When I asked Charlotte Sommers to be my guest for this month’s feature, I forgot that she is an award winning wordsmith. This apt and accomplished woman is or has been a Grant Writer, Development and Executive Director, Board Trustee and holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in the arts. She’s an actor, dancer/choreographer who has recently poised herself quite successfully as Jazz/Cabaret Singer. You can understand then, how I might be staving off self-inflicted intimidation bolts left and right, while writing this.It’s her beautiful voice and her steady rise within the local music community that is the focal point now. I am aflutter to shine the light on and introduce you to this lovely woman.
A few months back, Charlotte asked if I’d give her professional feedback and vocal coaching while she prepared to record a promotional CD to be used when soliciting performance opportunities. I was impressed by her receptiveness and at the same time, her ability to home in on what she heard in her head, and the ways she planned to bring those arrangements and turn of phrases to fruition in the studio. At that time she was also readying the studio musicians to accompany her on a live show; a debut of sorts, as up until that time, she’d shared leads but never headlined a solo showcase in Asheville. The room was full that night and was made up of various aficionados and musicians who in the end came away satiated by her dulcet tones.
This month she’ll be performing again in the upstairs lounge at Isis Restaurant and Music Hall, sharing the stage with the mutually talented and marvelous songster, Harry Schulz in a show they call ‘S Wonderful! The Gershwin Songbook. The show starts at 5:30 p.m. and it is sure to sell out, so get your tickets now for Easter Sunday, March 27th.
However, before you dial the number to make your reservation, let me share a little more about our Woman Making Music, March 2016. Sort of sounds like she’s this month’s pinup girl, and while she has the sultry sass to be a calendar sweetheart, it’s her interpretive skills that has, in very short order, landed her in a classy class alongside other area notable vocalists.
She was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland and is one of four children. She attended high school in New Jersey and although she earned a scholarship to university, she “flunked out to move to California with a boy,” opting for a more free and as she refers to it, “hippie lifestyle.” So San Francisco was where she realigned her continuing educational sights and at San Francisco State University she received her BA in Theater Arts, graduating magna cum laude. Later she would go on to acquire a Master’s degree in Arts Administration from Goucher College, Towson, Maryland. Obviously from her resume, she has nearly always been interested in all mediums of the arts.
She honed her stage skills while in San Francisco, as a member of the Eureka Theatre where she discovered a facility for choreography, which served her well for a long time. Her passion for the Great American Songbook was sparked while she was director of BlackRock Center for the Arts in Germantown, Maryland from 2008-2013 where she booked such Jazz greats as Christian McBride, Ravi Coltrane, Rene Marie, Omar Sosa and Regina Carter. She studied with Connaitre Miller, director of the vocal ensemble Afro Blue, and performed at Strathmore Music Hall.
If you take the time like I did to check out live video footage and audio recordings of these heavies she points to, you’ll hear why Charlotte does what Charlotte does. An easy transition was made from theater actor to in-her-own-skin performer, and these influences have helped her make it so.
She’s a woman who is quick to smile, quick and quirky-witted and plainly loves to have fun. Getting to know her personally has been a mix of laughs and long talks; extremely enjoyable. As an audience member, she helps you feel that you know her. She’s approachable and kind and humble.
Charlotte has two beautiful daughters, Stephanie and Caitlin and is married to their step-father, musician, craftsman and owner of Carolina Drumworks, Jeff Hankin. They decided to move to WNC to get out of the rat race of the Washington DC area and build a new home and more serene but active life here in the mountains. Jeff plays drums in her band and they plan to continue a musical partnership for as long as their lights and souls do shine.
Her goals, while simple and attainable, would not be such if not for her capable, confident and commanding nature when it comes to connecting story and feeling with audience. She told me how she’s discovering that research is integral to the personal creative process. This Gershwin show, for instance is one on which she’s done her homework in order to ensure a high degree of authenticity. Charlotte’s whole flight path is strewn with integrity, discipline, management, planning and all for the greater good of whatever the endeavor or whoever the beneficiary.
So go now! Dial up the Isis Restaurant and Music Hall and ask to reserve your very own seat or dinner table to hear this fine feathered feline in action! ‘S Wonderful! The Gershwin Songbook…you know he’s the guy who wrote Summertime, A Foggy Day, They Can’t Take That Away From Me, Walking the Dog, How Long Has This Been Going On and the list goes on and on.
Isis Restaurant and Music Hall is located at 743 Haywood Road in West Asheville. For reservations and to purchase tickets visit IsisAsheville.com or call 828-575-2737!
Want more of Charlotte Sommers? Visit her music profile page here. There you’ll hear a few tracks and be reminded of additional upcoming shows:
Block Off Biltmore, (Asheville) Saturday April 23rd 7pm
The Phoenix Lounge (Brevard) Wednesday June 8th 8pm
Peggy Ratusz is a Women in Blues History advocate, singer/songwriter and Vocal Coach
And if you’d like to hear Peggy play in March, you’ll find me:
• Tressa’s Early Spotlight Friday, March 4th at 7pm
• Noble Cider with partner Aaron Price (Bygone Blues), Friday March 11th 6:30pm
• Noble Cider with partner Jonathan Pearlman, 6:30pm, Friday March 25th, 6:30pm