There are those who never seem finished, the ones exploring every inch of every possible path before them, always looking for more to understand and accomplish.
There are the ones unafraid of the dark, the unknown, because their own drive and need to expand themselves is too bright to be shaded.
Those are the firecrackers, like Jade Simmons.
Born and raised in Charleston by a civil rights activist father and teacher mother, Simmons learned at an early age that she must fight to overcome others’ doubts, rejections and judgments.
She spent her youth learning to play the clarinet, drums, viola and the piano. She was a drum major in her high school marching band, played volleyball, basketball and ran track.
Simmons excelled in local piano competitions, where she says she often surprised judges and audiences by being the only black contestant.
After winning a quarter of a million dollars in scholarships, Simmons was accepted to the music program at Northwestern University where she majored in piano performance while also performing in the school’s marching band.
By her sophomore year, Simmons started a successful dance and performance group a la Blue Man Group or Stomp called Boomshaka!
There was also the time she won Miss Illinois and competed in the Miss America pageant, first runner-up, by the way, before going on to receive her master’s from Rice University.
Simmons certainly hasn’t stopped pushing her limits.
Her list of awards and accolades is long. She has performed as concerto soloist with the Dallas Symphony, the Chicago Sinfonietta at Chicago’s Symphony Hall, the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas at Town Hall, the University of Chicago Symphony and the Illinois symphony orchestras.
As a Yamaha Artist, Simmons has toured internationally, performing some of the most challenging classical pieces in some of the most sought after venues.
She capped off her 2011 schedule with a performance at the White House.
In addition to her piano talent, Simmons is a writer for the Huffington Post, lecturer, youth activist and founder of Emerge Already!, an organization that helps shine a light on aspiring artists.
Simmons will perform a special homecoming concert 6:30-8:30 p.m. Friday at the Hippodrome, 360 Concord St. The series, titled “Rachmaninoff to Rap: An Unforgettable Music and Storytelling Experience,” includes classical works from the Romantic era, jazz-inspired contemporary works and original music alongside Simmons’ gift for public storytelling and humor. Tickets range from $25-$40 and are available at hippodromewidescreen.com or at the box office. Call 724-9132.
Sadler Vaden and The One Night Only’s
It’s been many years since Sadler Vaden first took hold of area stages and barroom corners, where, as a teenager, he slapped listeners in the face with impossible guitar solos and vocals that rolled from guttural to pleasing with seamless voice control.
That was 10 years ago or so, when Vaden and his Leslie bandmates Jonathan Carman and Jason Vox were becoming the new kings of Charleston’s music hierarchy.
But things change, bands come and go, people grow up and move on, settle down or settle in; it’s life.
For Vaden, though, it meant something more, something he wasn’t ready to move on from.
The singer-songwriter moved to Nashville, Tenn., and landed a steady gig with legendary alt-country rockers Drivin’ N’ Cryin’.
He kept writing his own stuff, too, working happily as a born musician and songwriter rather than a flash in the pan.
Friday night he will return to his old launch pad for a special performance celebrating the release of his solo album “Radio Road.”
Sadler Vaden and The One Night Only’s (featuring members of Drivin’ N’ Cryin’) will perform at The Pour House, 1977 Maybank Highway, with the Fairy Go Muthas. Tickets are $5 in advance, $7 the day of the show and are available online at etix.com or at the door. Doors open at 9 p.m.
Call 571-4343 or go to charlestonpourhouse.com.
The Pour House will host its fourth annual Duane Allman Birthday Celebration on Saturday night.
Atlanta-based tribute act Revival will be on hand with its impeccable Allman Brothers renditions to help ignite the festivities.
Bluesman Shane Pruitt will also perform.
The Spartanburg native began making a name for himself nearly eight years ago and has since become a staple of the local blues circuit with his mind-boggling combination of effortlessly clean finger work and fiery-yet-humble guitar licks.
Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 the day of the show and are available online at etix.com or at the door. Doors open at 9 p.m.
Call 571-4343 or go to charlestonpourhouse.com.
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