Empower
Sunday, April 14, 2-4 p.m.

Photography exhibit by
Celestina Ando

With Stacie Thiel

To benefit SAVE of Essex County
$10 in advance, $15 at door
Tickets at tinyurl.com/y4erbalq

Artist info at staciathiel.com

Montclair Women’s Club, 82 Union St.

By GWEN OREL
orel@montclairlocal.news

A couple on the street were arguing loudly. Stacia (pronounced Stay-sha) Thiel wondered what they were saying.

She thought about how people were vulnerable when they were hurt.

She turned it into a song.

Thiel released her debut album. “Straight to the Middle,” which takes its title from that song, at the Montclair Social Club on Wednesday, March 27.

This Sunday, April 14, she will play at an event called “Empower,” a fundraiser for SAVE of Essex County, a sexual and family violence intervention and prevention center. SAVE is a program of FSL, Family Service League.

April is sexual assault awareness month.

While many artists play at fundraisers for worthy causes, Thiel is unusual: she’s a clinician at Family Service League. She sees women who are victims of sexual assault.

She has a master’s in social work as well as in opera.

She does not write songs specifically about people she talks to, but her social worker’s brain is always on, she said.

Another song, “Turned Up Collar,” was inspired by the way men on the field in a football game had their collars turned up. She thought about the visual message that sent, and about players assaulting women.

“I made up what it would be like to be one of those women,” she said.

The album is about Thiel observing and analyzing the world around her.

SAVE of Essex County in Montclair has a 24-hour hotline, helps get victims to the hospital or police station, and offers therapy and support, as well.

Sunday’s event includes a photography exhibit by Celestina Ando.

“I love that I can use my art to support something I feel so passionate about,” Thiel said. The event is about “finding power within yourself,” she said. However, her day job and her art are separate in her mind: “Music for me is a personal endeavor. My job as a social worker is all about others, focusing on their needs. Music allows me to get back in touch with myself.”

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READ: OUTPOST IN THE BURBS; GREENWICH VILLAGE SOUNDS

READ: LUCY KAPLANSKY HAS STREET CRED AT THE OUTPOST

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With two children and a busy life, Thiel finds her songwriting room to be her Montclair kitchen table late at night. “I open up the screen doors, let the breeze come in, and write until 1 in the morning,” she said.

Her publishing company is called Kitchen Table Songs.

Montclair’s Scott E. Moore heard a couple of her songs and ended up producing her record. He will also play guitar to support her on Sunday.

Thiel was always going to be in music in some way: her parents met studying music in college. She got her first guitar at age 16, and immediately began writing songs, influenced by Joni Mitchell, and music of the ’60s that her father loved. Artists who inspire her today include Aimee Mann and Gillian Welch.

She is a coloratura soprano, and still performs opera and classical music. And, she said, she has been playing in different bands her whole life. That duality, a Mozart opera one weekend and writing songs the next, is something she loves.

“Straight to the Middle” is her first album, “It’s a really big thing for me,” she said. “I’ve felt so supported.”

She has received some radio play, and intends to play more concerts. And she has songs ready for her next album.

Though singer-songwriter acoustic music doesn’t have the popularity it had during the Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez era, she is not discouraged. “I think people are really craving it, craving connection through music,” she said.

And she hopes her somewhat-deferred debut CD at age 47 will inspire others.

“I want to inspire people that you are never too old. I really believe that,” she said. “You are never too old to go after what you want.”

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