Probably the best part of writing a blog is being able to share some of the emotions felt behind the scenes during the production of stories that appear in the paper. Regular readers will know I'm no stranger to the concert scene, but I have to admit this particular musical event probably touched me more than any other -- and that includes my own performances. And I think the more than 600 people who came out that evening would agree, because I've never seen such a warm feeling of affection between an audience and a performer.
Students at the Vernon-Verona-Sherrill Central School heard a nightmarish tale on Oct. 9, 2010 of an inner-city Chicago school where there was no music curriculum and how a sole teacher who took the initiative to introduce her guitar playing and singing as an educational tool in class was soon driven out -- not only from the building but from the profession as well.
But that didn't stop singer/songwriter Katie Quick from inspiring and educating students as she visited the Verona, N.Y. school that night. She released her first CD "Be the Change" on May 1, 2009, moved from Chicago to Nashville six months ago, and took her trip to VVS as part of her first-ever tour of northeastern United States. There, Katie had the young people plus faculty and community members falling quickly for her upbeat and catchy county music and fun stories in between songs.
(Rising Nashville star Katie Quick plays songs from her independently released CD "Be the Change" plus some new tunes during her concert Oct. 9, 2010 at the Vernon-Verona-Sherrill Central School. Some 600 new fans instantly fell in love with her that night.)
Katie came out for a special concert that Saturday evening, sponsored by the school's Music Boosters as a token of their gratitude for the community's support. The event was also the kickoff to the Hearts For Hope Project, a collaboration between the students in the VVS entertainment industry class and the KEYS Program, a musical outreach for children with cancer that will produce a special therapeutic CD of music for those kids.
Before the concert, Katie met with students to share some of the tales behind her rise to fame. And don't think she wasn't just as big a star as anyone the kids hear regularly on the radio; I doubt any singer could have impressed the people that evening like Katie did.
(Katie shares some of the stories of her music career with VVS students during a question and answer session before her concert.)
She told them of that school where she was a 6th grade teacher -- the place where music was not allowed.
"You guys are extremely lucky to have your music programs," she said, reminding them to appreciate what VVS and their music teachers had to offer them because not every kid out there has the same opportunities of instrument lessons, bands and chorus groups in the schools. And I have to admit, as a VVS graduate and musician myself, I was just as impressed by her words as the kids were. We all need a little reminder now and then of how good we have it, and that we should be thankful. Where would I be without a music curriculum in school? Definitely wishing I had a teacher like Miss Quick to bring in her guitar and sing to us!
And no, her name is not a takeoff of a synonymly-named fellow country singer -- Katie said she had the surname Quick a good 10 years before Taylor was Swift.
She told the mostly-teenaged audience how she released her CD by herself; Katie is unsigned so she has no record label and no manager, doing all chores from writing to recording to marketing herself. This means she has nobody telling her what to do and what not to do, when she can talk to fans, and how long she can mingle with them after a concert. She certainly proved that at VVS -- Katie stayed after the show until every single member of the audience was happy with a hug, autograph, or their own copy of her CD.
"I like being an independent artist," she said. "You have total control over every aspect of your career."
(VVS seniors Paige Brown, Adam Chandler and Aeshley Detor share a fun moment with Katie after her concert.)
(How cool is this? Katie takes the time to hear Aeshley play an original composition of her own on the piano, offering some professional encouragement for the teen's musical endeavors.)
Katie reminisced about the first time she went to a concert -- a Celine Dion show while she was in 7th grade, she said -- and how she would actually become envious watching performers ply their craft. While her friends would be dancing and enjoying the music, Katie stood back feeling what she called "a really strange jealousy" towards them.
"I said, 'I can do that.' I really had a burning desire to perform," she said.
She started dancing in front of a mirror, singing into a hairbrush, and was coerced into the role of Jan in her school's production of "Grease" -- a part that included a song of her own. On stage for that performance, Katie suddenly knew she was in the right place because "it felt like home," she explained to the teens.
(KEYS volunteer Donna Mucks duets with Katie on her hit "Fingertips." VVS 8th-grader Molly Blehar also sang on Katie's song "Home" during the concert. Next time I want to perform "Lonely Stage" with her, because that's what it'll be when everyone runs when they hear me sing.)
Other than some time in the high school choir and some vocal technique lessons she admits now she doesn't really remember, Katie had no formal training. She didn't take guitar or songwriting instruction, she told them; she just had a driving desire that has now taken her to Nashville in pursuit of her dreams.
"If you want something bad enough you can make it happen," Katie said. "If you want to get up there and sing, just do it."
Her parents were big supporters, and she said it made them happy that she was doing what made her happy.
"I just feel really blessed and lucky that I grew up in a family that was supportive," she said.
Katie admitted that at this stage in her career she hasn't yet made her fortune, but she's happier than ever because she is doing what she loves -- making music and touring the country bringing her songs to new fans and friends. And there are several hundred new Verona-area fans who can't wait to have her back.
(Hey, this is my blog so I don't have to keep a professional detachment -- I am just as smitten with Katie as everybody else. And I love her CD so trust me and go out and buy a copy or five. If we still ran the Open Mike Top 10 she'd be number one with a bullet.)