Huntington’s Patricia Shih and Stephen Fricker are living a love story that makes beautiful music. These two had their eyes on each other since high school but it wasn’t until years later that they became an item. Patricia ‘s career as a musical artist took off at an early age. She and a friend were singing and writing songs together in their early teens. At just 15 years old they naively scanned the yellow pages putting in calls to all of their local Washington DC record studios, suffering repeated rejections until they came to the letter ”U” for Unicorn Records. The call to Unicorn yielded an audition and they were signed on the spot. Their career took off and their first record was produced within a year. The duo was getting play n the radio, TV and performing at local clubs. Sometimes a crisis can turn into an opportunity and that’s just what happened when the bass player in Patricia’s college band suddenly quit. That cute, shy kid from high school happened to play a mean bass and was invited to join the band. Stephen eagerly agreed but after only a year Patricia broke up the band to go to college in San Francisco where she received an MFA specializing in stained glass windows. While she was in San Francisco staining glass, she was discovered singing in a club and landed her own PBS special and launched her solo career.
Back east and divorced, Patricia’s 20th high school reunion was prime time to get reacquainted with her long-lost bass player. They married and have been “joined at the hip” ever since. Although the life of a musician can be feast or famine, the couple feels blessed to have found such a rich community of artists here in Huntington with whom they can share their life’s passions. Patricia says our beautiful village’s arts and culture scene reminds her a bit of her other favorite city, San Francisco. Besides playing gigs for grown-ups, both Patricia and Stephen are deeply involved with bringing music to children. Patricia is a big favorite for schools, festivals and public institutions, while Stephen is a well-loved guitar teacher. Twenty years ago, their friend Janice Bruckner gave Patricia the idea to branch out and create family/children’s style music. Patricia was hesitant, at this point she had no children and it wasn’t a very big industry. For her, a song’s words and the message they convey are as important as the tune. She says music is a treasure and it should be used to elevate, enlighten and uplift the spirit. Patricia decided to see if her approach would work with children’s music as well. Coincidentally after about a year working on children’s music Patricia gave birth to her daughter and her career as a children’s singer songwriter took off. Children are a lot more demanding as an audience she says, “If they are bored they’ll let you know”. She says they can also be incredible. She remembers performing at the Washington Monument in 2007 for the Girl Scouts’ 95th anniversary. The Scouts adore Patricia and when she looked out and saw 200,000 women and girls all dressed in bright colored shirts she said, ”it looked like miles of jelly beans and they were all singing along. It was beautiful.”
Patricia has performed with many big names such as Bonnie Raitt, Pete Seeger, Tom Chapin etc. she has written two books about life as a musician. Her latest, Truly Rotten Gigs from Hell contains 75 true stories written by 35 artists in 11 states and 3 countries, it sounds like a black comedy telling stories about the abuse and humiliation of life as a performer. She has also just released an award winning young children’s CD, Your Imaginengine, which won Creative Child Magazine’s Seal of Excellence Award. Most parents will tell you that enduring endless replays of your kids’ music on long car trips is as much fun as chewing on razor blades. Patricia’s music not only soothes the pain, it adds some much needed humor to what could otherwise be a grim situation. Imaginengine is made up of all musical styles and the songs are little stories told in a fun tune. For instance, Baby Blues is a jazzy number told from a 3 year old’s perspective with great lines such as ”I got the no nap, no bottle, no more diaper baby blues”. Then there is the Irish melody “Aunts and Uncles” with relatable lines like ”Every kid should have someone who only wants to spoil, somewhere to run when parent’s tempers start to boil, someone who can be a friend and trusted confidante, Aunt or Uncle, Uncle or Aunt.” Her songs understand the joys imaginations and frustrations of kids.
Well Huntington, with July 4th weekend staring us down like a toddler eyeing an ice cream cone, it’s time to pack up the juice boxes and pacifiers, grab a blanket and bug spray and head on down to the Chapin Rainbow Stage for Huntington’s free Summer Arts Festival shows. On Tuesday July 6th Patricia, Stephen and the band will perform with an Irish Step dancing troupe and their good friends and wonderful musicians, Andrew and Rebecca Perea. (My own 2 year old has developed an ear splitting scream that she likes to break out for no apparent reason. I am therefore considering leaving her with a sitter so that this performance does not end up in Truly Rotten Gigs from Hell 2.) Patricia will also be doing a meet and greet after the show and will autograph her books and CD’s which will be available for purchase.