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A Lyrical Self-Portrait And Musical Biography
Gina Scipione
I feel like a performance is an interaction. The audience's response is like food for the performance and the performance is like food for them. We feed off each other. - Gina Scipione
by Josh Davidson
Gina Scipione

Gina Scipione reaches inside herself and paints self-portraits for her listeners, creating music they can identify with in the process. She strikes them with the first piano note or vocalized lyric and gives them a musical biography.

Her latest CD, Destino, is like a storybook set to music. Scipione plays out her own personal experience, providing those who share her music with something she's felt firsthand in her life. The singer/songwriterís lyrics piece together her life stages with clarity.

Scipione arranges these self-portraits on her piano with deep, sensitive melodies. Her vocals, lyrics and music flow smoothly into thoughtfully-written songs.

According to her biography, Scipione began taking piano lessons in the second grade. Since then, she has studied with many piano and voice teachers at different music institutions. While an undergrad at La Salle University, Scipione was an exchange student at the University of Salzburg in Austria. There, she sang lead and backup vocals with an original Austrian band, Cash and Powder. She returned home to receive a vocalist gig with the Playboys, a legendary Vegas swing combo and, then, a chant choir, her bio states. Scipione also went on to receive her Master's degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

Destino is a mixture of many musical styles, ranging from early jazz to todayís contemporary female artists, like Tori Amos. Scipione possesses Amosís ability to relate her life experiences to listeners, but does so in her own way.

Chorus and Verse learned more from Scipione about her music creation and how she tries to relay her emotions, thoughts and experiences to music fans.

Gina Scipione

Does sharing personal experiences in your songs help connect you with you audience?

I find that how deeply I connect with an audience depends on my level of sincerity in what I am singing. When I share personal experiences in my songs, it feels naturally sincere.

Do you think it helps them with their own experiences?

People have told me that they have related to my songs and that the songs have helped them and given them comfort and healing. I know that when I hear about other people's experiences that are similar to mine, whether in a conversation, in a book, in a movie, in a song or from some other source, it helps me to understand and deal with my own experiences. It helps me to feel like I am not so unique and not so strange when I know that others have been there.

What musicians and songwriters do you think really reached out and shared their life experiences with their audiences? How do you think they were able to accomplish that?

To answer this question, Iíd like to mention those who were able to reach out to me. People like Kate Bush, Patty Griffin, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker and Paula Cole have touched me deeply. I think they are artists who have bared it all in their art. They have all been masters at their instruments, so they have been able to communicate using a wide range of musical vocabulary. To me they are artists who haven't sugarcoated the truth. They've shared the edgy, naked, painful, magnificent and glorious aspects of the human condition.

What types of experiences do you draw from most?

When I write, I usually have an issue that needs to be dealt with. Whether I am aware of it or not when I sit down to write, it comes out through the process. So, Iíd say that I draw from those experiences that are most meaningful to me at the time I am writing.

How do you decide what to write about?

Whatever is pushing the hardest in me gets written about. Whatever issue is affecting me the most gets the attention.

How do you intertwine your lyrics with your piano compositions to create your songs?

Most often, I sit down at the piano and play and sing what I feel. I keep singing and playing until I find something I want to keep and then I keep working on it until it feels like I have come to some resolution about the issue. As I practice the songs, the nuances appear and seem to be enhanced more and more as I put energy into the process. Sometimes the lyrics come at any time with a melody. Usually, I find that my songs are driven by the lyrics.

What are some of your favorite places to play and why would you choose them?

I love to play at places where the audience listens; the sound is good, and the venue owners/show producers respect original music. For me, when all that is present, it makes the interaction most effective. That is because when I feel I am putting my best foot forward and I am welcome and the people there respect what I do, it makes for a better experience all around. That could be anywhere, really.

Gina Scipione

I have my favorites. The Tin Angel, in Philly, is great because it has all those things. In Jersey, thereís the Coffeeworks. Wade is very supportive. Places where the stage is the focal point of the room, the sound system is good and especially if there is a competent sound person working it, I have usually found to be the best places to play. Other places like that are the Point in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, The Grape Street Pub in Manayunk, Pennsylvania, and the Fire in Philly.

For almost two years, I produced and hosted a monthly songwriterís showcase in a cathedral chapel at the Penn [University of Pennsylvania] campus and the room was great because everyone who came listened intently to the shows. It was a ton of work, booking, promoting, organizing the sound, the door, etc. But it was worth it. Even when only a few people showed up, which happened once in a while, they all listened. And that made it a great experience for everyone who played.

How does an audience add to your performance?

I feel like a performance is an interaction. The audienceís response is like food for the performance and the performance is like food for them. We feed off each other.

Can a good room make a performance better?

For me, absolutely, for the reasons I mentioned [previously].

How did you get your start playing out in front of people?

I met a band in Austria and performed with them in Salzburg doing back-up and lead. I loved the feeling, the warmth of the crowd, being a part of the process of making music. It was a natural high for me. I sat in with different people, tried out a few things and, after I started writing my own stuff, I went to open mics.

The Grape Street Pub in Manayunk is where I debuted my original tunes. I kept going out to other open mics and soon started playing shows. For a while, the only shows I played were ones that other artists had booked and asked me to share with them. I didnít have a demo at the time. Since I produced my CD, Iíve been using that to book and I am finding more options.

Did it take time for you to establish a name for yourself?

Iíll have to let you know on that one. Itís a process.

When did you realize you wanted to be a serious musician?

Somewhere inside I always knew. But for a long time it felt like the one thing that was too costly to risk. I kept going round and round 'till finally something came from inside and I had to sing and play and write and perform out loud for everyone to hear and the feeling keeps growing more and more.

What are some of your goals for the near future?

To keep doing what I love to do; to improve my craft as a songwriter, musician and performer; to make connections with more people through music; and, hopefully to be able to do it for a living.

Josh Davidson
Josh Davidson has written music feature articles for Jersey Style and served as the Jersey Shore rock columnist for Steppin' Out Magazine. Other music writing credits include Aquarian Weekly, Jersey Beat, Backstreets and njcoast.com. He has written free-lance for the Asbury Park Press' Community Sports section and has written featured articles for its news section, as well as covering campus news and sports weekly for the Signal, the College of New Jersey's (formerly Trenton State College) student newspaper. He has worked as a staff writer for The Independent, and his work for Greater Media Newspapers has also been published in the News Transcript. He is a former beat reporter for the Ocean County Observer who presently is a news writer for Symbolic Systems Inc. supporting the US Army's Knowledge Center. His music writing covers a vast range of topics, from the current cover band craze, highs and lows of the original scene, to the early days of the Jersey Shore rock scene in Asbury Park. He is also a musician, having written hundreds of songs as a singer/songwriter, and playing them out as a solo/acoustic artist. He has also played with cover bands, including It Doesn't Matter, and several original bands, including as the guitarist for the solo project of singer/songwriter Dave Eric. He continues to work on solo material and is presently the guitar player for Jersey Breeze.
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