Vanguard Records offered Kerry Schneider a recording contract in 2002. She’d been singing in bands since the age of 14 and wanted nothing more than to make music. But the timing wasn’t right and Schneider found herself in the unusual position of saying no to Joan Baez’s recording label. Instead, she pursued a master’s degree in arts administration and policy at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago.
“Still, these songs wouldn’t leave me alone,” says Schneider, PEM’s development officer for annual giving. “I knew they hadn’t been done to their fullest potential and that I needed to try.”
Last January, Schneider returned to the studio to record her first solo EP, Detour. She discovered her hiatus gave her time to establish her own voice — a voice that the singer observes is similar to the collaborative nature of her work at PEM.
“You want to surround yourself with excellent players who raise you to their level,” says Schneider, who notes that she has several role models at the museum.
Although she creates songs with a melodic and lyrical idea, the work is supplemented by the contributions of other artists and their instruments.
“You can’t do it alone. You need others to add ideas and talent that lead to a finished product.”
Working with artists such as Aimee Mann’s keyboardist Jamie Edwards, producer and bassist Kimon Kirk and Beck’s sound engineer Darrell Thorp infused the songs with a sonic sophistication. The four-track album draws inspiration from a variety of musicians, among them Air, Bonnie Raitt, Irma Thomas and Beck.
Though well-versed in the process of fundraising on an organizational scale, she turned to the online organization Kickstarter for her own project. With the help of 83 individuals, she surpassed her initial goal of $5,000. The faith of Schneider’s supporters — many unknown to her — caused her to think about how generosity connects people.
“I really felt it firsthand. I thought about them in the studio while I was recording. It might sound cliché, but I finally understand what it means to be humbled by others’ generosity.”
Detour is available on iTunes and at kerryschneider.com.