'Smart chick' Carolyn Malachi '06 sets her sights high as a performer
Carolyn Malachi '06 is a performer, student, businesswoman, and resident
While attending Shepherd, Carolyn had a variety of interests. One could
find her on the basketball court, in the Multicultural Student Affairs
office, or performing shows in the Ram's Den. Since then, the
Baltimore-Washington, D.C.-based artist has produced two albums, is working
toward her master's in integrated design at the University of Baltimore, and
is currently in the process of making her organization, Revenge of the Smart
Chicks (ROTSC), a nonprofit.
Carolyn says that her interest in music started early. The
great-granddaughter of renowned jazz pianist John Malachi, Carolyn used
lyrics as an outlet when she was in trouble, she says. It wasn't until she
took a sound design class in Shepherd's communication department in 2003
that she was able to take her ideas and put them into a digital format.
Following a performance at the Shepherdstown Street Festival in 2005,
Carolyn took a class project for her sound design class and turned it into a
passion. After recording a demo of a few songs she had already written with
drummer Danny Tait '04, Carolyn brought on upright bass player Matt Lewis, a
Shepherdstown resident, to create a jazz-hip-hop trio named Malachi.
The group eventually grew to include Euan Edmonds '05, a trombone
player, and Kenny Bussy, a guitarist from Frederick, Maryland. The group
performed in and around the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. A year after
she graduated with a degree in business, she moved to Baltimore and the band
dissolved as the members went their separate ways.
Carolyn said that time has helped her hone her approach to music and her
approach to my life. Her goal is to free women from the bondage of popular
opinion. Now, she dabbles in all genres while still staying close to her
roots---jazz. "Jazz is the major undertone," Carolyn said, "which is really
important." Her style is described as a "modern infectious gumbo of jazz,
hip hop, and spoken word."
She said that it was during her time in Shepherdstown that she hit her
first creative peak. Some of the songs that she wrote while attending
college have made it onto her second album, Revenge of the Smart Chicks II:
Ambitious Gods. "Shepherdstown was the best place for me to be free; it's an
eclectic mix," Carolyn said. "It's a weird little hub of creative energy.
It's as if someone sprinkled fairy dust over the Eastern Panhandle."
Carolyn said that from a business perspective, her work on campus with
Program Board and the Multicultural Student Leadership team gave her experience
with booking artists. "It helped me know the things to look for when booking
shows," she said. "Being exposed to that as a student really helped."
Revenge of the Smart Chicks is made up of three layers, Carolyn said.
The first is being a nonprofit which finds work for women who are
independent artists and putting them in touch with companies and
organizations looking for local talent. Carolyn describes it as uniting
local resources to bridge the gap.
The second layer of ROTSC is the service-oriented network that hosts
clothing drives and works with other organizations to use art to harness
positive energy. Carolyn is also a resident fellowship at Bloom Bars in
Washington, D.C., which is designed to identify and cultivate artists who
represent and advance the belief that art can transform people, communities,
and the world. The residence program supports the growth of talented artists
as professionals, community activists, and educators, and hopes to build
relationships between artists, community-based organizations, and the
surrounding community. Each month, ROTSC hosts a monthly networking brunch.
"It's important to meet other people to share resources to improve quality
of life," Carolyn said. "It's global; there are smart chicks all over the
The third layer of ROTSC, according to Carolyn, stresses leadership by
example and encourages women and fellow smart chicks to dream big, do
their own thing, and pave a new road. "Basically--jump," Carolyn said. "You
have to be daring and be open to opportunities to things you haven't
While at Shepherd, Carolyn played with the Rams women's basketball team
for two years as a center. "There is something to be said for the skills you
learn when you play for a college team," she said. Carolyn said that there
was a "family vibe" with the team whose members did everything together.
"That is how I approach working with artists now and getting to know
artists," Carolyn said. "It was a good learning experience."
In September 2008, Carolyn released Revenge of the Smart Chicks: Volume
1, which was the birth of the whole movement. Carolyn says that the movement
encourages women to go beyond the stereotypes established by society. "Being
a smart chick means being smart enough to make the decision to be yourself,"
In June 2009, Revenge of the Smart Chicks: Ambitious Gods was released
on iTunes and CD Baby. It received Grammy nominations in four categories and
included songs that Carolyn had initially written and produced with her band
mates from Shepherdstown.
This year, Volume III of the ROTSC series, Eclectic Company will be
released. Carolyn is writing all of the songs and melodies. Her goal is to
receive the Grammy for the Urban Alternative award category. "Just being
considered has given me all of the juice I need to shoot for an award. Of
course an actual nomination would be really cool, but I'm a winner and I
want to win," Carolyn said.
Carolyn said that working with executive producer James McKinney, of
Infinite Icon Enterprises, has been one of the most rewarding and affirming
experiences to date. McKinney is the executive producer of her latest EP,
Lions, Fires, and Squares, which was released in July. "Even with
Grammy-nominated artists and tons of accolades under his belt, James is very
much a mentor and a coach. I am grateful," Carolyn said.
In February, Carolyn performed in the Blues Room in Johannesburg, South Africa. "That's a
long way from the Shepherdstown Street Festival. I feel like I've come a
long way and I can only keep going," Carolyn said. Some of the highlights
from Carolyn's career have included performing at Bohemian Caverns in
Washington, D.C., for the first time in 2006. "It was a true honor because
my great-grandfather played there when he was young. The event was held in
his honor. My family members attended and were very moved. It was such a
telling moment," Carolyn said.
In March, Carolyn achieved another goal of performing at Blues Alley, a D.C. jazz venue. Playing at Blues Alley is something she said she never
thought she would do, until she saw Kim Waters play there last year.
"But my perspective on what I can do has officially evolved. Every time
I see an artist perform at a venue that I want to play, I imagine myself on
stage, (and) I make a plan to be on that stage," Carolyn said.?"This past
fall I saw Gil Scott Heron perform at the Carter Baron in D.C. After the
show, I walked up on the stage, stood in the very center, scanned the empty
seats, and then closed my eyes. I took a deep breath and said to myself,
'Yeah, I can do this.' And I fully intend to."
* Jillian Kesner