Los Angeles, CA, January 02, 2014 -- /EPR NETWORK/ -- Jennifer DeFrayne is a self-taught pianist and composer whose 2014 debut album, By a Wire, has been hailed as both “an auspicious debut recording” and a “deeply moving listening experience.” Jennifer recorded with dynamic co-producers pianist/producer Fiona Joy and legendary Will Ackerman at his Imaginary Road Studios. But not very long ago, doing any such thing truly was an “imaginary road” for the young mother of two, who had suffered a devastating stroke just four years earlier.
When Jennifer says “I’ve waited over half my life to release this album,” she means every word of it. Sometimes you don’t know how much you want something until it is almost taken away, and you are holding on by a thread…or in Jennifer’s case…by a wire.
Growing up in Laurium, Michigan, Jennifer was – and still is – inspired by the natural beauty of the place, one of the northernmost towns of the Upper Peninsula. Both icy cold winter days and warm summer nights found Jennifer at the family’s baby grand piano, working out songs that flowed from her heart and captured the beauty around her, even at five years old. Many of those songs grew with her over the years, as did her audience: the first was her family, laying on big pillows under the piano to absorb it all, and later came the neighbors asking for the windows to be left open so that they, too, could enjoy the “concert” of Jennifer’s original songs and improvisational works.
As a teen, Jennifer began playing piano live at a local art gallery, where a pivotal event occurred. The gallery owner, originally from Chicago and very tuned into art and music trends, opened Jennifer’s scope of possibilities in an instant with the compliment “You sound similar to George Winston.” When she realized Jennifer didn’t know Winston or any other popular New Age-era artists, she handed her Winston’s album. Realizing that there were others out there making music the way she did – in the flow, from the heart and gut – changed Jennifer’s life, and she went on to find additional influences like Liz Story, Mannheim Steamroller, and many of the original Windham Hill artists. Newly determined to record her music someday, she attended college for Music Management and continued to play live wherever people wanted to listen. College professors, friends and performers at her local theater job all continued to urge her to record her music.
It was then that “life got in the way” for Jennifer and her family, as they experienced a series of tragic losses one after the other. “The inspirations for my compositions and improvisations come from many sources, but are always from the strongest emotions, like the loss of loved ones in my life; the piano has always been there to help me process the emotions involved with those losses and grief,” she shares. Jennifer’s father, sister and uncle are all commemorated in pieces on By a Wire.
Jennifer carried on, as we all do, caring for her family and eventually starting a family of her own. When her children were in elementary school, life interrupted again as Jennifer suffered a debilitating stroke that left her with many challenges in movement, memory and speech. Needless to say, the trauma of the event and being unable to care for her young family was devastating, further compounded by her inability to turn to the piano for solace. The music in her mind and body couldn’t make it to her fingertips…they were no longer in touch with one another. Such is the great frustration for many stroke victims, and Jennifer began a long road to recovery, focusing on regaining memory and basic, then fine motor skills over the next two years. Her physical experience was so life-changing that she was inspired to become a Licensed Massage Therapist and Reiki Master with an eye on combining her music and massage to help heal others, body and soul.
“One way that I was able to get through the emotions caused by the stroke and its challenges was to play the piano,” she says “and to let those piano ‘wires’ soothe my soul once again. Driven by my passion to play the piano again and ‘reconnect with the wires’, I was able to recover and finally pursue writing my album. It was a dream I’d almost let go.”
In 2012, Jennifer fulfilled a promise to her mother by posting a self-recorded song on TuneCore, which ultimately led to her connection with Fiona Joy and Will Ackerman, founder of the renowned Windham Hill Records. After spending several weeks together in the Vermont-based Legendary Road Studios, recording on a Steinway B piano with a team of top players, Fiona was so impressed with Jennifer’s music that she is releasing the album on her own record label, Little Hartley Music.
Asked about turning her life around, Jennifer notes, “The piano is my haven amidst turmoil and loss and my happy place in times of joy. I will always run to it when I need to tap deeper into emotions. In some ways, it saved my life.”
Contact-Details: Beth Hilton