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'Smart chick' Carolyn Malachi '06 sets her sights high as a performer

Carolyn Malachi '06 is a performer, student, businesswoman, and resident "smart chick."

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 globe."

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 considered before."

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," Carolyn said.

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


p h o t o s

Cover of Carolyn Malachi's latest album "Lions, Fires, & Squares"

w e b s i t e s

Carolyn Malachi on Facebook

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