Photo Submitted By Madison Ryan
Story by Christina Heintzelman (firstname.lastname@example.org)
In Greek Mythology, Euterpe is the Muse of Music and was called ‘the giver of delight’ by ancient poets. Here in the Harrisburg area, we have quite a few musical muses giving delight to all and adding to the creative and artistic scene through their beautiful voices, personal lyrics, and instrumental talents. The list of local muses is a long one but only a few can be showcased in this article.
Amy Simpson is a Harrisburg native who joined a road band right out of high school at the age of 18. “The band, Triple Exposure, had a Latino vibe to it – think Gloria Estefan,” Simpson said. The band played mostly for the upscale hotel circuit but also did gigs abroad. “I’ve sung in Helsinki, Finland; Estonia; and even a cruise ship out of Sweden named The Sally Albatross,” Simpson added.
Simpson came from a military family and lived all over the world, which has done wonders for her musical versatility and her ability to express many different vocal styles. “The world is my stage,” she says. You can pick up the 90’s rock, blues, jazz, world music, and contemporary vibes in her style as a professional vocalist and songwriter.
After being out on the road for several years, Simpson decided to return to Harrisburg. “I wanted to come home, have a normal life, have a dog, and not live out of a suitcase.”
After landing back home, it did not take long until she was contacted by the local band, Blitz Dynette, who are well known for their R&B sounds and doing original music and covers with their own twist. The band began in the 80’s and hit their stride in the 90’s by adding a horn section. Blitz Dynette has put out 3 studio albums and is still popular, playing local gigs that have now begun to open after the shutdown caused by the pandemic. One of these local appearances will be on October 28 at The Englewood in Hershey. The Englewood is a restored historic bank barn that has been converted into a state-of-the-art listening room/concert venue which includes custom lights and audio.
Simpson also has her own 5-piece band aptly named Amy Simpson Band and consisting of keyboards, bass, drum, guitar, and Simpson on vocals. In 2017 the band put out their first CD entitled “Lipstick Blues” – engineered and produced by Michael Giblin and co-produced by Dan Kibler.
Simpson says, “Live music has been changed by the pandemic and we are all waiting for a sense of return to normal – whatever that means.” She then added, “I’ve been playing in the area for 27 years and what makes me the happiest is being in the mode of creating and expressing myself.” Her hope is to keep moving, creating, and helping other people feel positive by touching them with her music. “How many times have you heard a song from your past and within moments you are taken right back there – music can do that. It creates a space to feel free.”
When Covid hit the live music performance arena, Simpson was able to stay busy and creative by creating a company with Denise Nickey called Zeta Ascending, which specializes in customized art prints created by the two owners. They work in encaustic and cold wax and acrylic and the work is in high demand by various business owners. The company has also formed an alliance with OMG Music to provide guitar strap art for global customers. “My goal has been to remain positive in my own light by expressing my creative abilities and re-inventing what I am doing on the fly.” “Next up may be a creative endeavor of creating an emulsion of total immersion by combining art with music in various ways,” Simpson adds.
Amy Simpson, vocalist, can be contacted through Facebook and Instagram as Amy Simpson, and you can check out the band Blitz Dynette on the website blitzdynette.com. Zeta Ascending can be contacted on FB as Zeta Ascending and, on the website, zetaascending.com.
Suzi Brown was born in Camp Hill and moved briefly to Montana in her 20’s. From there she travelled to Australia to study music theory, performance, and guitar. Although she is a classically trained pianist her first love is guitar. “I picked one up at the age of 9 and taught myself how to play. I figured out chord progressions by looking up information on the internet.” She adds, “Guitar is definitely my first love for making music. I have accompanied other performers by playing piano, but it is never my choice for my own projects.”
Brown’s style is eclectic, mixing folk pop alternative with 90’s pop and some Motown. Her styles and melodic riffs are informed by her travels and performances in other countries and her ethnomusicology background. This has been key in her creation of sound versatility.
During a band tour with Elior in Australia, she played lead electric guitar and alternating rhythm guitar. Elior then went to Thailand and in between performances Brown was able to do humanitarian work as a volunteer assisting sex trafficking victims. “I would walk into brothels and pull young girls out saying they were late for their English lessons; then I’d take them to a shelter to assist them in escaping the bonds tying them to their victimized life.”
“I played guitar with another band in a tour of China doing American Pop music – cover after cover every single night.” She laughingly says. As a band, the group also participated in teaching English as a second language at Wuhan University in Wuhan, China.
Brown writes most of her own music and lyrics and after her road trips abroad she released her first full-length CD, “Siren Song,” while living and performing in Philadelphia. “I came back to the Harrisburg area in 2014 and used the release of Siren Song as a means of getting gigs in a lot of different venues.” The CD allowed her to land shows nationally and get co-billings with many well-known musicians including 2-time Grammy winner Timothy Bloom, Indigo Girls, Muriel Anderson, and George Clinton. In addition, she has performed at World Café Live, Kent Stage, Lincoln Theatre, Greenwich Odeum Theatre, and many other various musical arenas.
Right before the pandemic shut down live music, Brown bought a weighted keyboard and decided to learn music from Steven Sondheim musicals. “I did this for the learning experience because Sondheim defies a lot of musical theory, and his musical narrative is very eye opening. It was a great opportunity for me to explore others’ compositional work.” She then adds, “I am in the process of redefining who I am and what I am doing by shifting my business model to college and private event performances as all we musicians work through the difficulties brought on during Covid.”
Brown is currently working on new material and persistently getting better at what she already does so beautifully. She is exploring the market for viability in releasing another album. Her next performance stop will be relatively close to home.
Brown can be reached through her website suzibrown.net or on Facebook as @SuziBrownMusic. Her schedules for live performances are always posted on social media.
At the age of 6, Linglestown resident Erica Lyn Everest gave her first live performance by singing the national anthem at the Farm Show Building for the Harrisburg Heat, the local professional indoor soccer team. She hasn’t stopped singing since and has entertained various government and civic organizations with her voice. She has performed at local musical theatre events and has been a solo presence on several recordings. “I have been given a gift from God, and I am thankful to be able to be doing what I love. Music is my soul and inspiration,” she says.
In her teen years, she was a student of Chris Purcell – founder of Anevon Music Productions – and worked on many projects with her, including a solo recording of an award-winning title song in the musical production “Great Expectations,” which won a Proclaim Award for Purcell.
Everest auditioned to become a student at University of the Arts Philadelphia to study as a jazz vocalist. “I didn’t make the cut because I couldn’t pass the part of the audition that dealt with reading music, as I have severe dyslexia.” She then made the decision to go to HACC and study photography, but she kept right on singing. After 2 years of study at HACC she realized that she could only put 110% of herself into one art or the other, and music won out.
The Erica Lyn Everest Band has been playing together professionally for 11 ½ years in many local venues. She also works many gigs with her guitarist, Ken Geist, when she is not performing with the entire band. “We read the room in order to discover what our play list will be – if we see that the audience is game, we will go into a set of down-and-dirty blues,” Everest says with a laugh.
In September of 2019, Everest worked one of her most memorable performances – singing at the “Downton Abbey” movie premiere in Philadelphia. “I landed this performance through BRP Entertainment Booking Agency and being there with stars of the movie such as Allen Leech, writer Julian Fellowes, Elizabeth McGovern, Laura Carmichael, and Michelle Dockery, being on the red carpet was the coolest thing I’ve ever done,” she states.
Everest has also been nominated in two separate years for either best female vocalist and/or best female jazz and blues vocalist through the Central Pennsylvania Music Hall of Fame, which was founded in 2019. CPMHOF is a non-profit organization that is devoted to recognizing, supporting, and growing the music scene of Central Pennsylvania. In addition to these nominations, in 2014 she was awarded Best Female Vocalist by 717 Magazine.
Everest is also employed as a videographer and video editor, creating videos that are based on implementing ways to stay physically healthy in the sports arena for Occupational Athletics, Inc, which is a family business. Her family also was responsible for the opening of Mellow Minded Café in Linglestown, and Everest worked there for a short time.
The list is long when asked about her favorite things to do when she is not singing: dance parties in the kitchen accompanied by Grateful Dead music, spending time with her dogs, riding around town on her electric bike, hopping on a cheap flight and heading to the beach, spending time with her family, and going out to support the local arts and music scene.
“My grandfather was a huge influence in my life, he inspired me to sing and perform and I still have songs on my set list that he picked out for me.” She then adds, “Oh and vinyl – my grandfather introduced me to vinyl records – 45’s and albums- we would listen to them for hours and now I have my own collection which I add to as often as I can.”
Her parting comment was, “At the end of the day, I find my peace in striving to always come from a place of love and light, now more than ever. Times are tough for everybody, and I find it important in my life to spread love and kindness, and to always keep the faith.”
Everest can be contacted on Facebook @Ericalyneverest and on Instagram ericalyneverestmusic.
Madison Ryan is an alternative pop artist and lifetime resident of Harrisburg. She started professional musical performances in 2015, although you could say that she started as early as 2013 when she recorded herself singing “Make You Feel My Love” after hearing Adele’s cover of this song.
“My dad has performed with a lot of bands, so I was exposed to music all my life. I just wasn’t sure if I could do it,” Ryan states. “I was a competitive figure skater with Central Pennsylvania Figure Skating Club as a young girl, and I love performing. I trained at Twin Ponds, and I travelled the east coast a lot for competition,” she adds. Her competitive training in figure skating prepared her for what was to come a little later in her life.
Ryan studied acting at CASA but, being around other musical artists, she soon realized how much she enjoyed music and writing lyrics. “I started going to hear some of my CASA friends perform and they would often invite me onto the stage to do some songs with them and I was hooked!”
Ryan’s early influence was Taylor Swift. “She is such an amazing songwriter and performer, her lyrics have so much depth – she is the best storyteller. Billie Eilish has become more important to me at this point in my life because of her work in experimental pop, alt pop, and indie pop.” Ryan says that experimentation in music is what keeps it going.
Her first EP, “Primary” – produced by Matt Malpass and Matt Holmes – was released to rave reviews in 2018, making its way onto the Billboard Heatseekers Chart. In the same year she was playing at SummerFest in Milwaukee as part of their 2018 Emerging Artist Series.
In 2020, Ryan was nominated and subsequently won the Central Pennsylvania Music Hall of Fame award for best pop artist/band. Her song “Avant Garden” was also nominated for song of the year.
In January 2021, Ryan was the cover artist for Pennsylvania Musician Magazine and an article also appeared entitled “Madison Ryan: Coming Out of The Dark.” Her single “Dark,” recorded by Brandon Shoop and Matt Holmes, was released in January to much acclaim. “Dark” describes the battle of finding the way to bring yourself out of the dark places caused by depression. You can find the visualizer video of this single, produced by Josh Nesmith, on YouTube
Ryan works with producers in New York and Philadelphia. She writes lyrics and melody, creates a demo, and sends it out to them for their final work in creating a single that can be heard on Spotify and Apple Music. She is hoping to release more music in 2022 and is keeping herself motivated by writing additional lyrics and creating more music.
Ryan can be reached through her website madisonryanmusic.com and you can listen to her music on Apple, Spotify, and Pandora, and watch her visualizers on YouTube.