LET’S TALK MUSIC
By Bill McLean
ILLUSTRATION BY BARRY BLITT
By Bill McLean
ILLUSTRATION BY BARRY BLITT
For jazz vocalist Sarah Marie Young, performing music on stage is more than creating notes and beats for an audience.
“We’re up there having ‘conversations’ among ourselves, through our music,” Young says. “The audience can interpret what we’re performing any way they’d like.
“We’re expressing ourselves to each other, and our audience is listening.”
Young, 40 years old and an Evanston resident since 2016, invites you to eavesdrop on her “conversations” with jazz composer and Berwyn native Steve Million and three other musicians on April 28 (8 to 9:30 p.m.) at Studio5 in Evanston.
The quintet—also including bass Eric Hochberg, drummer Juan Pastor, and saxophonist Jim Gailloreto—will perform music from the 2021 album, JazzWords, that Young and Million produced together.
Studio5 is an intimate performing arts center that also boasts excellent sight lines and comfortable seating. Co-founders Steve Rashid, an Emmy Award-winning composer, and Bea Rashid, a dance educator, choreographer, and theater director, opened the welcoming space in 2016—expanding Dance Center Evanston to include Studio5 as a performing arts venue presenting professional dance and music events among other forms of entertainment.
“It should be a fun concert,” says Young, who’s also a ukulele player. “I get to put my jazz hat on; I love singing jazz.” Y
oung grew up in Indianapolis and earned her first paycheck, $75, as a musician in the seventh grade, after singing at a church in 1994.
“I remember my (late) father (Jeff Ferguson) telling me, ‘Now you’re a real musician,’ after I received the money,” Young says.
Young used the income to purchase a personal landline at home.
“I spent 11 dollars per month for the use of the phone,” she reports. “My older sister, Jenny, who sang with me, also bought a landline.”
Young attended Broad Ripple High School, a magnet school for performing arts, in Indianapolis, and took voice lessons in high school. She played Cinderella in the musical Into the Woods and drew praise— “You’re good at this; keep at it”—from a teacher after a show.
Young then enrolled as a classical voice performance major at Indiana University in Bloomington, but she did not complete the degree, choosing instead to leave the school and perform for the indie pop band The Nods. She sang background, played the moog synthesizer, and wrote songs for the group. But, when The Nods relocated its base to New York, Young opted to stay in the Midwest.
She earned a degree in jazz voice performance at Columbia College Chicago in 2008.
Gigs at jazz clubs in the Chicago area followed.
“I wanted to make a small jazz name for myself,” says Young, who’s a co-leader of the event band Rendezvous, and won awards at the Montreux Jazz and Thelonious Monk competitions.
“I love singing jazz standards,” she adds. “Jazz musicians, I believe, have to be good historians. I like finding out what was going on in the world at the time certain jazz music was made.”
Her four jazz albums include the holiday record The Most Wonderful Time, released last December and featuring Kent Wehman.
But Young enjoys leaving the jazz lane every now and then. Her favorite song to “cover” is Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”
Part of the 1985 hit’s lyrics:
There’s a room where the lights won’t find you
Holding hands while the walls come tumbling down
When they do I’ll be right behind you
“I feel an emotional response every time I sing and hear the song,” Young says. “I’ve cried while singing it. What the song is saying to me is, ‘This is your life, and this is what you have. You’re going to fail, but don’t fear, because we’re all in this together.’”
Young was living in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village and performing at Pete Miller’s in Evanston on the night she met Guy King, an Israeli-born blues and jazz guitarist and singer, in 2015. King had returned to Chicago to make a record after living in Brazil for a while.
“I remember being nervous at first as the two of us walked together to a coffee shop soon after we’d first met,” Young says. “I was also walking my (late) dog at the time, so there was a good chance it would turn awkward. But it didn’t. We had nice, easy conversations and our walking pace was in synch.”
They got married in 2017, and Young converted to Judaism. She learned Hebrew during the pandemic. They have a daughter named Rahel, 5, and a son named Yoav, 1.
“Guy and I are two artists,” Young says. “He gets me; I get him. Creating music is important to us. So is raising children in a Jewish home. It all starts with home in our religion. We stress being kind and good to people, as well as being peaceful.”
Rahel was a huge fan of her mother’s light-hearted children’s show, Sarah’s Music Room, which she also produced for the National YMCA beginning in 2020. Young dropped a total of 50 episodes across a twoyear span.
“You know what else I did with my daughter during the pandemic?” Young says. “I read a Hemingway book to her. I wish I had more time to read than I do now. Reading, seeing plays, watching dancers perform— all are inspirations for musicians.”
Studio5 is located at 1934 Dempster Street in Evanston. For more information, and for ticket information for Sarah Marie Young’s April 28 concert with Steve Million and others, call 847-328-6683 or visit studio5.dance. Visit sarahmarieyoung.com and stevemillion.com for more information about the musicians.