by Lois A. McNulty
“Charlee is such a multifaceted person. She’s a writer and journalist, a musician, singer and songwriter, and a real advocate for the preservation of what’s best about this community. Her song about me and my activism, “Thrown to the Wind,” is the nicest tribute anyone has ever paid to my lifelong concern for the place we all live in and love.” (Peter Anastas, Gloucester native and writer)
Charlee Bianchini, with Gloucester roots four generations deep, went out to see the world, and came back to her hometown with songs to sing.
The 20-something Gloucester guitar player, singer, and songwriter says it’s her world view that drives her to create music. And that world view can be summed up in one word: community. Music is her way to create community.
Bianchini earned a master’s degree in peace-building and conflict transformation at the School for International Training in Brattleboro, Vermont. She also spent a year in Eastern China teaching English, Western culture, and British Parliamentary debate, and traveled extensively around the Tibetan Plateau during her time off.
Travel — not as a tourist, but as a respectful learner — feeds her spirit, but home is where she wants to be.
“If I can’t do community-building in Gloucester, how can I presume to do that work anywhere else?” she asked.
“Gloucester is a rich trove of musicians and artists, but the city is challenged in supporting its artists at times. So we have to support each other. I have been so fortunate to have the inspiration of so many musicians here in Gloucester,” she said. She looks up to all the Ameros (Linda, Fly, and especially JB), Allen Estes, Dan King, Dave Mattacks, and Fozzie Hill. And she credits contemporaries like Renee Dupuis, Chelsea Berry, Marina Evans, Joe Wilkins, and Joe Cardoza with keeping her inspired.
Aside from writing, playing and performing, Bianchini is a founding member of Gloucesterity, a group of young artists, business people, lawyers, and entrepreneurs who have been meeting weekly for over a year to network, educate themselves about civic issues, and foster communication. “We just want to live, work and thrive here.”
Accompanying herself on her beloved and prized Guild guitar (“A gift from my parents, which represents many birthdays and holidays,” she said) Bianchini, with the rich voice of a much older torch-singer, performs her own songs — of protest and of love. Her lyrics honor Gloucester and the activists who strive to preserve its heritage, invoke scenes of the working waterfront, and express the longings of personal connection.
Bianchini explained that it was music that began her education about the world beyond Gloucester. When she was a very young child, her parents started taking her to concerts in Boston (“even if I had a raging fever.”) She remembers reaching up to the stage after a concert to hand a bouquet of flowers to the world-famous Joan Baez. “My friends could not relate,” she said, smiling, “but now I am so grateful I had all that exposure.” Bianchini grew up in a house filled with music, from folk, blues, and bluegrass to jazz.
She started taking classical guitar lessons at age 5, and continues, more than 20 years later, to educate herself. “The wonderful thing about music is that it provides endless possibilities to learn. I’ve been playing all my life, and I feel today that there is still so much for me to discover.”
Bianchini studied guitar with Anthony Weller of Annisquam as a high school student, and has taken songwriting classes with Kate Campbell and Brooks Williams. She has studied voice with Sloan Wainwright and now studies voice with Jacque Chambers of Essex. Bianchini is also a teacher of music. She gives instruction in guitar, ukelele, piano, voice, and songwriting at the Brookwood School as well as independently.
She is on the founding board of a newly formed music education collaborative in Gloucester called Sound Harbor.
Busy as she is, Bianchini is writing fresh songs, and will emerge for spring performances to debut some of this work. Her creativity has been bolstered by a recent collaboration with guitarist Jack Tomaiolo of Music Asylum in Essex, who joins her often to perform at Gloucester’s Short and Main. She also appeared in November as opening act for a show with Boston-area singer Chelsea Berry at Old Sloop Meetinghouse in Rockport. Bianchini will play on May 16 at Essex’s One World Coffeehouse. Check her website often to catch performances still being booked.
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“Everybody loves Charlee Bianchini. She has developed a stirring and soulful repertoire over recent years. The house becomes her living room and the audience becomes her special, invited guests. Tell me it ain’t true!” ~ Fly Amero