Alum to perform songs from self-released albums

Monday, December 5, 2005

Rebecca Pronsky ’02, dubbed the “new Joni Mitchell” by the Montreal Gazette, will give a free performance at the Sarah Doyle Women’s Center on Thursday at 8 p.m.

Pronsky, an ethnomusicology concentrator while at Brown, said about her music, “(it’s) rooted in folk because I’m an acoustic guitar player and singer, but if you were in the record store you’d find it under the pop-rock section.” She added, “It’s a little bit of this, a little bit of that, it’s like folky-indie rock.”

The jazz-trained musician took this year off from touring to launch her singer-songwriter series out of Brooklyn, N.Y. The series provides a forum for musicians to network with each other, perform and share ideas.

Before recording her first album, “Milestone,” in 2002, Pronsky found herself in a state of limbo. “I basically freaked out and on a daily basis about what I was going to do with life,” she said. Faced with the familiar post-grad dilemma, Pronsky wrote “Milestone” during her senior year at Brown and recorded it after graduation in New York City.

“The minute I got out of school and entered the ‘real world,’ it became really obvious that (singing) is what I wanted,” she said. “In college you can do five different things at the same time, but in the real world you have to cut off the fat, and I realized that this was one of the most important things to me, I just hadn’t had the opportunity to see it that way.”

Pronsky released second album, “The Early Hours,” in 2004 and will be coming out with another release in 2006. She will be on the road this January performing in the New England area.

Pronsky said she hopes that the release of her third album will lead to a record deal. “I’m going to record some new stuff and see if anyone is interested,” she said. “I’ve been doing everything self-released – it’s a lot of money and doesn’t have great distribution.”

The singer-songwriter last appeared at Brown during the spring of 2004 when she performed songs from “The Early Hours.” She said Brown students are her ideal crowd. “My biggest audience would be college students because (my music has) the right level of intelligence, wit and drama for that age group and it doesn’t really appeal to anyone younger.”

Pronsky said her lyrics are not inspired by any one thing and called her music “dark and indirect.” “I have a lot of freelance writing jobs, so I’m always sitting in coffee shops watching people and a lot of my friends have pretty dramatic lives,” she said, crediting Margaret Hellerstein ’02 with the story line for one of her songs.

“I try to write music that has a vague enough quality to be relating to people but not too invasive,” she said.

Hellerstein went to every one of Pronsky’s shows when she lived in New York for two years. “She has a razor sharp way of cutting through to truth of things and does so in a way that’s relatable,” Hallerstein said. “She took my (story) and gave it dimension and depth and color: That’s what she does with the world.”

Jackie Delamatre ’02, who frequently sees Pronsky perform in New York venues such as Vox Pop, Bowery Poetry Club, Cocoa Bar, The Living Room and CBGB, said, “She’s a Brown alum who’s doing really well for herself and is a great source of advice for other songwriters or performers who will be graduating soon and moving to the large ocean of New York from the small pond at Brown.”

Nancy Rosenberg, teaching associate in music, who taught Pronsky for two years, said that Pronsky’s music has evolved since her time as an undergraduate. “She has taken her material as a songwriter to another level. She’s a much more mature writer, and her delivery is much freer and more confident.”

Pronsky agreed. “I’m definitely not the cute folk singer that I used to be,” she said.

Her performance at the Sarah Doyle Women’s Center at 8 p.m. Thursday is free to the public. Free downloads from both her albums and a performance schedule are available on her Web site