Alice Black, shown here with her pony, Sunshine, will sing at the Western Music Association Convention in New Mexico in November.
Monday, September 23, 2013
By STACEY HAIRSTON - Staff Writer
Local artist Aspen Black will be performing at the Western Music Association (WMA) Convention in Albuquerque, N.M., on Nov. 23, and this year, she will have company.
Her daughter, Alice Black, 8, will join her for the first time to sing in the Youth Showcase.
"Alice was invited by the youth director, who is familiar with her work," said Black. "I believe they may have heard Alice's vocals on my Christmas album, where she sings in the song 'Hurry Up Santa'."
This marks three years that Aspen has performed at the WMAs, and she said, "It is a great opportunity for Alice.There are only a limited number of youth invited to sing."
Alice, a third-grader at Sontag Elementary, began singing on stage at the age of 3. Her first gig was at the Third Street Coffee House in Roanoke, where she sang at open-mike night.
"Edible Vibe would also pull her on stage during shows from time to time," said Black.
The first song Alice wrote, "Colors," she sang for her pre-K class at Sontag when she was 4.
"I get scared on stage at first," said Alice, "but then I start to feel better."
Alice wrote her next song, "Cowboy Princess," when she was 5. She sang the song at the first annual Franklin County's Got Talent contest in 2011.
"She sings to me on a tape recorder," said Black. "I help a little with suggestions and editing.
Alice's latest song, "Palomino Pony," was written when she was 7. The song debuted last February at the Franklin County Equestrian Club awards banquet. The song tells of riding her pony, Sunshine, at Waid Park, across creeks and along mountain trails.
"Sunshine is 27 years old," said Alice. "She can't ride for a long time because her joints are old."
The first time Alice rode a horse was at the age of 3 months, with assistance.
"We'd hold her up on the horse," said Black. "She began to show horses when she was 1 year old, and up until she was about 2 years old, we had to walk beside the horse and sort of spot her in case she fell."
Alice enjoys riding at Fairystone, Waid Park, Patrick Henry Saddle Club, and other area trails. She also rides frequently on her family's land, Buksbari Ranch in Sontag.
The upcoming trip to Albuquerque will mark the farthest Alice has ever traveled from Franklin County, Black said. The 1,760-mile flight will take around five hours.
"I have never been on a plane before, so I am a little nervous," said Alice.
Alice plans to sing "My Palomino Pony" and time permitting, "Cowgirl Princess." She will also play an instrumental solo on the keyboard during the song.
According to Black, those who sing at the WMAs are usually working cowboys with ranches back home and cattle.
"They want to preserve the history of the west and traditional western music," said Black. "Contemporary western music is similar to country music, but without the pop rock edginess. It's an art form, not a get-rich-and-famous deal. It's much more of an art expedition."
Alice has never performed in this market before, Black added.
"People really seem to respond to Alice. She wears different outfits and is very quiet, but she has a good pitch."
In addition to playing the keyboard, Alice also plays the mandolin and enjoys drawing, painting and writing. She is currently writing a chapter book entitled "Mr. Dryper Wears Diapers."
"It is about a teacher who wears diapers," said Alice. "I have been working on it for three years."
"Alice is gifted in many ways, and this displays itself especially well in her writing," said Sarah Beach, Alice's teacher at Sontag.
Alice is also a participant in Franklin County's Gateway program and is an "A" student, according to Beach.
Black said her daughter is also working on another book idea.
"It's about cats who team up to steal my socks and play with them while I am asleep," said Alice. "I'm calling the book 'The Great Sock Nappers'."
"This is her chance to perform," Black said of the upcoming convention. "There are opportunities to get on this festival-type thing and meet lots of artists who are into this real western market."
Alice said performing is only her hobby. Her career aspirations include becoming a paleontologist.