Sharon Klein & The Music Without Walls Project
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Sharon Klein & The Music Without Walls Project

New Paltz, New York, United States

New Paltz, New York, United States
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Sunday, March 14, 2010
By KATHRYN HEIDECKER
Correspondent
Local singer-songwriter Sharon Klein has talent that has facilitated global travel and earned her acclaim as she composed music featured at tennis’ U.S. Open and the Super Bowl, as well as several films. For this New Paltz resident, however, fame and fortune are the furthest thing from her mind. That is especially evident as she promotes her new CD, “The Way Back Home,” in a unique way.

“My music is for a higher purpose: It enables me to touch the lives of people in areas of conflict,” she said during an interview from her New Paltz home.

Klein was recently named to the Board of Directors for the charitable foundation, Friends of Daniel Pearl. Pearl was a Wall Street Journal reporter who was abducted and slain while working on a story in Pakistan in 2002. Khalid Sheikh Momammed, the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, reportedly said in custody he had killed Pearl.

Klein’s journalistic curiosity has long informed her songwriting in both style and content.

Her journey started when she just 18 years old, though she had dreamt about it for years. Raised in Queens, Klein would pour over copies of National Geographic for hours and plan out her future trips around the globe.

Finally, after graduating high school, Klein was able to make her first international foray, as she traveled to Israel for a traditional visit to a kibbutz, a collective community. Fascinated with the Arabic music she listened to nightly on her fuzzy transistor radio, Klein was motivated to travel from the kibbutz’s safe confines.

“I was so fascinated with this music I decided to go seek out the people making it,” she said.

The adventurous teen ended up being the musical guest of the mayor of Hebron, an almost exclusively Palestinian town, located on the West Bank and 30 miles south of Jerusalem. As a young American Jewish teenager from the United States, Klein said this made for a highly unusual occurrence.

“This simply didn’t happen,” she said.

For Klein, the powerful and memorable evening formed the beginning of a lifelong personal missive: to bring people together through music. It also sparked a passion for traveling, and today, said Klein, she has friendships formed through music with people who live all over the world.

After attending Queens College and living and working abroad in Amsterdam, Klein formed a music production company and experienced commercial success, including producing songs for such legends as Chubby Checker. However, as she lost sight of what originally sparked her passion for music, Klein became disenchanted with the music industry.

“I got very burned out from the music business,” she said. “I was working full time, and I lost my joy for it.”

Giving up music completely, Klein stopped playing and producing. She moved from Manhattan to Long Island, where she became involved in the equestrian community.

Eventually, Klein found her way to New Paltz. In 2003, she bought a home here and said her move to the Hudson Valley reinvigorated her passion for music.

“This is such an incredibly artistic community — a special magical place,” she said. “There are so many artists here, and it is so conducive to free thinking that it really got me back to making music.

“I am much more on my path than I ever was.”

In recording her CD, “The Way Back Home” Klein drew on her decades of experience in world travel. “Being a musician has given me an entrée, and allowed me to get imbedded in cultures,” she said.

Of the songs and stories recorded on the CD, she said, “Traveling gives you a different perspective on life. The whole paradigm of life is redefined. Shoveling snow may seem difficult, but try carrying a 50 pound jug of water on your head for a mile.”

In recording the CD, she also drew on her experiences in El Salvador, a country she has loved and visited for many years.

After an earthquake struck the country in 2000, she mobilized a humanitarian effort to provide basic necessities to Santiago de Maria, a village that was devastated by the quake. By engaging her artist friends, Klein was able to raise more than $10,000 in a single day through an art auction to benefit the village. She also facilitated the involvement of corporate giants Dell and American Airlines to provide their services to the village.

When it came time to choose the cover of her CD, she selected the work of a local artist from the bordering country of Guatemala. It was a fitting illustration for her Central American-influenced work.

The decision spurred Klein on yet another journey — one she is still currently pursuing. The artwork that adorns the cover of her CD, created by an artist she knows only as Rachel, cost Klein $75. However, because Klein used the artwork for the cover, she said she feels the artist should get more compensation.

She recently returned to Guatemala to search for the artist to pay her a more fitti - Kingston Freeman


Sharon Klein’s story is about as interesting as it gets, and it would be a disservice to lift highlights from the long, wildly varied bio on her website. Especially as the music on The Way Back Home, her debut album does a splendid job of evoking some of that journey all on its own.

In its infinite wisdom, iTunes identifies Sharon Klein’s music as New Age. Perhaps it shares with the genre a soothing vibe, like a warm breeze winding through the trees. But there’s so much more to the store, and it all stems from Klein, a virtuoso on the acoustic guitar and a soulful singer. Combining her musical skills with her gift for telling a story, as on the West Bank narrative “Borders of Stone,” Klein’s debut is as confident and assured as anything likely to be heard this year or any other.

Recorded both in the Hudson Valley and Israel, The Way Back Home is in every sense a journey, one which travels through lands both near and far, which brings together friends in the spirit of music, and which has its own satisfying end on the album’s title track. “The Way Back Home” isn’t weary for the journey, but with the entire collection’s gorgeous harmonies, is still grateful for a sense of belonging.
- Roll Magazine; Krispin Kott


After a career focused on the musical production of other artists, singer/songwriter Sharon Klein turns to her own work with her debut CD, "The Way Back Home." A world traveler, Klein encapsulates observations from her life’s journeys, as her musical characters sketch a world often heavy with heartbreak, but still with the promise of hope. While Klein, a master fingerstylist, incorporates elements of American folk and jazz, she also weaves a more exotic thread throughout the 11-track collection by playing such instruments as the Middle Eastern oud and including raga song elements. A nice stable of musicians rounds out Klein’s effort, including Ken Veltz on drums. - Minor7th.com


An enthrallment with world cultures, travel, and indigenous music has coerced Sharon Klein into stepping away from the commercial music world to arrange, record, and produce this heartfelt, thought-provoking, 11-track debut CD. She’s adept in capturing the heartache of the human race in songs brimming with imagery—a pensive day in Palestine, an imaginary life in Mexico, a war-ravaged Afghanistan, a lullaby to the dearly departed, the wonder of wanderlust as America tugs her back. Recorded in Tel Aviv, Woodstock, and Newburgh, The Way Back Home employs such local lights as Todd Guidice, Ross Rice, Bob Dylan/Levon Helm sideman Larry Campbell, and four-time Grammy Award-winning Glen Velez while introducing numerous exotic, acoustic instruments that would be unfamiliar to the average listener—riqq, baglama, zarb, cajone. Klein commands various guitars and works all vocals, sometimes layering her voice into a compelling choir.

Musically mellow, Klein’s folky, singer-songwriter mode may appeal to fans of Paula Cole or Bar Scott; however, her sound is uniquely her own. Though her words are overwhelmingly melancholy, the music strays from the somber. Most of these tunes are upbeat—from the jazzy stylings of “Not Far Away” and the Celtic sound of the instrumental “Winter Light” to the Middle Eastern tinges of “Noura” and “City of Refuge.” Klein comes full circle as the final, title track sees her safely returned to her Hudson Valley home. www.sharonkleinmusic.com. - Chronogram Magazine


Discography

11 song CD, entitled "The Way Back Home"

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Bio

Sharon Klein

“I’ve always been fascinated with cultures other than the one I was born into,” says Sharon Klein. “When I was a kid my mom subscribed to National Geographic, and we had a big world map on the wall. I’d look up at the different areas on that map and say, ‘I wonder what it’s like there’ and ‘I wanna go there.’ So I guess that’s where my obsessions with travel and foreign and indigenous music really started. I just really love meeting people from other backgrounds and learning their stories.”
It’s those stories, along with her unshakable musical wanderlust—plus the very human faces of the characters in her compassionately personal songs—that resonate so strongly throughout The Way Back Home, Sharon’s profoundly moving debut album. An evocative, image-rich set, the recording, which was made in Israel and upstate New York, visibly captures the far-reaching scope of its maker’s travels. Using mainly acoustic instruments the release takes the listener on a journey through the arid deserts of the Middle East to the verdant mountains of Appalachia and the sun-swept plains of Andalusia. As the players’ furtive fingers shuffle and dance artfully on guitar and various other Western and exotic string, wind, and percussion instruments, Sharon’s vivid words offer precious snapshots of the often desperate lives and struggles of the unheard.
A fingerstyle guitar master who Middle Eastern oud and other ethnic stringed instruments, Sharon’s self-described romance with the guitar family began at age eight with lessons from jazz great Joe Monk and, later, school field trips to Carnegie Hall concerts by Andres Segovia and flamenco king Sabicas. She discovered Middle Eastern music during her college years on an Israeli kibbutz and in the 1970s studied raga singing in New York under Pandit Pran Nath, alongside minimalist composers Terry Reilly, LaMonte Young, and Jon Hassell. After attending recording school she moved into studio work, producing and engineering others and composing soundtrack material for “Saturday Night Live,” CBS Sports, and several films. In the ’80s Sharon performed with the underground rock bands Network and Scandals.
“I have a journalistic approach to songwriting,” says Sharon. “I’m not so into writing about myself, like most singer-songwriters. My songs tell stories through the eyes of others; they’re like little novelettes.” Among the poignant story-songs on The Way Back Home are “Borders of Stone,” about a day in the conflict-ridden West Bank, and “Noura,” the narrative of an Afghani child bride who escapes her hellish circumstances only to see her homeland destroyed by war. The sole purely autobiographical track is the title cut, which examines the world standing of her American birthplace while using the saga of her ongoing travels as a metaphor for self-rediscovery.
Among Sharon’s fellow musical voyagers on The Way Back Home, which the singer produced and arranged herself, are Bob Dylan/Levon Helm sideman Larry Campbell, on mandolin, and four-time Grammy Award-winning percussionist Glen Velez. The disc has drawn advance praise from another Grammy recipient, guitarist Al Pettaway. “It’s a brilliant collection of songs,” he raves. “Both the playing and writing are just superb.”
While The Way Back Home so lucidly chronicles Sharon Klein’s journeys thus far, it’s also a journey unto itself—one whose ancient, mystic moods shift constantly like desert sands; one that weaves together the heartfelt yarns of its subjects like a richly colored tribal rug. It’s a journey listeners will want to take again and again.