2013-04-12 / Columnists

From The Artists Studio

Fort Tilden Highlights
Commentary by Susan Hartenstein

Jessica Brown Jessica Brown RAA Writer’s Group Event: Sun., April 14th, 2 - 4 p.m., at the Sip This Café coffeehouse in Valley Stream. Email Dan Guarino at TWCgxwgj to participate.

Next RAA General Meeting: Mon., May 14th, at 7:30 p.m., in the MoMA PS1 VW Dome at Beach 94 Street and Shore Front Parkway.

The glistening white dome read ceruleans, cyans, roses, crimsons and any other colors that invited themselves into the setting sun’s prismatic sky. The MoMA PS1 VW Dome was the setting for the first Rockaway Artists Alliance’s general meeting since Sandy. The plan of RAA is to rebuild and make the organization stronger and more wide-reaching than ever.

The RAA office on Beach 116 Street is fully functioning. sTudio 6, sTudio 7 and Building T-149 sustained varying levels of damage, but repairs to the Fort Tilden buildings are now in progress. Camp kidsmART will be happening this summer. The kidsmART afterschool program has been operating since January at PS/MS 114, at PS 104 and at PS 47 in Broad Channel. There will be workshops for kids in the MoMA PS1 VW Dome the next four or five Saturdays. Call the RAA office at 718-474- 0861. RAA is in the process of recruiting instructors to give adult art classes in the Dome. The Writers Group has held events in local venues, including our first spoken word/music event at the Dome on March 20, where parents and children also participated in an art workshop. RAA is about family, renewal, revival, rebuilding and reaching out. We are looking for exhibition space in the community, until and even after we are back in Fort Tilden, such as a Fall exhibit in the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. Contact RAA for info, watch this column and The Wave. Events for the Dome are listed at: momaps1.org.

Her music is intimate and personal; her sound, unique. But the stories are easily identified with. “No matter how many years of experience I have, I get nervous. That rush of energy – it’s great to embrace it …giving out the energy and having it reciprocated by the audience. It’s the common human experience – we’re all in this together.”

Jessica Brown is Rockaway born and bred, low-key but engaging when one first meets her. One has the sense while listening to this charismatic young singer/songwriter/musician perform that she is destined to be appreciated by a much wider audience.

Among the pleasures of hearing her sing is the sense that her words and music express emotions that come from the most profound places inside the artist. The lyrics and the music are well married to each other.

“I love interacting with an audience, and talking with them after a performance.” Do you feel the audience gets what you are trying to communicate? “Yes.” Audience responses to her songs, even the cover songs she chooses, tell her that. Take the woman who came up to Brown to tell her how deeply a particular song expressed the woman’s experience. “It’s remarkable to touch someone’s soul.” “Love, heartache …and positive things.” Brown loves upbeat songs as well; “Getting people dancing.”

The singer observes that in the performance of the music you “can bridge a gap” between artist and those in the audience. “People can express their emotions without reservation …as long as it is in that setting.”

Brown says, “Music has always been a part of me. It helped me through hard times in life; it was therapeutic. It helped me to express myself.” I wondered what the greatest influences on the music of this talented 23-year-old were. “My parents – huge. I grew up on classic rock.” “I have very eclectic taste – all music.”

Though she does single out Paul McCartney as a great artist, and Grace Potter as a huge influence in terms of rock/blues.

How would she describe her own style? “Indie rock.” She takes her time with her music, Brown says. In both the writing of it and in developing the performance style.

RAA Open Mic Nights provided Brown with early performance venues when she was 18 or 19 years old. She had studied voice at Bay Academy and Fiorello LaGuardia High School. The RAA Open Mics, Brown says, fostered her growth, as a person as well as a musician. She has also appeared locally at Thai Rock restaurant and in the city in venues that include Lucky Jack’s and the Sidewalk Café.

I hope you have had the pleasure of hearing Jessica Brown perform. If not, or even if you have, come to an RAA music event. She’ll very likely be there …and so should you.

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