Imagine waking up somewhere in your 50's to realize you have not pursued your one true love in life (as David Byrne sings,"Well... how did I get here?". Letting Good Days Go By...)
After helping others to realize their dreams for 35 years, I concluded the one thing about which I would be most disappointed upon death would be that I had never pursued music as a profession. Chickened out. For endless years sitting at my desk, being barked at continuously by my boss, I used to daydream about being on stage singing, entertaining, playing guitar. So, at the age of 51, I took a leap of faith and never looked back. I'm really glad I did, because I found out -- I'm REALLY good at this! I am an eclectic, professional singer, songwriter and guitarist. My stellar vocal range is just two notes shy of 4 octaves, and I can sing in any style. I play guitar the most proficiently, but also play ukulele, harmonica and blues harp, piano and percussion (a little bass). All self taught. And I am a damn fine whistler, too.
I grew up in an Italian family of firefighters in northern Virginia in the 1950's. My mother and older brother played piano, so I jumped up on the piano bench and picked up the piano by ear at age 5 and eventually took a year of classical lessons that gave me a great general education on music. I sang in the church choir as a young girl. Then, as a teenager in the 60's and with the help of my first boyfriend who taught me my first three chords, I taught myself guitar at 13 (on my brother's Harmony Guitar). My dad was helping when firefighters extinguished a fire at a local music store and brought home my first classical guitar, a Yamaha. Hey, it was a smoking guitar, nyuk nyuk. Well, I kept on learning and playing and listening to the radio. I was asked by my best friend to come sing at a Catholic Folk Mass and I sang Judy Collins version of "Amazing Grace". They asked me to come back and sing every week, and that is when I began getting requests to sing at weddings, folk festivals and parties.
Somehow I managed to stay out of trouble and graduate from Oakton High School in 1971. Immediately went to work in retail to try make some money to go to college (but never got there as a student). Worked in a variety of jobs from retail to office staff, secretary, word processor, office manager, temping... Only played music as a hobby and with other friends who played.
Fast forward to 1986, when I moved to Maryland. In order to meet people and make new friends, I joined the Baltimore music scene, starting out in a little basement old style "coffee house" in the Mt. Vernon Methodist Church and open mics at The 8x10 on Cross Street. While still working full-time, I performed solo in Fells Point bars like the Full Moon Saloon and The Horse You Came In On, then joined with another musician, Art Wachter, to create the folk/blues/rock duo, Backseat Drivers. We entertained part-time for about 6 years in Maryland, DC, and Virginia. It was a great opportunity to hone my performance and songwriting skills and learn about eclectic music.
In 1988, I moved to Pennsylvania, temped for a while and began working full-time at York College of Pennsylvania in 1993. By then, the duo had broken up, sadly, and I reluctantly appeared solo in a few restaurants and coffee houses now and then just to keep up the chops. My personal best was to sing acoustically, without a PA system, in a restaurant for three hours straight!
Now it's 1999, still working at the college, I bought my first house in southern York County, Pennsylvania, and started a relationship with the man who would later become my husband. I was already actively studying Buddhism, took up birding, created a beautiful garden at my home. Very soon after one of the worst gigs ever (it's actually a very funny story NOW), I decided it was finally time to give up music altogether and focus on other things in my new and happy life. I never really expected to return to music.
A vacation to Hawai’i in 2004 inadvertantly changed all that. My husband and I took a trip to the Big Island... it was very inspiring, leading to a lot of soul-searching. I had left working at the college in 2003, and was now working as an Events Coordinator for a large health care system. I coordinated a successful annual three day event that required over 700 volunteers (I came home at night crying a lot...), so after the event was finished, and upon return home from the vacation, I resigned from that job.
I was asked by the Green Party to run for the State House of Representatives of Pennsylvania as a Green Party Candidate. I agreed, spent no money on the campaign, got a lot of free publicity and brought some truly different perspectives to the race. (Check out the 10 Key Values -- http://www.gp.org/tenkey.shtml. ) Somehow I managed to win 8% of the vote against a long-time incumbent, successfully helping the Green Party maintain party status in Pennsylvania.
Following that adventure, I took some time to “figure out what I really wanted to do when I grew up”. I met with a "success counselor" to discuss how to become successful in an environmentally friendly network marketing business in which I was engaged, Melaleuca (www.melaleuca.com). Turns out the counselor was psychic, because her first statement was "tell me about your music". "Nothing to tell," I said. But she must have guessed music still tugged at my heart and network marketing wasn't going to be my cup of tea, so she talked me into going back in to music. So in 2005 at the age of 51, I picked up my guitar and began playing again.
I started experimenting with finger-picked open tunings, writing new songs and rearranging vintage music. (I have a passion for beautiful American and British music from the Post-Romantic era, 1880-1915, and like to bring it back to life.) I developed a unique style, borrowing from past influences like Joni Mitchell, Incredible String Band, Nick Drake -- to name a few.
As people embraced my new sound when I entertained, in 2006 I spent 10 months in the studio to produce and record my very first CD, Cosmic Summer Sojourn. It was brilliantly engineered by Rob Ziv (he has produced such greats as Eric Clapton and Celine Dion). Our collaboration culminated in an enchanting aural daytrip. The music is a mix of old and new; eastern wisdom and the beauty of nature. The artistic anthology features my original music, anchored by some late 19th century songs uniquely re-arranged to sound new... all interlaced with the sounds of summer recorded in my backyard.
One reviewer writes: “To me the most captivating parts of the CD are the tracks where your voice and that of the guitar are pure and allow me the most access to the poetry of your lyrics. Your artistic virtuosity both vocally and instrumentally are astounding: each alone would be rare.” Lucid Forge reviews: “…a great debut album with lots of poetic depth.” The CD has been requested by radio stations in the U.S., Canada, Germany, England, Eastern Europe and Australia. One song, Under the Stars Tonight, was chosen for a compilation CD, Chill Out East Coast Version.
In 2008, I bought a ukulele and learned how to play enough to accompany myself on songs. In 2010, I picked up the harmonica and learned how to play standard and blues tunes, and now incorporate it into my shows (I LOVE playing blues harp).
I have since returned to writing and to a more “mainstream” and Americana sound, pulling from pop, roots, jazz and blues.
Of special note is the song, Why Don’t I Know You? While I was entertaining elders by singing popular standards at an Assisted Living Facility, one of the residents, Buzzy Firey, approached me about putting music to some lyrics he had written. The tune is about love from afar. It’s the first song I have co-written. After changing a few words in the song (I told Buzzy there really weren’t any "drive-in movies" anymore...) I created a jazzy tune, adding some interesting effects on the recording.
I have been performing full-time now since 2006 at restaurants, bars, coffeehouses, weddings, assisted living facilities, festivals and private/corporate events. My husband and I relocated to Wilmington, North Carolina in December 2009 after being on the road for three months with our three cats. Wilmington has an amazing live music scene, and I'm gratified to be a part of it. I am enjoying collaborating with other musicians in groups as well, and started singing jazz (1920's and standards) a lot.
In 2010, I started a Listening Room Concert series, Stone Soup Concerts which had a nice 7 year run. In 2012 created and started my own early childhood music and movement program, Happy Little Singers, and enjoyed the delightful play time with kids ages 6 months to 7 years, and their parents, until March 2020 when COVID started spreading. The program has since been retired.
In 2012, I was honored to win Wilma Magazine's "Woman to Watch" award!
Since then, built a house (acting as general contractor) in Carolina Beach, earned a Certification in Therapeutic Musician (to play bedside for ailing, recovering, or hospice patients, memory care). Sadly, retired Happy Little Singers, but still performing and teaching. I currently live in Wrightsboro, NC with George.
Here is what someone recently said: "With her incredible talents, original voice and eclectic music, Susan Savia’s interesting journey will continue for a long time, and one that a lot of people will want to follow."
And one more quotable note from a fan: "When you sing it is only secondary to the love you exude, it is so obvious the joy you feel and then so graciously impart through your performance; so we can all experience -- thanksomuch for allowing us to share."