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Laura Siersema -
Artist info
Laura Siersema

Laura Siersema

Laura Siersema

I grew up in Virginia and fell in love with the piano when I was little. My parents taught me ukelele and guitar, too. There was always music around, from the Hon-o-lees (a 6 member group my parents performed with all the time we were in Virginia) to the music at Amherst Presbyterian Church. Laura didn't know music was her purpose in life until she went away to college--by then the family had moved to Florida. During classes at University of Florida she wrote lyrics on napkins and Read more on
I grew up in Virginia and fell in love with the piano when I was little. My parents taught me ukelele and guitar, too. There was always music around, from the Hon-o-lees (a 6 member group my parents performed with all the time we were in Virginia) to the music at Amherst Presbyterian Church. Laura didn't know music was her purpose in life until she went away to college--by then the family had moved to Florida. During classes at University of Florida she wrote lyrics on napkins and, in-between classes, stole away to the auditorium to play the piano for hours.

She played piano for her nursing class graduation, which felt like the most natural thing in the world for her to be doing. For the obligatory year of medIcal/surgical experience after graduation, she worked as a nurse in ophthalmology at the teaching hospital at UF. The following summer she left Gainesville to work in a summer sports camp in the Berkshires, and that fall moved to New York City--14th Street and 7th Avenue--where she lived for 7 years, working as a nurse, first on a psychiatric unit at St. Vincent's Hospital, then in hospice at Cabrini Medical Center. In fits and starts Laura made it out to open mikes, or sat in at the piano at a local bar. She wrote her first really good song after getting mugged.

Standing next to the bar inside a dimly lit Folk City one night, awaiting her turn to play, an epiphany came and lingered for a moment: “This is where I belong.” Music was a low simmering desire that seemed to take forever to establish itself in real life. She bought a piano, gave lessons, accompanied New York Women's Chorus for a few years... and took her first classical voice lessons with Natalie Burgess. In 1987, after throwing her nursing books down the incinerator just outside the apartment door and getting her piano into a Uhaul, Laura moved to Boston with her two precious cats to attend Berklee College of Music for songwriting. It was there she discovered she was a poet. It was also that first summer that Laura met her partner in life, George Touloumtzis. Despite performing when she was a kid, Laura had become petrified as a teenager--her voice went into hiding.

Knowing she had to recover somehow, through her very body, she began studying voice while also at Berklee. Luckily, John LaBella, a New England Conservatory grad, was a genius for teaching. They worked together for 7 years. In the bel canto tradition, she experienced the full range of her voice, with all its blessings and vulnerabilities--a coloratura soprano to a soprano belt.

Laura sang with John's ensemble, New England Vocal Arts Ensemble, got church jobs and did a lot of auditions. Later she studied briefly with Phyllis Curtin, the world famous soprano. During this time in Boston, she experienced two more epiphanies. One Sunday, as a paid singer with the choir at First Church, she sat listening to the soloist. Something within her responded deeply to this voice that was so beautiful and pure.

“I want to sing like that.” The third occurred during a rehearsal at St. Peter's Church in Weston where she was director of the children's choir and soprano with the adult choir. Whether it was Mozart's Requiem or a Schubert Mass she can't remember, but what was vivid was the transcendence she experienced singing the high, floating soprano line. After graduating from Berklee, she worked as a choral and theater production accompanist in the Newton school system and soloist at Eliot Church in Newton. She loved to sing acapella spirituals from the balcony.

Her poetry was being published in national journals. Deep down she knew she was bound to be a songwriter, but when? And how would she adapt her voice to her own songs? In 1996, Jenna Drey asked her to write lyrics for a few of her melodies. During this time Laura realize how much she wanted to be a singer/songwriter herself. Beginning in 1998, she was playing the folk circuit and over the next few years, opened for John Gorka, Connie Kaldor, Cheryl Wheeler, Dana Cooper, Brooks Williams and Lori McKenna.

She played at art festivals and venues around the country. “When I left Loss”, her first album, was released in 1999. “Love Flows Like the Blood of a River” in 2003. Beginning in the summer of 2005, writing over a period of 13 months, followed by 21 months of recording and production, she wrote her third album “Talon of the Blackwater".

"I love...Pat Metheny, Joni Mitchell, Villa-Lobos, Michael Hedges, Messiaen, to name just a few...just sitting down to play at the piano...Rilke, George Eliot, the writings of Helen Luke and Carl Jung...riding my life with George...our home in the beauty of western Massachusetts." Home: Greenfield, MA SINGER RELEASES HER LATEST HAUNTING OPUS “Her voice beckons mercilessly to the physical world like the bodiless spirit that haunts the mansion on a far-away hill. Wanderers beware...” Independent Songwriters Magazine Pick of the Month "Dreamy, visionary, cutting edge." Holly Popple, Herndon Festival, Virginia "We LOVE your music." Kelley & Cyrus,Yurt Radio, Hampshire College Woven in the language of poetry and dreams, Talon of the Blackwater, Berklee graduate Laura Siersema's third independent release, is "fiercely original", challenging and ambitious. Lush, complex layers and the high qualities unique to her voice transform the folk music of her childhood into a "depth and scale of music so strong, a soul searing connection to it becomes inevitable." Produced by Jay Hovnanian and mastered by Jeff Lipton, this album features Michael Farquharson (MCA artist/Juno nominee), T Lavitz (Grammy nominee of the Dixie Dregs), Eugene Friesen (Grammy winning Paul Winter Consort), Nick Falk and Marcelo Woloski (Maeve Gilchrist Group), Nate Comp (Josh Logan Band), Bruce J. LeBlanc and Alastair Moock.

Laura has played at art festivals and venues around the United States and opened for John Gorka, Cheryl Wheeler, Connie Kaldor, Dana Cooper, Brooks Williams and Lori McKenna. Her poetry has been published in Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, Cream City Review, Lullwater Poetry Review and others. She is a graduate of the University of Florida in nursing and Berklee College of Music in songwriting. Before leaving Boston in 2002, she was accompanist for choral and theater productions, sang with New England Vocal Arts Ensemble, and was soprano soloist at Eliot Church in Newton.

She studied voice in the bel canto tradition with John LaBella and briefly with Phyllis Curtin. "The major labels are always looking for artists who fit in neat categories, to simplify their marketing efforts. Artists know this, and try to make music that will fit. But some artists are driven to make music that falls between the cracks, that fits no musical genre very well at all. Sometimes, there are traces of various musical genres, but combined in unexpected ways.

And sometimes there is no genre that can describe the music fairly. Always, these artists show a fierce originality. Some of the worst music I have ever heard is like this; the artist creates something abstract, without the slightest regard to connecting with their potential listeners. But some of the best music I have ever heard also defies categorization.

Just as the English language is neither French nor German, but is derived from both, this music is a new language, but one that speaks eloquently." (Oliver di Place blog on Laura's work) Her previous releases, When I Left Loss and Love Flows Like the Blood of a River (with Eugene Friesen, cello, and Steve Wilkes, percussion) contain unique combinations of songs and spoken word pieces that “lend a riveting, personal touch and at times cut so deep the hair on the listener's skin goes on end.” (Josh Shear, Chicopee Herald) WHAT THE CRITICS ARE SAYING “While the voice gives Talon of the Blackwater its beauty, her writing is what gives it depth.” The Republican "Inspired by greats like guitarist Pat Metheny, Siersema brings the power of her crystalline voice and compositional skills to bear on her third release...understated accompaniments are at times brilliant...Siersema takes the traditional spiritual 'Wade in the Water' and makes it her own with a ghostly arrangement reminiscent of Daniel Lanois's work...the excellent 14-minute 'Along the Fenway' features cellist Eugene Friesen and is strikingly beautiful." Progression “Enthralling and complex music with world-class musicians.” Greenfield Recorder “Experimental, serene and surreal...” Sarah Craig, Caffe Lena “Folk fans should take note, as well as those that like classical music, and Tori Amos.” Tampa Tribune "A touch Celtic, a touch New Age, she is uncategorizable, a passion rare in folk music today." WCUW, Worcester “Laura is an acoustic craftsman, a wordsmith…with the soul and lyrics of a true poet…” Indie-Music Reviews "STUNNING!" KUNV, Las Vegas “...they should make movies out of music like this.” Jamaica Plain Arts News “There are a few who can carry us indenting our souls--by effecting change in the soul whereby the mood is retained and perhaps never to be lost...your music has the power to do just this! You have given a sort of 'storehouse' for our spirit's garden. The places that are in greatest need of nourishment are thereby fulfilled." in a letter from Vincent Tripi, haiku poet Awards Massachusetts Cultural Council (2004) grants for performance in Williamsburg, Greenfield & Deerfield NERFA (2001) informal showcase Read more on User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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