Children who find themselves forced to listen to the music favored by their parents often take the first opportunity to run as fast as possible toward the sounds of singers more popular with their own peers.
But for one D.C. native, the soulful sounds and family favorites she recalls hearing during her childhood, from Smokey Robinson and Phyllis Hyman to Miles Davis and Anita Baker, would become the foundation upon which she has since embraced, channeling their unique style into her own lyrics and music.
And if you want proof, you should check out Cecily, described by the legendary Patti Austin as a “brilliant, beautiful and talented young lady” — a singer for whom Austin advises the world to “look out,” who’s preparing to take center stage for two album release concerts on May 9 and 23 during which she’ll perform her own mix of soul, jazz and R&B on May 9 in the Mansion at Strathmore.
Cecily, one of a select group of talented musicians chosen to participate in the Strathmore Artist in Residence Program, created in 2005 to support the transition from amateur performance to career artists, says she thought politics would be central to her career path, even majoring in political science during undergraduate studies, until she accepted the fact that music had long been her true passion.
“I began taking voice lessons when I was 12 because I’d always love singing but it didn’t become the focus of my career path until I’d been in college for a few years,” she said.
“One day I just called my mother and told her how I felt. She said she wasn’t surprised and that she supported my decision. I returned home after graduation anxious to embark on my career, quickly realizing that I’d have to learn a lot about the music business if I wanted to really succeed,” said Cecily who says embracing music not as a hobby but as her calling has been one of the best decisions she’s ever made.
Cecily, a recent bride and one who enjoys cooking for her family in their Takoma Park home, has opened for entertainers that include Grammy-winning jazz stylist Gregory Porter, soul pioneer Bilal and R&B stars like Johnny Gill, Kenny Lattimore and Elle Varner. She’s also opened for other stellar artists at local hotspots including Blues Alley, The Kennedy Center, The Hamilton, The Howard Theatre and Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club.
Now, on the heels of her just-released debut CD, “Songs of Love and Freedom,” a collaborative project with D.C.-based producer and musicians Aaron “Ab” Abernathy, Diggs Duke, Drew Kid and Columbia Nights members Jason “Brother Spanky” Edwards and John Daise, Cecily says she excited about what her future holds.
“I wrote all of the lyrics for my CD, covered one of my all-time favorites, Gil Scott-Heron and co-wrote and collaborated on the majority of the melodies and instrumentalization,” said Cecily, who cites Scott-Heron, Terry Collier and Minnie Riperton among her most admired artists.
“I feel like I’m on the brink of finally being able to support myself as a full-time musician, but that’s only been because of the longtime support of my family and being chosen for this superb Strathmore-supported program in which I’ve learned how to stay focused, been exposed to some tremendous mentors and been welcomed into a community of artists who believe in me and what I want to do. I just hope that those who come to my concert are inspired by my music and leave feeling more confident in the power of love.”
For more information or to purchase tickets, go to www.strathmore.org or call 301-581-5100.