My Career Choice: Shari Pine – Musician and Songwriter

Shari Pine credits her parents for her early interest in music. “My father and mother were both musicians and crazy for each other, or maybe just crazy,” she said. “He played trumpet and guitar and she, piano.”

Her mother became a widow when she was only 35 years-old and became a single mother.  “We moved around a lot,” Shari said. “The pages of our life include Philly, Boston, New York and NJ, and many miles in between. I recall resting my head on her chest during some of those miles (by train), absorbing her tapping, snapping and humming to the sound and motion. That was my first music lesson. She kept time like a cricket and had a great sense of rhythm.”

A classically trained pianist, her mother concentrated on her children rather than on her music career. “She managed to keep an upright wherever we lived and play it – though more for enjoyment than anything else,” Shari said. “This is not to say she wasn’t into other stuff: I grew up starring at album covers ranging in title from Leonard Bernstein and Burt Bachrach to something that said “Goat’s Head Soup,” which terrified me!”

Her mother’s real passion, though, was opera. “By the time I was ten I had sat through every major opera written by a classical composer,” she said. “She also had great contacts in the opera world (was employed for a time by an opera company) and so I had the best vocal training available.”  Shari also studied classical guitar and taught herself piano basics. Shari has performed at many New York venues, including Iridium, the Metropolitan Room, BB King, and Shanghai Jazz. For more information, go to her website.

Can you point to one event that triggered your interest in your career?
For whatever reason, my childhood peers paid attention when I spoke or sang something. I was most likely making up a story, you know …telling a lie, but they were captivated. Ironic because I don’t prefer fiction.  I knew there was an attraction – and have held onto it ever since.  It morphed into ‘performing’ for larger audiences; grown folks who could articulate the attraction that is audience to performer.

What about this career choice did you find most appealing?
Lipstick and mascara, of course! Depending on the repertoire it’s either Blackest Black or Brown. Seriously, for me, making records is the draw.

Being signed to a label (which I am not, currently) and that whole other thing is all well and good but I’m talking strictly working with incredible music makers.

There’s nothing like laying down vocals on a killer mix, except doing it live..

What steps did you take to begin your education or training?
Eventually I came to New York City, but I began private study: classical guitar, opera via New England Conservatory; Boston University Opera Institute; jazz voice via Berklee.  There wasn’t anyone I truly wanted to study under so I jumped around a lot much like I do with music: constantly moving from song to song, taking what I want, leaving the rest.  Not that I recommend this, it’s just my story.

Along the way, were people encouraging or discouraging?
Thank G-d there were people, places and things that proved encouraging. Without them we crumble, eventually. Most everyone who has ever heard me sing has rooted me on in some form or another and I’ll take it!  Then you have your ‘practical people’.  They want to know how long you intend to ‘keep it up’ or why you haven’t packed it in already.  They come in all shapes, sizes and degrees of denial.  Artists got it in their veins. They don’t stop. They can’t.  It’s how they breathe. Ironic, because as a Virgo, I should be the epitome of practicality. I’m conflicted. NOT.

Shari Pine 1Did you ever doubt your decision and attempt a career change?
No. Never. I made sure I had other skills (very practical!) and that I lived life instead of being one who passes on everything and everyone in the name of career, gigs, Broadway or Hollywood.  Ultimately, we are not in control.  This affords me some calm amid the hustle.

When did your career reach a tipping point?
I’ll let you know, but so far, everything I do excites me to the point where it gets top billing on my Facebook wall. Pathetic? You’re not talking to Tina Turner, here.   I have been reduced into an appreciation for EVERYTHING great and small. Today, lyrics for a song that’s been dying for me to write came flooding in.  All of them.  I’m tipping over with joy and appreciation.

Can you describe a challenge you had to overcome?
So glad you asked!  I constantly have to deal with rejection. I’ll explain.  On more occasions than I care to count, I have had to turn down the finest establishments and events in NYC (and elsewhere) because they take place on a Friday night or a Saturday afternoon.  The pay, the connections, the Facebook wall, my career! –all down the drain because I don’t gig from Friday night sundown until Saturday night, one hour after sundown. I am a Shomer Shabbes Jew which means many things, but foremost, that which I have mentioned.

P.S. all band catering must be strictly kosher, thanks.

What single skill has proven to be most useful?
My Opera training and fluency in Spanish. That’s two.   I tell people that opera is like Vocal Weightlifting™   I coined the phrase and repeat it to those who come to me for lessons and instruct them accordingly.  If you keep your instrument healthy you can sing anything. Opera keeps you buff.  Of course a pure opera singer will only sing opera and nothing else.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Being able to canter a horse English Saddle, of course!

Any advice for others entering your profession?
Never leave your place without three back up songs.