Celebrating Suzy

| 12 Jun 2017 | 10:47

The power of music. It brings people together, helps them through tough times, brings joy. It also heals.
On Saturday evening, June 17, music will do all of those things - and more - at the Warwick Valley Winery for Suzy Fest, a tribute to the music of Suzy Arnowitz. All funds raised through the $25 admission will be donated to a family struggling with cancer.
Arnowitz, a resident of Warwick for 30 years, was a prolific songwriter, musician and singer. She had a unique style and was a fixture on the music scene in Orange County and beyond for many years, playing with Big Cow, Oxford Depot and Tin Roof. She died on Sept. 3, 2016, after battling cancer for many years. She was just 58.
Together through musicMusic brought Glenn and Suzy Arnowitz together.
It was the late 70s in northern New Jersey. A friend, Gerard "Gee" Mancini, was starting a band. A guy he knew said "You've got to meet this girl." It was Suzy, just about 19 at the time. The band included Glenn John Arnowitz and bass player Jeff Mullaney. Suzy's sweet voice and dynamic guitar playing sealed the deal. Their band, Charlemagne, played throughout the area four nights a week.
But more was happening than just music. Glenn and Suzy were falling in love.
"We were rogue confidantes," said Glenn Arnowitz at his Warwick home recently, after a rehearsal for Suzy Fest. "We played coffeehouses and had great fun. Our relationship was based on music."
Along with Mancini, they would play music together for close to 40 years.
"We were like a three-legged stool," said Mancini. "A third of us is missing now."
Community of musicAfter Suzy's death, Arnowitz and Mancini were together producing the last of Suzy's songs. You see, after not playing for nearly eight years, Suzy wrote and recorded 10 songs in the year before she died. They tell a story, as all of her songs do.
According to Arnowitz, her health had been failing and the demos are raw and flawed, but that only adds to their authenticity. He wanted her friends, family and fans to have the opportunity to hear them. He posted them on YouTube.
But he and Mancini wanted more than that.
"We didn't want to finish," said Arnowitz. "We just looked at each other and said 'We should have a show'."
And that is how the idea for Suzy Fest came about.
In no time, they had a list of musicians they would ask to participate, 23 in all, with a back-up band consisting of former members of Big Cow: Arnowitz, Mancini, Mullaney, Rob Houghton and Pete Verudes.
"The community aspect is really the core focus and it resonates throughout the event," said Mancini. "The performers, the volunteers, and the venue all represent a vibrant musical community that Sue was pretty central to."
The Arnowitz's daughters, Kara McKevitt and Lisa Arnowitz, are on the bill to sing some of their mom's songs.
Giving backSuzy Fest is a celebration of life, music, community and the spirit of Suzy Arnowitz. But it is also a way to give back to the Warwick community, something that was most important to Suzy.
"Suzy’s generous spirit and connection to the community was the inspiration behind the event," said Arnowitz and Mancini. "We wanted to honor her memory in a way that would make an immediate, positive impact on the life of someone in the Warwick community.”
"She fought cancer since she was 18," said Mancini of Suzy Arnowitz. "She had a real life-affirming quality about her. She was so resilient."
The cost to attend Suzy Fest is $25, all of which will be donated to a family in Warwick struggling with cancer. Tickets are available through Eventbright.com.
Tickets are limited. More tickets will be made available in the days before the event if the weather is expected to be good. The winery will open up outdoor seating. A waiting list will be available on Eventbright.com.
We will always have the musicFor Arnowitz, putting together the show is certainly a labor of love, but it's also helping his heart heal after losing his wife of 33 years.
"If I wasn't doing this, I'd be in a dark hole somewhere," said Arnowitz. "Working on her music is heartbreaking but comforting at the same time. It brought a lot of good things."
Arnowitz and Mancini spent months arranging and producing Suzy's last songs. In really listening to her words, though, they realized how autobiographical they were. and foretelling.
"She was talking about struggles she had. It was foretelling in a way," said Arnowitz.
Such as in her song, "Maybe." The final two lines of the song are:
"So long, sad song. Time to let go.
Smiles, Smiles. It's been a great show."