By MIKE CHAIKEN
Plainville will be home to a performance by Connecticut’s official troubadour.
Kate Callahan, who has long been a staple on Connecticut’s acoustic music scene, recently was presented the title, state troubadour.
It was an honor that Callahan, who comes to the Vital Life Center on May 12, pursued and now relishes.
To become the state troubadour, Callahan said in an email interview, “I responded to a formal application that the Connecticut Office of the Arts rolls out every two years. For the application, I wrote an original Connecticut song called ‘Connecticut Roads’ along with a narrative essay describing my desire to bring a vocal empowerment program to the women at York Correctional Institution in Connecticut, as well as record a new album and give concerts all across the state.
Applying is one thing. Being accepted is another.
“I was inaugurated on March 2, 2016… (and I was given the) news about two weeks prior,” said Callahan.
“Extreme happiness best describes my reaction. It felt like the right time to take on the role. I had applied four years earlier and not won, so the news was extra sweet the second time around,” said Callahan.
As the state troubadour, Callahan said, “ I am asked to perform at various state events, usually tied to the arts in some way. I’ve played at the governor’s residence as well as the state capitol, among other venues.”
“I feel it’s my job to employ song where spoken words might fall short,” said Callahan. “A song has the power to catalyze memory.”
The position, for Callahan, is about more than providing a venue for her music.
“When I became state troubadour I knew it was the perfect platform to facilitate my work with prisoners,” said Callahan. “I’ve wanted to work with this population for years.”
“I feel strongly that prisoners deserve the chance to heal and rehabilitate while they’re serving out their punishment,” explained Callahan.
“Since holding the position I’ve applied for and won two grants to work with the women at York. I’m on track to begin that work this summer,” said Callahan. “So this serves both me and a marginalized part of the population.”
Callahan’s road to being a musician began in earnest 20 years ago, although via tragedy not celebration.
Callahan suffered a brain injury in a ski accident and found that she couldn’t sing anymore. “I didn’t understand that I could open my mouth and make melodies,” she said in a press release. ”Giving up on her voice, she decided to try and learn to play the guitar.”
In the press release, she explained, “Over time not only did I become skilled at the guitar but I also got my singing voice back. It felt like a miracle.”
Callahan recently celebrated her 40th birthday and she has no intention of leaving music or Connecticut,
“I have to say it feels wonderful,” said Callahan of reaching her fourth decade of life. “I have less resistance to life and new ideas so I feel more productive than ever. If I were going to quit music— and I’ve contemplated it— I would have done it by now. I gain inspiration from my grassroots record label, a core group of six people who meet with me once a month to help guide and develop my music career. These are friends and family who simply understand that forging a music career is challenging and being self-employed is difficult. They’ve really helped me breathe new life into a career that I’ve built over 15 years.”
As for Connecticut, Callahan isn’t interested in leaving it behind for perceived greener pastures.
“Connecticut is this small, beautiful state that fosters the arts in many ways,” said Callahan in her email interview. “Each major city in the state has live music venues that promote original music, so there are plenty of places to play. I’ve just begun working with Eric Lichter at Dirt Floor Recording Studio in Haddam. We’d known of each other for years but just met this month, so I never feel like I “know everybody” in the Connecticut scenes. I’m working on an exciting collaboration with the UCONN Business School, downtown, giving vocal empowerment workshops to the incoming business students. I love that the arts and business can intermingle. “
Starting as a young woman in music, Callahan said she has evolved over the years.
“I’ve stopped fantasizing,” said Callahan. “I used to have fantasies about who I was or who I could be as an artist. I was always chasing something intangible. Now I put my feet on the ground, pick up my guitar, and live in the moment.”
Callahan writes music as well as plays (as evidenced by her effort to earn the state troubadour honors. “The most recent song I wrote this year is called ‘Love’s Rebels,’ which was inspired by the women’s marches that took place in January. The world is going through so much change. That inspires me.”
When people come to the Vital Life Center on May 12, Callahan said, “The VLC is a magical place to hear music— and play it. Expect optimism, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and my most soulful songs. “
Callahan appears at The Vital Life Center, 100 West Main St., Plainville on Friday, May 12 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door and $10 for students and seniors.
For more information about the concert call: 860-479-0466 or visit VitalLifeCenter.org