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Working to her own tune

  • Singer-songwriter Jenna Rice, 22, photographed at home in Weathersfield, Vt., Monday, August 12, 2019, will release her debut album with a performance at Artistree in South Pomfret at 7 p.m. on August 17. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Jenna Rice, 22, adds detail to a custom guitar at her Weathersfield, Vt., home Monday, August 17, 2019. She is compiling an exhibition of guitars with her designs to show at Long River Gallery. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Jenna Rice puts a coat of finish on a guitar with one of her custom wood-burned designs at her home in Weathersfield, Vt., Monday, August 12, 2019. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 14, 2019

It’s a little premature to ask Jenna Rice whether the next stop on her journey as a singer-songwriter involves weighing Nashville versus L.A. or Austin versus New York.

Better to inquire after the cows and the chickens and the sheep and the ducks and the turkeys that the 22-year-old Hartland native tends on her little clearing in the woods of Weathersfield, while preparing to unveil her debut album, Bottle Collection, with a concert at ArtisTree Community Arts Center in South Pomfret on Saturday night.

“I’m not a city girl,” Rice said on a rainy morning at her house last week. “It’s good to have this bit of nature, with 50-odd animals who depend on me. It keeps me from floating away.”

The music and the farm are two of the guy wires with which she’s anchoring her creative life. To pay the bills and the taxes, Rice helps small Upper Valley businesses with their online marketing and, on the side, wood-burns custom “tattoos” into guitars.

“To some degree, I’m still figuring out the balance,” Rice said. “There are times with the marketing side when I completely leave behind the music and the guitars for a while. And ever since the time came to finish the album, everything else is kind of on the back burner.”

All of that variety — with occasional freelance landscaping thrown in — seems to suit an artist for whom rigid routines have been “my worst nightmare” since childhood. After being home-schooled through fifth grade, Rice attended Hartland Elementary School for grades six through eight. Next she attended Woodstock Union High School for one year and then transferred to The Sharon Academy, before deciding to craft her own curriculum for the homestretch to her diploma.

“Me and school did not jibe particularly well,” she recalled. “TSA gave me more room than Woodstock, but I wanted more room. What I wanted to do artistically is mostly suppressed in the schools. The arts take the bottom rung, the back seat. Everything is aimed at getting a number value put on it, which is a horrible thing to put on somebody’s creativity.”

Among the crafts Rice taught herself in her mid-teens was woodworking. Her grandfather found a make-your-own guitar kit for her, and she finished her first around the same time she started “imagining one of my poems in my head as a song.”

Before long she was attending every open mic she could find at venues such as ArtisTree and Skunk Hollow Tavern. There she encountered mentors, such as open-mic guru Jim Yeager, who were willing to advise her with a mix of bluntness and diplomacy.

“There’s such a wonderful, vibrant community of artists in the area,” Rice said. “Especially at Skunk Hollow, there’s an incredible group of regulars. My first open mic there was one of those moments where I felt I’d found my people.”

In addition to showing her the ropes, her new tribe provided a market for the custom designs she started burning into the faces of guitars about a year ago. Holding up what she described as her third commission, she said, “The owner said, ‘I have a vision of a wolf howling at the moon. What do you think you can do?’”

Between projects, Rice is resolving to make time in her schedule to catch other musicians’ shows.

“I need to go out and see other people play,” Rice said. “Over the winter, when I was locked in with my marketing work, I really noticed I was having a hard time getting inspired.

“Listening to other people is what does it.”

Jenna Rice performs on Saturday night at ArtisTree Community Arts Center in South Pomfet. Singer-guitarist Greg Goedewaagen opens the show at 7. Admission $10 in advance (visit jenna-rice.eventbrite.com), $15 at door. Rice also performs with Chris Powers next Thursday night at 6 at the Farmers Table Cafe in Grantham.

Best bets

The Central Vermont Chamber Music Festival opens Thursday night with a free, open rehearsal at Chandler Music Hall in Randolph.

Formal performances at the Chandler begin Saturday night at 7 with a concert featuring works by Mendelssohn, Brahms and Ernest Sanders; admission $25 to $45.

On Sunday afternoon at 12:30 at the neighboring Bethany Church, festival musicians join members of the Vermont Youth Orchestra in playing works by Johann Sebastian Bach and his son Carl Philip Emmanuel Bach; admission by donation.

And on Wednesday night at 7 at the Chandler, the klezmer ensemble Big Galut(e) plays Jewish and Jewish-themed music, including compositions by Mahler, Brahms, Shostakovich and Salamone Rossi; admission $20.

To reserve tickets and learn more about the festival, which runs through Aug. 25, visit cvcmf.org or call 802-728-6464 on weekday afternoons.

■In the vein of The Moth Radio Hour, Mark Binder will host a session of storytelling on Friday night at 7, at the Abbott Memorial Library in South Pomfret. On the theme of “Taking the Leap,” aspiring yarn-spinners are invited to share true tales, with no notes, within a five-minute stint. Admission is by donation.

■South Newbury, Vt., fiddler Patrick Ross leads the New England Bluegrass Band into The Livery in Sunapee Harbor on Friday night at 7:30. Admission $15.

■Pianist Sonny Saul hosts a concert blending jazz and west-African folk music, with kora player Althea SullyCole, guitarist Alec Saelens and saxophonist-flutist Ras Moshe, on Saturday night at 7, at Pleasant Street Books in Woodstock. Admission $10.

■Performance artist Matthew de Leon appears in drag as “Untitled Queen,” on Saturday night at 7:30 at the Aidron Duckworth Art Museum in Meriden. The show, which museum director Ben Finer describes as “best for mature audiences,” combines prose poetry, lip syncing and sculpture, with musical accompaniment from DJ Jess Ramsey. Free.

Theater/performance art

Catch Me If You Can, performances at New London Barn Playhouse through Sunday. The Marvelous Wonderettes opens on Wednesday night and runs through Sept. 1. Tickets $20 to $37.

■New York Theatre Workshop, performances Saturday of two plays-in-progress, at Dartmouth College’s Hopkins Center: Miranda Rose Hall’s A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction at 4 p.m., Jordan Seavey’s The Seven Year Disappear at 7:30. Admission $10 to $15 to each.

Music

Les Poules a Colin, Quebecois, Thursday night at 5:30, during Feast & Field Market at Fable Farm in Barnard. Free.

■The Cerny Brothers, rock, Thursday night at 7 at Colburn Park in Lebanon. Free.

■Pianist William Ogmundson, works from new album American Beauty, Thursday night at 7 at First Baptist Church of New London. Admission $5 to $25. Visit summermusicassociates.org or call 603-526-8234.

■ Hayley Reardon, folk, Friday night at 5:30 on lawn behind North Universalist Chapel in Woodstock. Admission by donation.

■Sabrina and the Jazz Cats, Friday night at 6:15 on downtown Lebanon mall; Steve Ellis Trio, jazz, Saturday night at 6:15. Free.

■Tirade, rock, Friday night at 6:30 at Haddad Bandstand in New London. Free.

■Singer-guitarist John Emil, folk/roots, Friday night at 7:30 at Seven Stars Arts Center in Sharon. Admission $20.

■Occasional Jug Band, Saturday morning and afternoon during Norwich Farmers Market.

■ Classicopia, “Power of Four” program featuring works of Schumann and Faure, Saturday night at 7:30 at First Congregational Church of Lebanon. Admission $13.50 to $18.

■ Masefield, Perkins & Bolles with guests Patrick Ross and Bow Thayer, Sunday morning at 11 during bluegrass brunch at Braintree (Vt.) Meeting House.

■East Bay Jazz Ensemble, Sunday afternoon at 2 in Little Studio at Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park in Cornish. Admission included in park’s $10 entry fee.

■Acacia Chamber Music, works by woman composers on theme of “Piece by Piece: Sound, Color and Shape,” Sunday afternoon at 4 at ArtisTree Community Arts Center. Admission by donation.

■Classical guitarist Christopher Schoelen and soprano Keri Lee Pierson, Sunday afternoon at 5 at First Congregational Church of Lebanon. Admission by donation.

■Sensible Shoes, danceable rock and pop, Tuesday night at 6 at Strafford Common. Admission by donation.

■Yale Alley Cats, a cappella pop, 7 p.m. Tuesday at First Congregational Church of Thetford. Admission by donation.

■Vermont Bluegrass Pioneers, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Fairlee Town Common. Free.

■Moonlighters Big Band, Tuesday night at 7 at Canaan Town Common. Free.

■FLEW-Z Too, roots/Americana, Wednesday night at 6:30, at Ben Mere Bandstand overlooking Sunapee Harbor. Free.

Bar and club circuit

Singer-songwriter Leah Cordero, Thursday night at 6 at Peyton Place in Orford; Michael Hahn Duo, country, Sunday night at 6.

■Cold Chocolate, roots, Thursday night at 7 at Windsor Station; The Aardvarks, roots-rock, Friday night at 9:30; Supply & Demand, rock, Saturday night at 9:30.

■Jack in the Pulpit, rock, Friday night at 8 at Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland Four Corners.

■ Soulfix with guest Gerry Grimo, Friday night at 8:30 at Crossroads Bar and Grill in South Royalton.

■Singer-songwriter Arvie Bennett, Saturday afternoon at 4 on front porch of Salt hill Pub in West Lebanon.

■ Royalton singer-songwriter Alison “AliT” Turner, Saturday night at 7 at Inn at Weathersfield in Perkinsville.

■Occasional Jug Band, Sunday afternoon at 2 at SILO Distillery in Windsor.

■ Jes Raymond and Jakob Breitbach, roots/Americana, Sunday afternoon at 5 at Harpoon Brewery in Windsor.

■Sensible Shoes, danceable rock and pop, Sunday night at 5:30, weekly Loch Lyme Lodge supper buffet on Post Pond (admission $10 to $25); Pillsbury Slow Boys, Americana, Wednesday night at 5:30 during weekly cookout (admission $8 to $20). For reservations, call 603-795-2141.

■Jazz pianist Sonny Saul, Wednesday night at 6:30 at On the River Inn in Woodstock.

Open mics/jam sessions

Jim Yeager hosts open mics on Thursday night at 7 at ArtisTree Community Arts Center; on Tuesday night at 6 at The Public House Pub in Quechee; and at Skunk Hollow Tavern on Wednesday night at 8.

■Alec Currier’s open mic at Salt hill Pub in Lebanon, Thursday nights at 8.

■Joseph Stallsmith’s hootenanny of Americana, folk and bluegrass, Monday nights at 6 at Salt hill Pub in Hanover.

■Fiddler Jakob Breitbach’s acoustic jam session of bluegrass, Americana and old-timey music, Tuesday nights at 7 at Filling Station Bar and Grill in White River Junction.

■Tom Masterson’s open mic, Tuesday nights at 7 at Colatina Exit.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com or 603-727-3304. Send entertainment news to highlights@vnews.com.