Sound Surfing / State troubadours show off songwriting skills

Next week’s Songwriting Circle at The Sounds of Liberty Square series includes a pair of performers, Kate Callahan and Lara Herscovitch, whose musical talents have represented the state.

Both Callahan and Herscovitch served as Connecticut state troubadours, and at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 18, they share the stage with two other singer-songwriters, Sean Ryan and Seth Adam, in a free concert taking place at Constitution Park, located at the foot of the Stroffolino Bridge connecting South and East Norwalk.

The state troubadour “serves as an ambassador of music and song and promotes cultural literacy among Connecticut citizens” according to the CT.Gov website. The Department of Economic and Community Development, Connecticut Office of the Arts (COA) appoints the state troubadour based on the recommendation of a review panel. The initiative was established in 1991, and former troubadours include Fairfield’s Kristen Graves and Mike Kachuba, who produced the long-running Rabbit Hill Coffehouse in Westport. Callahan served as troubadour from 2016-18; Herscovitch’s term was 2009-10.

Callahan has nothing but good things to say about her tenure as the state’s musical rep.

“I loved it,” she said. “I had a vision for my tenure even before I was given the position. I wanted to work with inmates and help to empowerment their voices. I had the honor of working with about 40 women at York Correctional Institution over the course of nine months. This was the highlight of my time as troubadour, that and getting to play lots of shows with fellow past Troubadours Kristen Graves and Lara Herscovitch.”

She does about 50 shows a year, tours nationally, and describes “Triumph,” her latest CD as “totally uplifting, soothing and optimistic.”

“I loved writing it,” Callahan said. “It helped me define myself as an artist who empowers herself and others.”

The project includes a companion CD of spoken affirmations and a deck of affirmation cards, both called “Triumphant You.”

The songwriter, who’s based in West Hartford, remembers one state troubadour show in particular. “I played two of my original songs for the House of Representatives on the morning of a polarizing vote,” Callahan recalled. “I joked that I was there to ‘calm the partisans.’”

Lara Herscovitch has fond memories of her time as state troubadour, as well.

“It was an absolute honor and a great experience,” she said. “Being the state troubadour connected me to lots of new people and communities. It deepened my love of our state, moved my music career to the next level, and overall was a real gift.”

“The existence of the position is rare among states,” Herscovitch added. “As far as I know, Connecticut is the only one with a state troubadour position. Especially within our current national culture that does not prioritize the arts, it’s great leadership to do so, sending the clear message that the arts matter, in education and in life in general.”

Herscovitch lives in North Guilford and does about 60 shows a year. The songwriter, whose very first live gig was in Stamford at an open mike night, is writing songs for a new album — working title, “The Highway Philosophers.” She’s also working with a backup band of the same name, writing a book, staying healthy and fit — “doing daily yoga,” she said, — and designing workshops.

“For 18 years, I pursued music part-time alongside a career in social work policy. Last year, it was time to move to full-time music. So these days, I’m touring more, along the U.S. East Coast, teaching songwriting and other themes,” Herscovitch said, with events planned at the Omega Institute in October. “I’m also working as a freelance writer, creative director and editor of a blog for a terrific community leadership program — — which thankfully keeps me connected to the work and leaders I also love.”

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Mike Horyczun’s Sound Surfing column appears every Saturday in The Hour. Mike can be reached at: