When it comes to success in the arts, Nashville singer/songwriter/educator Suzahn Fiering has done it all — performing on stages around the world, landing songs on popular TV shows, and working with legendary artists such as Vince Gill, Larry Gatlin, Pete Seeger and Victor Wooten.
She will step to even greater career heights on July 31 when she receives the “Honored Friend Award” from the Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts. LIPA founder Sir Paul McCartney will present the honor to Fiering during a star-studded graduation ceremony in Liverpool, England, attended by students, staff and other award recipients from around the world. Nashville’s “jazz diva” will deliver a poignant and humor-laced speech to the students and attendees as part of the celebration recognizing her contributions to the school as an educator, organizer and fundraiser. Fiering co-hosted fundraising events with McCartney at “Bonnaroo 2013” and Nationals Stadium in Washington, D.C.
The internationally known jazz/folk/Americana vocalist, professional songwriter and guitarist will celebrate the award with a month-long European tour that includes stops in the United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, Italy, Ireland and Denmark. She will stage a “mini-Beatlefest” concert/party/jam after she returns to Nashville in September.
Fiering first learned about LIPA several years ago when she served as the international events manager for Gibson Musical Instruments. Through her efforts, the company funded the “John Lennon Scholarship” and donated guitars and other instruments. With Gibson on board, she was able to facilitate partnerships with other major music manufacturers and organizations. The artist now serves at LIPA as a regular guest instructor and Nashville liaison, booking celebrity and music industry leaders for master classes.
“I never would be receiving this award had I not followed my heart,” said Fiering, a Warner/Chappell Music tunesmith whose songs have aired on radio in more than 41 countries, on more than 20 network TV shows, and in numerous independent films. “I was very impressed by the clear, clever and progressive vision Paul McCartney and Mark Featherstone-Witty, the dean and CEO, had for the school. It is an honor to receive this award from an institution and men who embody my core beliefs. ”
Fiering’s affiliation with LIPA has given her the opportunity to work closely with McCartney, an artist she considers to be the “greatest living songwriter”.
“At ‘Bonnaroo’, my job was to take Sir Paul’s arm, walk him around, and introduce him to backstage guests who made donations to LIPA,” Fiering added with a smile. “It was incredible and Paul was great to work with. During Paul’s show we danced, partied and carried on backstage for more than three hours. Paul later told me it was one of his favorite stops on the tour.”
Another more comical experience occurred during a VIP graduation party in Liverpool. Fiering found herself standing in a circle with Sir Paul and three awkward looking, tied-and-coated English gentlemen. After being introduced, the men started mumbling and looking down at their shoes. In her typical happy-go-lucky manner, Fiering broke the ice, asking the pop legend why he played the ukulele on his rendition of “Something” during his world tour.
“Paul swung around and directly faced me,” the Nashville artist continued with a laugh. “His eyes got really big, his voice rose in pitch, and in an animated way he said, his Liverpool accent getting stronger as he went, ‘Well, ya know, Georgie wrote it that way, and I said to him, we should play it like an anthem-y type ballad. And so we did.’ He was silent and introspective for a few seconds, and I could see melancholy in his expression. Then he piped up again and said, ‘I hear you play jazz guitar. You should play jazz ukulele.’ I smiled and told him that was a good suggestion. Needless to say, I now play jazz ukulele and even play a few Beatles songs on it.”
Fiering will launch her celebratory tour at the legendary Fredericks On Hope Street on July 29 with an honorary performance with Parr Jazz and the Geni Lamb Band for LIPA students, staff members and friends. Other stops include the “La Rouche Bluegrass Festival” in France from Aug. 1-3; Grotto Mai Morire in Avegno, Switzerland, on Aug. 5; Talmassons, Italy (as a guest of the mayor) on Aug. 10; and Odiles Gibsons’ (grand niece of Charles De Gaulle) Concert Series in Toulouse, France, on Aug. 23. She plans to share more Sir Paul memories when she returns home in early September.
During her LIPA master classes, she shines a spotlight on the commercial facets of her art. She shares insights on the skills students will need after they graduate. Although the artist is often serious, she presents her thoughts in a humorous and accessible way, touching on topics such as marketing and interpersonal skills. She emphasizes the importance of diversity in the marketplace by performing jazz and Americana numbers on her guitar.
When it comes to teaching, Fiering has many career-related stories to tell. She begins by taking her audiences back to her formative years in New York City, where she first discovered her love of music and later trained as an audio engineer. After freelancing in recording studios while running nightclubs in between, she landed a job with RCA and BMG.
“When you’re working for a label, it’s all about one thing: sales, marketing and PR,” Fiering said. Record labels have a bottom line, and their goal is to meet it. It is not art. It is a business.”
After joining MCA Music, she was transferred to the label’s office in Nashville. She performed countless shows and began penning songs for Warner/Chappell, eventually collaborating with legendary engineer and producer Richard Adler on her highly successful jazz/Americana album, “Paris Without His Kiss”.
“It was Richard who convinced me to become an international touring artist,” Fiering added. “I thought I was happy as a corporate person. I was playing jazz on the weekends, but in reality a full-time performer, songwriter and educator is what I always wanted to be. Nashville was a turning point for me.”
Her students also hear how she has emerged as a professional songwriter, earning credits that include TV shows such as “Oprah”, “Desperate Housewives”, and “Coyote Ugly”. Other Suzahn Fiering songs can be heard on programs aired by networks such as Disney and National Geographic. She even has four songs at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington as part of a permanent collection of contemporary songwriting and two songs in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Fiering loves to share her collaborative experiences with Roger Daltry, Sean Lennon, Julian Lennon, Reba McIntyre, Ashley Judd, former Vice President Al Gore, and so many others. One of her favorite experiences was dining out with Gloria Steinem in Manhattan.
“My students make me a better songwriter and teacher,” Fiering noted. LIPA offers them a state-of-the-art facility in all disciplines of the performing arts with encouraging instructors who constantly challenge them. It’s a safe place to try new things, and students blossom beyond their wildest dreams.”
A critic for The Birmingham (England) Post summed up the artist’s musical talents this way: “An accomplished composer and guitarist, Suzahn’s writing style is influenced by blues, R&B, and pop — although traditional jazz runs throughout like molten steel… and she can scat with the best of them.”
Back home in Music City, four-time Grammy-winning producer Richard Adler wrote that “Suzahn is a wonderful teller of stories through song and a great guitar player with a rich and colorful voice. Her ability to write and play in so many styles so well is a sight to behold.”
LIPA’s students, faculty and supporters know her best as an “honored friend” who has made significant contributions to their careers.
To learn more about Suzahn Fiering or to book her for musical or educational opportunities, visit www.Suzahn.com
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