Grammy winner to showcase songs from new album at benefit concert
LOWELL, Mass. – She’s studied songwriting with Paul Simon, was discovered by Barry Manilow and has written many of pop music’s enduring hits. Next month, consummate musician Melissa Manchester will bring her talents to UMass Lowell for a one-of-a-kind concert for the public and campus community.
“You Gotta Love the Life – An Evening with Melissa Manchester” will celebrate the Grammy winner’s 40 years in show business while raising scholarship funds and featuring young performers enrolled in UMass Lowell’s music-education programs. Manchester will take the stage at Durgin Concert Hall on Saturday, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. The venue is located at 35 Wilder St., Lowell. This is the only New England show currently scheduled on her national tour.
Best known as a singer-songwriter and vocalist, Manchester is also an accomplished keyboardist. TV audiences may recognize her from her role as the mother on the ’90s sitcom “Blossom,” among other acting credits.
Tickets for the event go on sale Friday, Jan. 16 at noon and are $35 for the public and $15 for UMass Lowell students with valid student ID. Tickets for the concert and a VIP champagne reception with Manchester after the show – where she will be available to autograph “You Gotta Love the Life,” her 20th and first full-length album in nine years – are available for $125. Tickets for the public will be sold at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell box office, www.tsongascenter.com and 866-722-8780. UMass Lowell student tickets must be purchased in person at the box office. Prices do not include applicable fees.
A portion of ticket proceeds will benefit the Joyce Pang String Scholarship Fund for the UMass Lowell String Project. Pang was an outstanding violinist and assistant teacher with the String Project, a nationally acclaimed initiative that provides public schoolchildren throughout the Merrimack Valley with instruction in stringed instruments such as the violin and viola, as well as music classes and opportunities to perform for the campus and the public. Pang, who died last year, earned a bachelor’s degree in music performance and a master’s degree in music education at UMass Lowell. A Lowell resident, she also taught in the Lowell and Goffstown, N.H., school districts.
Members of the UMass Lowell String Project through its performance ensemble, the UMass Lowell Youth Orchestra, along with the University Choir and Lowell public-school choral groups will join Manchester on stage during the show for a rendition of her song “Plant A Seed” in tribute to Pang and a life committed to the performing arts.
With “You Gotta Love the Life,” Manchester pays homage to show business and her craft as a singer-songwriter. Mining a variety of musical styles, the album includes contributions from Stevie Wonder, Keb’ Mo,’ Dionne Warwick, Al Jarreau, Dave Koz, Joe Sample and actor Paul Reiser, with whom Manchester co-wrote the track “No There There.” Four cover songs, including Manchester’s emotional take on the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” a Latin-influenced mashup “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” and “From This Moment On,” highlight her love of pop standards and show tunes. The new album is due out Feb. 10.
The Feb. 28 concert will cap Manchester’s three-day stay at UMass Lowell as an artist-in-residence. Her visit will include teaching classes and mentoring students in the university’s renowned music education, performance, business and sound recording technology programs.
“I’m really looking forward to my time there,” Manchester said about working with UMass Lowell students. “We can talk about performing, songwriting, the life. I will teach them about the music industry. They’re barely out of the starting gate and I can remember getting out of the starting gate. There’s so much ahead of them.”
Manchester’s residency has been made possible by UMass Lowell Prof. Gena Greher, coordinator of music education and the 2014 Nancy Donahue Endowed Professor of the Arts. The professorship was established in 2009 by Lowell philanthropists Nancy and Richard Donahue to promote music, art and theater education at the university.
“As a Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter, performer, music businesswoman and teacher, Melissa Manchester is a living embodiment of the musical entrepreneurship we advocate for all our music students at UMass Lowell,” Greher said. “During her residency and benefit concert, many of our students will not only be learning from her, they will be working side-by-side with her as they assist, plan and perform with Melissa and her creative team.”
The concert offers local schoolchildren with a unique chance to interact with a master.
“Events like this are the special moments when music performance is made very real to students of the UMass Lowell String Project and Youth Orchestra. When they have the opportunity to perform with world-class artists, their music has a deeper meaning for their audience and for themselves,” said John-Morgan Bush, the programs’ executive director and a faculty member in the Music Department.
Born in the Bronx, Manchester signed her first publishing deal as a teenager with Chappell Music, advancing the rich songwriting tradition of the New York scene that thrives to this day. She began writing advertising jingles and later was one of a handful of students selected to study with Simon. Early in her performing career, she became one of Bette Midler’s backup singers, the Harlettes, after catching the eye of Manilow, a frequent Midler accompanist.
As a solo artist, she struck gold in the 1970s with hits such as “Midnight Blue” and “Don’t Cry Out Loud.” In 1978, she co-wrote “Whenever I Call You Friend” with Kenny Loggins, whose duet of the song with Stevie Nicks reached No. 5 on the Billboard chart. Manchester reached No. 5 on the chart herself with “You Should Hear How She Talks About You,” which earned her a Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 1983.
Along with writing and performing, Manchester teaches music to college and university students in southern California. In 1997, the National Academy of Arts and Sciences honored her with a Governor’s Award for her contributions to music and the recording arts. Throughout her career, her songs have been covered by artists from Barbra Streisand and Dusty Springfield to Indigo Girls and Alison Krauss. Along with Loggins, Manchester’s songwriting partners include Carole Bayer Sager and the incomparable Hal David, with whom she wrote “Other End of the Phone,” a new track for “You Gotta Love the Life.”
UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its more than 17,000 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be ready for work, for life and for all the world offers. www.uml.edu.