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CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Rachael Sage, CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Rachael Sage, "Bringing Nashville North: Writers In The Round," 8 p.m. April 25, Macungie Institute, 510 E. Main St., Macungie

Dance to her music: Rachael Sage at Macungie Institute

Wednesday, April 22, 2015 by DEB BOYLAN Special to The Press in Focus

Nashville is roughly 800 miles away, but at 8 p.m. April 25 it will be as near as the Macungie Institute, 510 E. Main St., Macungie. "Bringing Nashville North: Writers In The Round" showcases four acclaimed singer-songwriters in an intimate setting.

The Writers In The Round concert host is this year's Listen Live Music, Inc. Artist-in-Residence, songwriter Craig Bickhardt, who will be joined in the round (true, Nashville Bluebird style in the center of the room) by David Mowry (of Beaucoup Blue), Camela Widad and Rachael Sage. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.

Multi-instrumentalist Sage performs more than 100 dates a year in the United States and abroad. Her music has been featured on the Lifetime Network reality show "Dance Moms."

Sage's latest album, "Dance Competition Compilation Vol.1," is 10 tracks from her discography that have been featured in dance competitions or on television.

Sage's involvement in recording music for the dance world is no fluke. She began her career in the arts as a ballet dancer. She would go on to study at the prestigious School of American Ballet, New York Cty.

During her early ballet studies she was exposed to classical music, which led her down a path toward becoming a musician. She absorbed everything she heard around her.

Sage, who has no formal musical training, considers her time studying ballet as her music education.

"I would come home and sound it out by ear on the piano and kind of freak my parents out because neither one of them were musical," she says about the classic compositions.

"They didn't really know what to do with me. But they knew it was a little unusual what I was doing and they encouraged me," she says in a phone interview.

"From there, I just absorbed everything around me whether it was Top 40 radio or the doo-wop hits that my dad played in the car on the way to school, or my mom's Gershwin and MGM movie scores and Broadway influences.

"Then eventually, I came upon the Beatles, who kind of changed everything for me in terms of how I was processing the concept of production."

Sage began recording music at home with a four-track tape recorder.

"Once I heard them," Sage says about the Beatles, "my mind was blown open and I knew that really there were no rules.

"It didn't matter really if you'd heard it before. If I wanted to create a drum track by banging on pots and pans and then overdub my piano over it, that was fair game. I really took to that."

Sage, who lived in Ireland during her junior year of college, says her time there definitely had an impact on her music.

"I was an intern at the great Abbey Theatre with the composer Bill Whelan, who you may know from 'Riverdance.' It was just a real awakening for me musically, spiritually, on a lot of levels.

"It was a full immersion in just a wonderful and very different musical and literary traditions of a culture that now I absolutely can look back on and say has greatly influenced my music. They just have such a rich history of the arts.

"More recently, my favorite artist is Glen Hansard, who is Irish. He composed the movie score and the Broadway score for 'Once.' I just love his work. I also love Elvis Costello and all the gals who were at the forefront of the Lilith Fair scene, as well."

The performance at Macungie Institute will be a bit different from Sage's usual shows.

"Ordinarily, I would do a 45-minute to an hour-long set of all of my material and I would bring a band The Sequins], but this is actually a unique show [Writers In The Round]. It's a series that invited me to play so I actually am unfamiliar with the other artists so far. I'm going to meet them and I'm looking forward to hearing their material. I'll just be solo in-the-round.

"What I always hope to get from the in-the-round type of shows is that amazing diversity and contrast between myself and other songwriters.

"Listen Live is really curating it so I don't really have that much say how long it is or how many songs we get to do. I'll be prepared beyond what I need. I have 11 albums worth of material. At an in-the-round you get to do maybe five to seven at the most.

"It'll be fun whatever it is. I always play off the choices the other artists make, too, and that helps form the song I'm going to pick and it creates dynamics and variety when we are all playing together."