ODESSA — A country crooner, a transgender rapper, a three-man punk rock band and a husband-and-wife duo from Cape Verde were among the nine musical acts that demonstrated their skills along with the combined technical magic of two Pasco County libraries April 28 at the Starkey Ranch Theatre Library Cultural Center.
All the acts have recorded — some multiple full-length albums and much available on popular streaming programs — at Studio H, the state-of-the-art recording studio at the Hudson Regional Library. Audio for the show and the recordings were the work of Khalil Abu-Jamous, a professional sound engineer and Pasco County’s audio production coordinator.
The showcase represented the first of what Pasco County Libraries hopes will be many interlibrary collaborations. “We hope to continue to offer the community a space that supports creativity and ingenuity,” said Wendy Rutherford, the Hudson librarian who emceed the show.
One performer was Deb MacNeil, a pianist and composer who moved to Hudson from Colorado four years ago. When she arrived here, she said, she had difficulty setting herself up as a professional and as a teacher, and thought that part of her life might be over.
Then she discovered Studio H.
“It was a catalyst for me to get back,” she told the Suncoast News. “It all came back.”
MacNeil said she loves to write music and to teach, but never liked to perform, but when she was asked to take part in the showcase, “How could I say no after what they gave me?” She performed her original instrumentals to resounding applause. The theatre, she said, “is a very nice venue, very laid back. It feels good.”
Spring Hill resident Michael Nava, who drives a county school bus as his day job, sang and played covers and original Christian music on his guitar. Nava told the Suncoast News his life had taken a wrong path when he was younger and changed when he embraced Christianity. While he had success playing popular music at venues including the Bluebird Café in Nashville, “I was just singing songs that were popular,” he said. “I wanted to sing songs that meant something to me.” So he started writing them.
“I like it,” Nava said of the showcase. “Everybody gets to show their songs.”
The evening included JR Lewis, originally from Harlan County, Kentucky, who played acoustic guitar and sang country tunes such as “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” as well as his original work.
Lewis was accompanied by Dave Sirkis, who has performed nationally and backed up numerous famous musicians. Sirkis performs locally with teenage dynamo Katherine Hines, who belted out the bluesy “Me and Bobby Magee” along with some original tunes.
Mr. Vyn Suazion, a trans man and LGBQT+ activist, performed on the piano and then launched into a rap that included his original work as well as segments from Hamilton. For part of his performance, he had the house lights raised and went into the audience, where he was met with both applause and stony faces, responses he incorporated into his performance. “Let everyone live,” he told the crowd.
Rounding out the program were Cape Verdeans Graciano and Yvonne Ramous; singer/songwriter Iliana; the punk band ETC (pronounced “et cetera”) and the five-piece rock band Zendaddy.
Holders of Pasco Library cards can book up to four hours a month at Studio H, which offers the use of several musical instruments as well as the services of Abu-Jamous. For information and to make a reservation, call 727-861-3040.
The Starkey Ranch Theatre, Library Cultural Center is open to the community for all manner of events. For more information, call 727-815-7126.
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