Danville native returns for concert

Leigh Anne Sutherlin will perform at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the Haworth Concert at Danville's St. James United Methodist Church. Sutherlin is a Danville native who now lives in California.

Leigh Anne Sutherlin’s choices for her performance at Sunday’s Haworth Concert at Danville’s St. James United Methodist reflect her career as a musician.

“I like lots of different kinds of music,” the Danville native said during a phone interview from her California home in San Diego. “The stuff I like to play the most includes hard bop, what I call Brazilian bossa nova, samba — just a variety of jazz styles. And I’ll mix in a little classical. Nothing too heavy, just some things I think people will enjoy. There might even be a little cabaret.”

This is the second Haworth performance for Sutherlin, the daughter of Tom and Diane Byrket. She first performed at the concert in 1981 with fellow DHS classmate and violinist Michael Adams after her graduation from the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. After that, she headed to the West Coast where she has stayed busy ever since.

Sutherlin has worked as a pianist fronting her own group, as a vocalist, as a music director, arranger, teacher, vocal coach and as an adjunct faculty member in the Performing Arts Department at Palomar College. She released her jazz CD, “Sandbar,” in 2008, to good reviews.

She studied classical piano in college, but had been encouraged to sing when she attended the seventh grade at North Ridge Middle School.

“Joy Peters pushed me to sing in seventh-grade chorus,” Sutherlin said. “I took some singing lessons, but was always so busy I just didn’t have time for it.”

Then in college, she was assigned as an accompanist for a vocal professor.

“We were working with a student one day when the professor slammed her hand down on the piano, looked at me and said, ‘Make sure she does it right.’ So I had a new job (as a vocal coach). I thought I better get serious and learn more. I could describe what the teacher wanted, but I didn’t always have the proper vocabulary.”

She trained in opera to help her efforts as a vocal coach as well as her own singing. She also started to sing during some of her shows.

“Everyone has something to offer,” Sutherlin said, “you just need to find it. I was able to offer a variety of things to my students. It’s fun. I feel connected to it, and I feel a responsibility to keep it going”

Sutherlin also has developed another artistic talent as a watercolorist. It started after her parents sent her a box of paper used for watercolors, which prompted her to take up the brushes.

“I thought, ‘What am I supposed to do with this?’ and they both said, ‘Paint!’”

Deciding on a subject was easy. Sutherlin credits her mother, Diane, for giving her a green thumb. Diane Bryket directed the Make It Bloom contest in Danville for about a decade. Sutherlin looked at the flowers in her garden and started to put paint on paper.

One of her students, who also had a gallery, saw her work and asked her to put together an exhibit. A year later, the exhibit of flowers and nature scenes opened to good response. Another exhibit is being planned to feature her coastal scenes. Her work can be seen on her website, http://leighannesutherlin.com.

But Sunday’s visit will be about her music. She hopes people come to listen and enjoy.

“It’s my thing to do,” Sutherlin said. “It’s my gratitude; it’s my joy. It’s my lifelong thing.”

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