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Music's rising star

A Smithsburg teen is realizing her dream of a professional music career

A Smithsburg teen is realizing her dream of a professional music career

July 01, 2008|By EVA NIESSNER and DARCY SHULL Pulse Correspondents

Few and far between are the high-schoolers who can make an entire room of teenagers go silent with awe, armed only with their voice and an electric keyboard.

But Dana Sutton, a soft-spoken, raven-haired 15-year-old from Sharpsburg, is proof they do exist. When she came to The Herald-Mail to play for Pulse writers, we were amazed by her skill, both vocally and on the keyboard - and were eager to learn how she got where she is today.

Dana says she began playing piano about seven years back, taking lessons on and off, and had been in a choir for five years. However, she really "clicked" with the piano about a year ago, she said, and has since been playing and singing songs by her favorite indie artists such as A Fine Frenzy.

"I get really nervous," Dana admitted.

She might have never grown comfortable with playing in front of people if not for a time at camp when she was playing by herself and people began to gather and were impressed.

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"It gave me confidence. I keep trying to push myself to be even less scared," she said.

Her preferred technique for battling stage fright is singing as though she were singing to herself while still remaining loud enough to be heard by her audience. As the Pulse team includes many musicians, we were eager to know how she became comfortable blending singing and playing piano.

"Repetition," she replied. "That's all it takes."

Because Dana opened for the Doug and Shelbey Harper band in March at the Blue Moon Café in Shepherdstown, W.Va. - her first real gig - the Pulse writers asked her how she would feel about hitting the big time.

"I would really like to become a professional, play indie-pop, and get better at writing my own songs," she said.

So far, Dana has only written one song of her own - "I kept hitting piano keys until I heard something that sounded good," she said - but she wants to change that in the future.

She wants to write music and mistakenly bought a journal that had lines for writing sheet music instead of jotting notes, and she hopes to put it to good use.

Songs penned by Dana Sutton might have to wait, but covers are another story. She teaches them to herself and said she usually takes three or four days to get them down. Often, she plays songs originally performed by Regina Spektor, whose mellow, sweet-voiced style can be heard in Dana's performances.

However, Dana insisted that she wouldn't like to be a celebrity as much as she would like to be an entertainer.

"I'd rather play coffee shops and things like that," the young musician said. "It's more personal that way."

Submitted photo

Dana Sutton, 15, of Sharpsburg, has dreams of becoming a professional musician. The teen is already on her way by performing at local venues.

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