Exposing her thoughts through the lyrics of the songs she writes is a “terrifying and beautiful” thing to do, said Sara Hartman, a 17-year old Pierson High School senior, who has just released her first extended-play recording and been accepted to Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Five tracks of her first album were recorded by Cynthia Daniels, an Emmy and Grammy-winning music engineer who runs Monk Music Studios in East Hampton. “That’s when I knew I had something,” Sara said. “It was an honor to work with her.” The album can be heard and purchased on iTunes, and the songs are on Sound Cloud in their entirety.
Sara began writing music when she was 14, she said in a recent interview, when all she knew was a few chords on the guitar. She learned to play the guitar at Crossroads Music in Amagansett, after beginning there with drums and eventually studying piano, bass, and a little violin too.
Recently, during the HarborFrost celebration in Sag Harbor, she played the ukelele and sang to an appreciative and apparently mesmerized audience who sat on the floor of the Grenning Gallery. She also performed at a recent fund-raiser for Peconic Public Broadcasting at Guild Hall in East Hampton. But her biggest gig so far was at the Living Room, a club in the city, last winter, she said.
Sara still plays drums in the high school band and sings in the chorus, and she gives her music teachers, Eric Reynolds and Suzanne Nicoletti, credit for her acceptance at Berklee. They guided and encouraged her through the grueling paperwork and auditions, she said.
Writing music has helped her to deal with the stress of her teenage years, she said, which not only includes school work and financial concerns, but what was for her an all-too-familiar topic: the separation and divorce of her mother and stepfather, which became final last week. These experiences had become a “part of what I am,” she said. To “sit down and play music” was the way she dealt with life.
She also expressed gratitude to the crew at Crossroads, whom she called “beautiful people,” noting that Anthony Liberatore, who often plays guitar beside her, allows her to shine without getting in the way.
There are many other musicians whose talent she says amazes her, and some have graced her first album. They are Joe Delia, who played piano, Klyph Black on bass, Randolph Hudson III on guitars, and James Bernard on drums. Christopher Beroes-Haigis played the cello, and her Pierson High School chorus sang on one track as well. “Cynthia came into the school,” she said, seeming amazed.
She has since been working on new songs, which she likes even more than those already recorded, and has been putting rough demos on YouTube. She also has a Reverb-nation page, and a fan page on Facebook.
Her school achievements have included being the first student from Pierson to be chosen for an all-county jazz ensemble, an experience she loved. The intricate patterns and the experimental, cutting-edge sounds of jazz were enjoyable, she said, and she is excited about doing more of it at Berklee.
Unable to win a scholarship to Berklee, Sara said she was going to have to figure out the finances “one year at a time.” And she is hopeful that financial help of some kind will come from the community.