Local singer-songwriter Joanne Lurgio said she is looking forward to not only performing at the 295-seat Casino Theatre, which is located in the recently renovated International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum in Newport, but also to be opening for folk artist, Cheryl Wheeler, on Sunday at 7 p.m.
When she found out via e-mail that she will be gigging with Wheeler, she could hardly contain her excitement.
“I almost screamed in my chair,” Lurgio said. “I was just thrilled. It’s one of those ‘pinch me’ situations. The International Hall of Fame is beautiful and Cheryl is a phenomenal song writer.”
Wheeler’s original songs have been covered by acclaimed artists including Bette Milder, Garth Brooks, Kenny Loggins as well as Peter, Paul and Mary, to name a few.
Wheeler, who grew up in Timonium, Maryland, resides in Swansea, Massachusetts and has lived in Providence and surrounding cities since 1976. She said she is just as eager to play with Lurgio.
“I love to hear the openers,” she said. “I have a lot a really good people open for me.”
Lurgio, a 1977 Pilgrim High School graduate, has been playing guitar since she was 10. Her father bought her an acoustic guitar and encouraged her, as well as her older brother, Don, to pursue their musical aspirations.
“My dad recently passed away and he was one of my biggest fans,” she sad. “He was a great supporter. My brother is also a great performer. My son Joseph is a phenomenal musician and plays in a Boston-based band called Three Tall Pines. He’s been listening to music since he was in the womb.”
Lurgio began playing folk masses at church in the 1970s. Since then, she’s released two albums, 2005’s “Find A Dream, Catch It If You Dare,” and 2009’s “Nothing Remains the Same.” Both have received awards from Motif Magazine, a local arts publication.
The magazine also named her best singer/songwriter for 2007, as well as 2011. These facts flatter Lurgio, as she has a great deal of respect for other local musicians.
“There are so many awesome players and writers in the area,” she said. “It’s an awesome, supportive community.”
Lurgio should know, as she has been the membership coordinator and treasurer for the Rhode Island Songwriters Association (RISA) since 2000.
The non-profit organization was established in the early 1990s and is made up of nearly 150 members from throughout the United States. They frequently meet at the homes of members and incorporate themes to craft music to. Then, they discuss and critique the songs they create.
“Probably four songs on my album have come from those meeting,” Lurgio said. “For example, ‘True Love’ was a theme-driven song. The theme was ‘sympathetic vibration,’ and I made an awesome song out of it.”
Additionally, RISA has recently launched a program, RISA Rising, for teens who want to learn more about how to be successful songwriters. Dan Durand is spearheading the program.
“It’s exciting to see the enthusiasm of these young kids who really want to learn how to write great songs and do something with their music,” Lurgio said.
She also runs an “open mic night” on Tuesdays from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. at Biki’s Warwick Gathering Spot at 2077 West Shore Road. The Rhode Island Songwriter’s Association sponsors the weekly sessions.
But, Lurgio is focused on the performance at The Casino Theatre.
“I can’t wait,” she said.
Tickets for the show are $30, $35, or $40 and can be purchased at www.tennisfame.com or by calling 401-849-6053. Sales will benefit the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to preserving the history of tennis, honoring legends of the sport, and maintaining the Newport Casino, a National Historic landmark, which hosted the first U.S. National Lawn Tennis Championships in 1881 and now houses the Hall of Fame & Museum.
Further, Hall of Fame memberships are also available. For additional information about the Casino Theatre, as well as their concert series, call 401-849-6053.