Though she had only intended to record an acoustic album, Marya Stark soon found herself helpless—adding strings, then woodwinds, then a worldly array of percussion and all sorts of bells and whistles—until she emerged, more than a year later, with a fully blown, detail-oriented studio production. But what else would you expect from a woman with such a deep passion for music that she has managed to squeeze two careers out of banging drums and strumming strings? Who was she really fooling trying to get in and out of the studio so quickly? "I wanted to do a full proper studio album, and make it sound luscious and cinematic and awesome,"
Stark says of her new album, The Garden. Stark grew up playing music with her mother in Phoenix, Ariz., and was already showing her dedication to the craft in middle school, where she began singing seriously, which led her to be enrolled in a performing arts high school and to ultimately enter Chapman University with the intention of studying opera—the major she dropped in favor of music therapy. Stark says she picked music therapy so she could incorporate her love of the humanities, philosophy and psychology into her love for performance. And she has done just that. These days, the Santa Cruz transplant works 9 to 5 as a private music therapy contractor at local schools and rehabilitation clinics, while moonlighting as a solo artist—playing a soaring, cinematic style of dreamy alternative pop, which sounds a bit like Tori Amos locked in a car on Wes Anderson's Darjeeling Limited. Through her music, Stark says she wants to "explore what being a human is all about." Her work with autistic children and recovering addicts as a musical therapist gives her perspective into worlds many don't get a chance to see. "I feel extremely blessed and fortunate," she says. "I definitely think it has helped to lubricate my creativity."
INFO: 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9. Kuumbwa Jazz, 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. $12. 427-2227.
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