Every community has defining moments when the stars align, iconic events unfold, great achievements are celebrated and people are drawn together in the common embrace of a shared experience.
Sonoma had that moment Monday night when multiple generations poured into the Sebastiani Theatre, filling that increasingly hallowed space with their bodies, their voices, their excited expectations and their memories of a girl so many of them watched grow up on that very stage.
It was Sarah Summers night, an opportunity to hear the music from her first CD, and to revel in the unfolding success of an emerging musical talent in whom almost everyone present felt some kind of personal investment.
The theater was crowded with kids who have sung and danced with Sarah during her counselor days at the summer performing arts and nature camps run by Diana and Roger Rhoten. It was filled with young adult peers who have tracked her career and listened to her evolving musical maturity on their iPhones. And it was filled with admiring adults who count Sarah as one of their own, a girl-and-now-a-woman with unique talent and rare humility who radiates some ineffable kind of grace.
And while it was a Sarah Summers night, it was also a musical celebration of the many layers of talent drawn to Sonoma Valley. Sean Carscadden, the virtuoso singer, songwriter, producer, arranger and teacher, who produced Sarah’s CD, “Lovely Little Things,” energized the evening on piano, guitar, banjo and ukulele. The rest of the line-up included a cameo appearance by Michael Fecskes on cello; Cliff Hugo on bass; Mickey Cannon on drums; Doug Leibinger on trombone; Josh Yenne on pedal steel; and back-up vocals by Dawn Angelosante and Tony Gibson.
Together they cooked up a gumbo of good sounds that fueled waves of enthusiasm, cheers and whistles, number after number.
In the middle of it all stood a musician whose short career could become a conservatory class on how to succeed in music by really, really trying.
Sarah Summers has sung just about everyplace there is to sing in Sonoma Valley, including untold hours busking in front of the Sebastiani Theatre, an open guitar case at her feet.
She has been working at it since at least her early teens and at 15 wrote a number of songs so smart, sophisticated and musically complete it’s hard to connect them to any one that young.
To cover the costs of recording the CD for Carscadden’s label, Delta Bound Records, and to fund the Sebastiani concert along with a live performance DVD, Summers and Carscadden turned to the crowd funding site, Indiegogo, with a target of raising $5,500. Last time we looked they were $2,385 over their goal.
Three years ago, Summers won the annual Cultural and Fine Arts Commission’s Creative Arts Award. Monday night she won the hearts of several hundred people who found themselves captured by her voice.
She hasn’t even finished her second year at UCLA and already you can see the arc of a career that, years from now, will fill us all with even greater pride and remind us of that magical evening at the Sebastiani Theatre when what felt like all the parts of Sonoma, if not all the pieces, were drawn together in a moment of musical love.
Thank you Sarah, and Godspeed.