend and super talented local musician, Eric Ian Farmer who told me then, “I can see you giggin’.” He encouraged me to get my hands on my guitar a little bit everyday. So I did that, in fits and starts as years slid by, writing lyrics in my head as I walked the dog and dropped my kids off at sports practices.
Other artists in the music scene have been super kind and supportive of me putting myself out there. My friend and amazing singer songwriter who gigs all over town, Hannah Bingman, gave me similar advice when I was freaking out about playing at Pine Grove Hall for a Writers Round performance in June. About three weeks out from the big date she told me, “Play your songs every day from now until the show — and you’ll be fine.” So I did that. And I was fine — although my legs were shaking as I started into my first song, I played a few songs in the wrong key and I could feel my voice get stronger as I got deeper into each song. But I got to tell some stories with my music and make some people laugh and I think maybe even a few people cried, too.
Natty Lou Race of Raven and the Wren and Pure Cane Sugar invited me to be one of the four artists playing original music in this show. I admire Natty so much and her invitation was so generous. Getting to be on Pine Grove Hall’s gorgeous stage with the lush velvet curtains, the lights and the sound dialed in felt like a dream. While I mostly play with my eyes closed, when I did look out at the packed dining room, the listening eyes looking back compelled me to keep doing this music making thing.