A Musician on the Rise
By Kelsey Lauer 7/13/09
Moonbeam Sunrising Star only moved to Traverse City in November, but she is already shining brightly on the local music scene.
Ive been singing and playing music since I was five years old. My mother would wake us up on Sunday mornings blaring gospel music, she says. I was always the one who pursued music, did all the choirs when I was in high schoolshow choir, jazz choir and concert choir.
Moonbeam, who now performs regularly at Serenity Tea Bar & Café, Oryana Natural Food Market and Phils on Front, considers her music to be neo soul, with a definite folk influence.
Vocally, its R&B and soul. Its a good expression of my voice, but theres also classical music in there too. It comes out as a really clean R&B, she says. The songs in and of themselves are, definitely ,lyrically folk music. Lyrically, its my feelings and experiences and the places that Ive gone and the stories that you tell.
UTOPIA BLUES BAND
It all started with a guitar, given to Moonbeam at the age of 18 by her mother.
I couldnt play it, so it kind of just sat on the window in my dorm room, she says. One night, I remember I was just trying to play the guitar, my next-door neighbors started pounding on the door. Shut up! Were trying to sleep!
In 2000 in Bloomington, Ind., while in college, Moonbeam founded the seven-piece folk-funk-rock Utopia Blue Band.
If I wanted to start a band; I had to write some songs, she says. I just started playing. I looked at some chord books and was like, oh, I can make that shape. The songs just started coming, and once the band started, the songs just wouldnt stop coming. I always had a new song.
The band played at bars and restaurants around the area for two years until the members graduated and went their separate ways, according to Moonbeam.
I went (to Chicago) and auditioned for a couple of bands, sang in some festivals, she says. There were two record producers offering me $10,000 to do a project, and I was wary of it all. It turned out to be a con. It wasnt like a blatant con; it was more like, I want to do this for you but I dont have the means.
When making ends meet proved to be difficult, Moonbeam decided to try acupuncture school, which lasts four-five years, and then later a year-long massage program. While she did not complete either program, the experience was valuable, according to Moonbeam.
Thats when I got on a path of learning how to meditate and learning how to deal with my emotional psychoses and learning how to yield to the universe and learning how to give up what I want so I can learn these other things first, she says.
From there, she returned to her music, ending up with a job at Old Town School of Folk Music the same time that she was enrolled in the massage program.
I always stayed because I was just learning so much (at the Old Town School), she says. You were able to take breaks and sit and play these thousands and thousands of dollar instruments that you could never afford in your whole life. I got to learn to play the banjo and the mandolin and the ukulele.
After working there for a year and a half, Moonbeam says that she left due to a disagreement with her boss. She moved from residence to residence, even staying in a homeless shelter called The Singer Residence for about a month.
She came to Traverse City and stayed after Joey Callahan of Radius Recording in Traverse City heard Moonbeams music on her MySpace page and invited up to the studio to do recording at a musicians retreat that was happening at Neatawana.
Now, Ive opened for Soulpatch; Ive opened for Rootstand. Rootstand is going to let me play with them, she says. Jack, who owns Serenity, is also part of The Fundubmentals, and I play at Serenity every other Wednesday. Things all of a sudden just went, whoosh.
Moonbeam changed her nameoriginally Teresawhile she was still in Chicago because she felt that it didnt necessarily reflect the person who she had become.
Well, it was a lot about slander, and just realizing that its a poison, she says. What matters is that a person can use your name to get their point across in every single instance. No matter how much you change, or how much they change, or how much the situation changes, that person never changes their mind about your name.
The decision to pick Moonbeam specifically was rather spur of the moment, she says. One night, while at an open mic night, someone asked Moonbeam her name and then-Teresa replied, Moonbeam.
She wrote my name down as Moonbeam; she couldnt dispute it. Then she looked over at me and said, Hey, Moonbeam, Moonbeam says. I swear to God, a white light appeared in my third eyeit was really sparkling and prettyand it was just like ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. Thats my name!
But that was the easiest part.
It was really interesting to go through the process of undoing Teresa as a name, because no one wanted to accept that I changed, she says. It took months and months and months of me correcting people. People think youre going against their cultural reality, and its really interesting to watch.
Visit www.myspace.com/moonbeamsunrisingstar for more information. Moonbeam performs at Serenity Tea Bar & Café on the first and third Wednesday of every month; at Oryana on Saturday at 4 p.m.; and at Phils on Front on Fridays, 8-10 p.m.