The Heights - Arts & Review
In the Spotlight
Not many people would have the confidence to go by a name which, in Japanese, means "blessed one." But Ingrid "Chiemi" Schroffner has more than enough talent and skill to merit her name. She is a Boston College Double Eagle, graduating from BC Law in 1995, and is now a probate litigator in the Boston area. And while her days are spent with courtrooms and cases and clients, her nights are spent performing original songs for loyal audiences at places like The Burren, Dalia's, and The Skellig. Chiemi's music is soulful, intimate, and melodic. She draws inspiration from other female singer/songwriters such as Joan Baez, Suzanne Vega, and Annie Lennox.
Chiemi began singing at a very young age, and her desire to perform led her to become Miss Teen Hawaii. She joined the BC Chorale under the leadership of the liturgical composer C. Alexander Peloquin, where she learned the importance of breathing correctly and how to perform with a large crowd both in front of and behind her.
With the Chorale, Chiemi was able to perform for the Pope. "I feel so blessed to have that opportunity," she said. "The acoustics are supernatural in the Vatican." And as for the Pope himself, she recalled, "It's like love emanated out of him. It was a really moving, profound experience."
Chiemi's songwriting process is very organic and natural. Instead of trying to force a song in one sitting, she simply writes down whatever she is feeling when inspiration strikes. These "puzzle pieces" develop into choruses, sequences, verses, and guitar riffs. The last step in the process is being able to share the song with other people. "You're trying to connect with your audience. It's just ... making the connection. If you don't, then what's the point?" She likens performing her songs to having a conversation with the whole room, simultaneously reacting and connecting to the audience.
When it comes to balancing a career in law and a passion for music, Chiemi doesn't believe that the two are mutually exclusive. Her job as a litigator requires her to get to know her clients and tell their story, just as a songwriter draws upon his or her own experiences to create a song. "I'm representing a client and I'm telling their story. That's what I do. It is performance. A trial is like a play." And while others may not understand or believe that one can be both a successful and professional litigator and a dedicated and passionate performer, she maintains a very simple philosophy: "I'm doing both because I'm living my life. When someone gives you a chance, you take it." This simple and positive outlook has allowed Chiemi to have it both ways. She is a genuinely happy person because she is doing what she wants and loves to do. For Chiemi, it couldn't have been any other way: "When you love something, you just do it."
Chiemi is very pleased to be part of The Burren Project, a compilation CD of various performers ("mic-ers") who are part of a community that regularly frequent The Burren. It is scheduled for release on April 7. The idea for The Burren Project came from Sammy James, the man who produced Chiemi's five-song debut, "Grid-Songs." "Grid-Songs" was recorded in a single afternoon - a testament to her professionalism and work ethic. The title is a play on words: It references Chiemi's nickname at work, and is also an allusion to the varied and diverse nature of the songs.
She will be performing at Dalia's on Feb. 5 in Brookline at 7:30 p.m. For more information on Chiemi, including downloads and upcoming shows, you can visit her website at www.chiemimusic.com.
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