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  • Writer's pictureShea Stanfield

Improv for the Soul

The evolving history of man is simultaneous with the evolution of human expression through music. Oliver Sacks wrote in his book Awakenings, "The power of music to integrate and cure is the most profound nonchemical medication." Local musician Sherry Finzer has spent a lifetime contributing to the songbook of our shared humanity. Sherry’s journey began in Syracuse, New York; she spent her first 13 years in Brewerton before her parents moved to the suburbs of Rochester, where she finished schooling, met her husband, and raised two sons, Nick and Tyler. In 2005, the family packed up and moved to Phoenix, Arizona where her husband was starting a new job. Their oldest son, Nick, stayed behind to attend the Eastman School of Music, while Tyler looked forward to new adventures in Arizona.

Sherry’s musical journey started as a child studying privately with Glennda Dove-Pellito, a gifted classically trained flutist who studied with Jean-Pierre Rampal at the Paris Conservatory. Sherry readily admits Rampal was an enormous influence on her classical style.

When she moved to Phoenix, Sherry joined a flamenco band and also worked with an electric harpist. The experience would be a turning point in Sherry's style and career. She was inspired by the music of Paul Horn, an improvisation jazz flutist, and creator of new age music CDs. He became known for his Inside the Taj Mahal recordings, which became a significant hit. Sherry decided, at that point, to learn "improv," pushing her limits and learning to play by ear. A massive undertaking for a classically trained musician who was secure in the musical “comfort zone” of sheet music. The decision would prove to be one of the most advantageous steps of her musical career.

Sherry credits the collaboration with other musicians from various genres as an essential benefit to the growth in her musical life. She shares, "Each time I sit in with a new artist, I hear different influences, and many take me out of my comfort zone to try something new."

She uses, as an example, the experience of playing with Trialogue, a group made up of pan-global percussionist Will Clipman and the American country artist Darin Mahoney. She also performs with ambient artist Tom Moore, Native American flutist Mark Holland, low flute professional Peter Sheridan, and several U.S.-based pianists including Greg Maroney, Joseph Akins, and Lynn Tredeau. Sherry has also discovered The Tank, a 70-foot-tall empty water cistern in Rangely, Colorado. She explains, "The 45 reverb lets me carry on a conversation with The Tank, which is magical and inspirational."

"Each time I sit in with a new artist, I hear different influences, and many take me out of my comfort zone to try something new.”

In addition to keeping up with a performance and composition schedule, Sherry also manages her record label, Heart Dance Records, where she promotes artists in the contemporary instrumental, world, and new age genres. Heart Dance Records’ primary focus is introducing and promoting music used as a healing tool to support physical, mental, and emotional health in all populations. Sherry is active in introducing world music to children K-5 as well. For this purpose, she formed a not-for-profit organization, the Arizona World Music Initiative, in 2009. The goal of the Initiative is to introduce world music to children through artists in residency and outreach programs.

"Opening yourself to new ideas, collaboration with others, and finding your niche" is Sherry’s advice for opening the doors to awe-inspiring experiences. Sherry's collaboration with various talented artists in improvisational settings has put Heart Dance Records firmly in the top awards column for consecutive years. Sherry is a member of the World Flute Association, National Flute Association, Mindful Music Association, and Arizona World Music Initiative. She live-streams weekly on the Insight Timer app, occasionally on Facebook and YouTube, and performs throughout the year in private and public events in Arizona and across the U.S. Beethoven wrote, "Music can touch your soul and change the world." The statement undoubtedly has proven true with Sherry Finzer's life work in music.


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