Susan Varnes-Newland
by Susan Varnes-Newland
(Guest blogger from Grieve The Astronaut) ~ ~


A Benefit for Music Education in Washington State
The Triple Door, Seattle WA. March 17, 2018


As I sit in my red, vinyl bean bag chair, headsets on, cord attached to the turntable….

I’ve always had memories of music. I imagine being a little bun in my mother’s oven, and listening to her softly singing or humming along to the radio or a church hymn. I learned to play piano at the age of 7. Participated in school choir from 1st – 12th grade. Even in college I would sing in my sorority choirs and events. When I wasn’t singing or playing music, I had it flowing into my ears. Music has been my friend, my confidant, my love and the way I communicate with God. My own children also learned instruments and sang in school and church choirs. None of us ever pursued any kind of professional career with music. You don’t have to, in order to reap the benefits. It’s there to help you heal, grow and connect with the world.


If you scroll back to the November archives of my blog, you will see my story about the Seattle Wave Radio Jammin’ Challenge, at the Hard Rock Seattle. The winners of that event, would perform at the Music Aid Northwest Play It Forward Benefit. I had never been to that benefit, so was thrilled when Bob Tomberg, President of MANW, gave me a guest pass, through Linda and Mark Gordon (owners of Seattle Wave Radio).

Music Aid Northwest is a non-profit organization that raises funds for music education in Washington. Through the sale of their Music Matters specialty licenses plates and their annual Play It Forward gala, they have donated over $500,000 to music education. Through a simple grant process which they have created with partners WMEA (Washington Music Educators Association) they provide supplemental funds to bolster music programs that have been hit hard by budget cuts. They have an impressive committee, including local rock stars Alan White(YES) and Steve Fossen (Heart and Heart by Heart). Plus, numerous representatives and sponsors from local businesses. And from their successful donations, obviously, a group of dedicated supporters.

There have been studies that show the importance of music education, in both the beginning of our lives, and the end. Children with music classes graduate at higher rates and have better attendance than children that don’t have music classes. And, recent studies have shown the impact of music on aging and dementia. A new study found personalized music and memory therapy helped decrease antipsychotic and anti-anxiety medication, as well as improve dementia symptoms.



Carina DeAngelo

I walked into The Triple Door not knowing what to expect. I decided to let the music direct me, rather than I direct the music. It didn’t take long for that direction to begin. As soon as I entered and found Mark and Linda Gordon, they showed me around and gave introductions. I finally found myself sitting on a stool back in a Green Room, with musician Carina DeAngelo and her band. I was delighted to have this opportunity to get to know her better, since her performance at The Hard Rock Jammin Challenge was hindered by laryngitis and a 102-degree fever. I felt so badly for her.

However, I found through our conversation, that this bump in the road, provided her a chance to rest and reset her future. She is now collaborating with local artist Patrick Vincent, and will be debuting a new album this year, titled “Come Over”. She has infectious energy and enthusiasm, which follows through into her fellow band members. I also found out, that Carina’s musical career was personally assisted by a scholarship from MANW, during a challenging time in their family’s lives. And as often happens, this type of family stress could completely end any pursuit of music. But, the scholarship kept her music dreams alive. Her Mom, Amy, has her own experience with a music career, and lovingly guides and assists Carina. I was excited to hear their band perform. They walked out onstage looking and acting like rockstars. Their energy was through the roof, and you could tell they were having the time of their lives. This time, I could hear Carina’s voice, and it was strong and beautiful. Their band had an awesome vibe connection, which normally would have been difficult to pull off with a brand-new band member. But the creative relationship between Carina and Patrick was obvious. I walked back to their Green Room after the performance, to congratulate them. Post performance celebrations were in full steam! They had a lot to be proud of. I’m looking forward to more of their music and the album release.



The next band I sat down and talked with was Enloe, the winners of the Hard Rock Jammin’ Challenge 2017. This would be the second time I would see the band perform, and the third time to see lead singer/guitarist Taylor Enloe perform. It’s been fascinating watching his career reboot and take form. I interviewed him last August and wrote an Artist Spotlight Blog about his musical journey. His wife, Mackenzie, is his keyboardist. I asked her if she gets nervous before a performance, and she said she feels more excited. The spotlight is on Taylor, not her, so the stress isn’t as high. Taylor said he only feel anxious when the wait between sound check and the performance is several hours. Understandable. I can only imagine the amount of adrenaline flowing through his body. I have terrible stage fright, so it’s always amazing to have these calm conversations with musicians, before they go onstage. How do they do it?!

Enloe started out by rocking us into an excited frenzy! Wow, Taylor just keeps performing at a higher level. And, they kept the direction of the music perfectly flowing. First it was high energy, then it was brought down a notch, so we could relax and breathe, and then they cranked it back up! Tight, professional and ready to go up to the next level. You will be seeing Enloe performing in the local club circuit, soon. And honestly, I see them opening for large, national acts not long after. Keep your eyes on them!


Jessica Lynne and Cirke Cherokee Showcase

My ears were really looking forward to this portion of the evening. Last summer, when I saw Jessica and her band onstage at the LRS Country Fest, I saw a musician that was ready to ramp up to the next level. This past winter, Jessica did a necessary band restructure, to align with her continuing artistic growth. She added Cirke Cherokee and, Taylor Enloe. Cirke moved from Denmark to Washington, just like Jessica, to pursue her music dream. During our conversation before the show, she said she was nervously excited to be performing her newly recorded song “After”. I love watching these artists making their dreams come true!

After watching their trio performance onstage, I went WOW! Now, this is what I’m talking about!
And there are still 4 more people to add to the band! This is going to be an exciting year. The band was great before, but the addition of new musicians opened the door to more creativity. Cirke adds a delicious R &B vibe to their music. Then there’s Taylor tearing up the stage. That man can accompany and play anything. The first time I am going to see the entire band perform together with their new sound, is at The Band in Seattle taping on April 5th. That’s going to be a killer show!


Pat O’Day

An impressive moment during the event, was the presentation of the first annual Washington Music Icon Award to legendary Seattle Broadcaster Pat O’Day. The presenter was Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member (and original Heart founder) Steve Fossen. I love all parts of the band Heart. Past, present and in between. And, like every 60’s-70’s child from Washington state, am in awe of the impact Pat O’Day has had on the Seattle music scene. The presentation occurred right when Jessica Lynne, Taylor Enloe and Cirke Cherokee were setting up onstage. I kept thinking “WOW! Now THAT’S Cool! “

I loved listening to Pat’s stories of his music memories. The people he has met, the bands he brought to Seattle, the difference he has made in our music community. I was honored to get a chance to talk to him afterwards and thank him. Truly a legend.


Other Performers…

Other performers, that I did not get a chance to meet were opera singer/student performer, Jaydon Beleford. The audience was standing on their feet, clapping in appreciation after his performance. An outstanding talent. And the excellent tribute bands Just One Look and The Kings of Hollywood, closed out the event, with their covers of Linda Ronstadt and The Eagles. Everyone was up dancing and singing. A perfect way to close out the very successful, fundraising event.


Music DOES matter. Especially in the Seattle area. We have a rich music history, that needs to continue and be cultivated into generations to come. Non-profits like Music Aid Northwest are what is keeping the music alive. Everyone should have access to instruments and music instruction. After talking with all of these musicians, I truly understand how important this performance was to each of them. To be able to stand on The Triple Door Stage and have their voices and instruments heard, were dreams coming true. And the only reason it happened, is because of Music Education. And through their voluntary Playing It Forward, they helped to raise $80,000, that will go towards another aspiring musician on their personal journey with music.

I am going to close with some thoughts from that evening.

When I was having a conversation with Pat O’Day, he said something that stuck with me. “Always say Yes to an opportunity, because you have a 50-50 chance of succeeding.”

Shortly after that, I had a conversation with Jessica Lynne. She said, “Musicians are the vessels to share the Message and the Light.”



Music Aid Northwest

Washington Music Educators

Seattle Wave Radio

The Triple Door

Carina DeAngelo on Facebook and Instagram

Enloe Official on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

Jessica Lynne

Just One Look

Kings of Hollywood