Monday, November 05, 2007

Music & Musicians

Mercury Rising
By Glenn Burwell

Marymount Manhattan College’s very own Amanda Lavin is one of New York’s up and coming starlets. In a candid interview Lavin proves nice girls don’t always finish last: Gloria Estefan, Japanese piano instructors, and her love of Chopin are some of the topics petite bombshell opened up about.

Not many people know much about 19 year-old singer-song writer Amanda Lavin. Even in a school with a student body as small as Marymount Manhattan College’s where it seems that everyone knows everyone. This isn’t to say that Lavin doesn’t stand out, because she does, but you probably wouldn’t know her unless you were lucky enough to be called her friend. That is, unless you were sent a link to her MySpace music page, ( and listened to what she had to offer, and immediately realized, when she hits that last note, you want more.

“I’m not about actively drawing attention to myself,” Lavin coyly says sipping a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, at one of her favorite restaurants Per Lei, where the staff seems to know her well. “I talk to people from my high school and they say they never knew that I would move to The City to become a recording artist.”

Amanda Lavin

Lavin, a blonde-haired blue-eyed beauty, stands about five-feet five- inches tall, with hands, strong and slender, that were clearly made to play the piano. Lavin credits her piano lessons to her unique sound and style of the music she writes. “Classical music feels intrinsic; it has been instilled in me. I love any of Chopin’s waltzes.” Her classical training is much like that of her musical inspiration, the late Freddy Mercury of Queen.

“Freddy Mercury is my biggest inspiration hands down, I feel like we are similar in that we both began with the classical piano training,” Lavin said. “His metaphoric lyrics and hypnotic melodies were always complex and interesting. He had a basic understanding of how people felt,” she says.

One might think it ostentatious of her to compare herself to a legend like Mercury, but Lavin makes it clear that Mercury’s style is his very own and she aspires to find her niche in the industry like her idol.

“What I aim for in creating music is to create something that is universally appreciated.” Lavin doesn’t mean this in terms of “selling out,” a saying she despises, in order to sell more records, but so more people can be exposed to her music and her message.

Lavin’s classmates probably didn’t know she would make the move and follow her dreams, because, for a while, neither did she. “I only really absolutely knew that I wanted to be a singer when I was in my senior year [of high school]. I actually thought I would be a journalist,” Lavin admits. When she was a child she would dance to her mother’s cassette tape of Gloria Estefan’s Turn the Beat Around. Other early childhood favorites included “anything Whitney [Houston]”, Alanis Morissette which her mother banned because of the mature lyrics, Lea Salonga (the voice of Princess Jasmine in Disney’s Aladdin).

“In the back of my mind I always knew I wanted to be a singer. When I was a kid people would tell me I should,” Lavin said, when discussing childhood memories. Despite the fact she didn’t always know she would want to sing professionally music was always a part of her life.

The first child of her parents, Lavin, remembers moving from her Bronx apartment to a house in Yonkers, NY where her love of music began. “For some reason there was a piano in the house when we moved there. Anytime I could I would beat on the piano.” Lavin’s parents, who she says are incredibly proud of her music, didn’t dismiss her curious plunking as noise. Instead they enrolled her in a “daddy and me” piano class. “That’s when I technically started playing piano, if you can call it that. It wasn’t until I was five that I actually began taking lessons,” she said.

Lavin in the city

Now on her second glass of wine, Lavin sits back and becomes even more down to earth- if that is humanly possible. “I’ll never forget her, she was a very small Japanese woman, Miss Nakamishi,” she chuckles and her eyes brighten as she speaks about her first piano teacher, from the days of “daddy and me.” Her attitude changes as she explains her second teacher whom she studies under to this day, “I started taking lessons with Irene when I five, she is very…she’s a great woman,” she hesitantly says this. “No I actually do love her she’s practically family I’ve known her so long,” she quickly follows.

Lavin recalls her Swedish instructor suggesting she lose a couple of pounds, “I was in the seventh grade, but that’s why I love her she just tells it like it is.” Miss Nakamishi made her smile, but Irene made her work, and always held her to the highest standards, which has subsequently worked in her advantage. Evidence of years of hard work is apparent in her music and her hands.

Like most artists she breaks her music into two parts -- her music and her lyrics. She explains her process, “The creative process, I just love it, for me that is when everything makes sense in my mind. When I can’t find what feel out there, I write it. My hope is that someone else could use it. At the end of the day I want my music to be honest, universal, and evoking- that’s it. ” In the word of Freddy Mercury, “I always knew I was a star and now, the rest of the world seems to agree with me.” All in favor of Amanda Lavin, say, “Aye”. Aye.

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