20 Watts

ISSUE 21 | Features: Finding a Voice Pt. 1

Finding a Voice

Syracuse, N.Y’s Sparky Town restaurant is closed. The tables are pushed against the walls, making room for acircle of ten chairs. A few music stands waitempty in the center. People start to wander in, carrying guitars. Dana Cooke, a tall man wearing a shirt emblazoned with the words “Beer Me” hands out numbered cards to each arriving musician. They sit and wait,some order tea, others munch on vegan carrot cake, a few strum on guitars and chatabout recent open mic nights. A couple bypasses the numbers and seat themselves a tan outside table. The clock hits seven, and the Words and Music Songwriter Woodshed looks expectantly at Cooke.

Almost everyone in the circle is a songwriter.Some perform gigs, others write merely as a creative outlet after spending the day in a classroom. Regardless of profession, these people come together once a month to share original songs and improve their writing skills. Tonight, Joanne Perry, a soft-spoken mother of five, makes one of her first appearances at the Woodshed.

Without saying anything as an introduction, Perry begins to play an ethereal tune: “Your eyes are blue, your coat is green. You’re my ocean, you’re my sea.” She reveals later the song is a love song to her favorite beach in Nantucket, a place she vacationed since childhood. After she finishes,the group sits silently for a moment,allowing time for everyone to process what they just heard. Several women in the group smile and murmur that the music was beautiful. Then one of the men breaks the silence.

“What do you expect us to do with a song like this? We tend to work on songs that have a story, something we can relate to,” he says.

“Well, I wanted your impression,” Perry says in her delicate manner.


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