Gorka’s legacy lives on through Tina Shafer’s Young Performers Night at The Bitter End
The New York Songwriters Circle, a 24-year old institution hosted by Tina Shafer, boasts a staggering list of pop stars (Lana Del Ray, Avril Lavigne, Norah Jones, Vanessa Carlton) all of whom have cultivated their distinctive voices through Shafer’s world-class coaching. Hosted by Shafer last Monday at The Bitter End, The New York Songwriters Circle celebrated its annual Young Performers Night – giving attendees a sneak peek at the brightest of tomorrow’s young artists.
While the mood was full of youthful spark, there was a touch of melancholy in the room. This will be the first Young Performers Night without the legendary Kenny Gorka present. Kenny has been a long-time supporter of burgeoning artists and has fully supported Tina’s search for young potential – his presence will be deeply missed.
Tina Shafer, in collaboration with Kenny Gorka, established the collective back in 1991 to support and give voice to original talent. Over the years, performers from Lady Gaga to Hall of Fame inductee John Oates have made appearances on the Bitter End stage. While the Young Performers Night happens just once per year, The New York Songwriters Circle hosts an open stage every month; here a scene of dedicated listeners and industry enthusiasts keep an ear out for the latest emerging acts.
The Young Performers Night kicked off at 8 p.m. on Monday evening. Flown in from across the globe, the charismatic 9-24 year-olds took to the stage one-by-one. The opening number was “The Scientist” sung by Phoebe Davis. With Tina on piano, Phoebe’s expressive and extroverted soprano struck a vulnerable chord throughout the crowd. As Tina chimed in with the harmonies for the choruses, the musicality of both student and teacher became apparent – it was clear this wasn’t going to be your typical talent show.
Next was Olivia Goldfinger. Measuring in at just over 4 feet, with the beaming glee of a 4th grader, she launched into a fervent version of “Rainbow Connection” – hitting all of the subtle melodies in the song’s intricate, winding chord structure. She glowed with joy as the crowd thoroughly approved. Give this girl a couple years and she’s sure to end up on Broadway.
The set-list continued on in rapid-fire, one performer following the next in quick succession, with a sea of parents and relatives hailing their aspiring young ones. Alec Chambers was the first to bring an original song to the table, echoing Damien Rice with his soft poppy whisperings, Jenna Curry, taking to the piano, belted out “Baby I’m Amazed”, while Isabelle Rogers, blonde, passionate and heavenly-voiced, seduced the crowd with a haunting ballad-style version of “Killing Me Softly”. She later went on to do a duet with Daniel Blake, who joined on guitar and backing vocals for “Falling Slowly”.
Most memorable of all, was the utterly spellbinding voice of young Isabella Aguiar. Hailing all the way from Brazil, no older than 12 or 13, Isabella unassumingly took to the mic and wailed out “Feelin’ Good” by Nina Simone. Dressed like a typical 5th grader – sparkly white high-top sneakers, baggy paint-speckled blue jeans topped off with a furry Viking-esque tank top – she crooned as though utterly possessed. Her voice was saturated with melancholy – channeling Amy Winehouse and Nina Simone but also having a distinctive character of its own. The crowd roared in exuberance as the young pre-teen strode off the stage assertive and aloof. Keep an eye out for this girl, she’ll be on all of our playlists in 5 years!
Last but not least was Tina’s son, Ari. Sharply dressed, rebellious and hot out of his Freshman Year at college; he spoke to the crowd while his mother looked on from behind. “I wrote this last song at about 3 a.m. last night,” he declared. “You’re brave,” said Tina. “Thanks Mom,” he deadpanned. His vocals were rich, pointed and edgy, with tones of Maroon 5 and a catchy chorus melody. “Seems like you and I could go,” he sung. His musicianship and vocal styling clearly reflected a musical mother; it was a touching conclusion to the evening’s performances.
The Bitter End is a staple in the West Village rock scene and home to many such occasions. Often referred to as New York City’s oldest rock club, the venue prospered in large part due to the integrity of Kenny Gorka, who booked the venue up until his passing night on March 19th. Kenny was an avid connoisseur of all styles and a passionate supporter of unheard and blossoming artists. His legacy lives on through the integrity of Tina Shafer and the artists she continues to nurture and support.
Below is a list of the night’s performers:
Phoebe Davis – “The Scientist”
Olivia Goldfinger – ”Rainbow Connection”
Leyla Blue- Original song
Alec Chambers – Original song
Ella Bruck – “Say Something”
Charlotte Wolf – “Everything else goes away”
Gabriella Scotto and Cassidy Reiff – ”Automatic”
Isabella Aguiar – “Feelin’ Good”
Jenna Curry – ”Baby I’m amazed”
Nate Collins – “The Fortune Teller”
Eloise Moritz – “Home”
Isabelle Rogers – ”Killing Me Softly”
Dylan Blake and Isabelle Rogers – ”Falling Slowly”
Kamila Palka – Original song
Jackie Marshal – ”It’s not about Angels”
Ari Zizzo – “After Glow”