Living a real-life dream come true, musician Sherma Andrews, of Ridgewood, is working to bring people together with the gift of music.
Starting at the young age of 4-and-a-half in Trinidad, Andrews always knew she was meant for a life of music. That Christmas, she received an accordion, and after her rendition of “Joy to the World,” everyone surrounding her was sure of her talents.
“It felt normal, and then I realized like, ‘Oh, why is everyone looking at me, just ‘cause I’m 4-and-a-half, playing the accordion? That’s not a big deal.’ But that was special, and I later found out I had perfect pitch and that I was a child prodigy,” she said.
By seven, she had started playing the organ at her church, her feet barely able to reach the pedals. She then moved onto singing, and that’s where she found her passion.
“It was just something that made me feel happy and natural and being on stage isn’t scary for me,” Andrews said. “It felt like the most comfortable to me. I don’t know why, but I’m so happy and comfortable doing music.”
Her career began there. With her love of singing stemmed from growing up in a musical family, Andrews began singing for parties, weddings and other types of events. Then, another opportunity was presented to her: a full scholarship at Berklee College of Music in Boston. From there, she moved onto teaching at Berklee after she had graduated.
With her brother’s encouragement too, Andrews also began to dabble in songwriting, putting her stories to melody. And with that, she was able to take her career to new heights.
“Then, I went on tour with Enrique Iglesias and, on that tour, I met Whitney Houston. I filled in for Whitney Houston. Also, my songwriting won the Caribbean Song Festival. All these great things were happening to me, and it just kept going from there. I met some great people; it’s a lot of fun seeing that people are actually enjoying what I do, not just me enjoying what I do, but others too. I love it, and it’s really cool to have that experience,” she said.
Her songs have also been featured on soap operas like The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful. Andrews’ first album “Guilty” was released in 2016 with influences stemming from Valerie Simpson and Whitney Houston and a sound Andrews described as a mix of pop, R&B and jazz. Additionally, she has performed at multiple venues, including the Cape Cod Jazz Festival, one of her favorite venues, as well as the B.B. King Blues Club. She also loves performing around the Ridgewood area.
Andrews further developed a show called “The Legendary Lady Singers,” a tribute to the strong women influences that have affected her life and her career.
“Valerie Simpson is an amazing star. She wrote ‘I’m Every Woman,’ and that song is just how I feel because there’s so many influences in my life, like all the different singers, and that’s why I developed the show called The Legendary Lady Singer because the show is exactly what I am; I am a mixture of all these people because I grew listening to them,” Andrews said.
“I grew up listening to Sade; I grew up listening to Ella Fitzgerald; I grew up listening to Whitney Houston, but when it came to Valerie Simpson, I listened to her singing, beautiful, I listened to her art, her writing and I would say that’s who I look up to the most because I love how great she wrote. She wrote things like ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.’ They were a powerful couple, Ashford and Simpson, and I would listen to her music on the radio and every Thursday at the Sugar Bar on 72nd Street, I can go in and say ‘hi’ to her. That’s how crazy it is,” she continued. “People take that for granted, but this is someone I love and looked up to, but I can call her up now. It’s amazing. I am just so happy that I can do that and say Valerie Simpson is a friend, and I love her and she’s not just someone I look up to or emulate, but she’s someone I can call a friend. It’s crazy. This is my dream come true.”
This show itself has become what Andrews is most proud of in her career. What it represents to her is strength of women and their musical influences. Throughout it, she describes the influence and sings the legendary singers’ songs with her own twist. The audience’s response has been very welcoming to her too.
“I think honestly knowing that this show that I developed from my heart is actually being received so warmly by my audience [is my proudest moment],” she said. “Every time I perform it, they want to see it again and again. Just knowing my baby, The Legendary Lady Singer, is causing a little raucous in the community is wonderful and I can say, ‘Wow, this is my baby and it’s something I put together.’ Hearing applause when I sing my original songs at my show… it’s all about the performance for me, like when I’m actually performing my original songs and my show. It’s the best feeling in the world. I’ve received great awards; I’ve sang at CitiField; I’ve done really huge things but knowing my show is well received is amazing to me.”
Another valuable aspect to her career is philanthropy, something her mother made sure to instill in her family. Growing up, as part of a family of six kids, Andrews said while they may not have had much, they had the spirit of giving. Andrews carries that spirit heavily in her career, with the help of Ro Sorce, a board member at Hackensack Children’s Hospital. Each year, with a group of friends, Sorce helps set up visits for Andrews and her friends to come in to help with the sick children and cancer patients. Andrews performs for them, and she has dedicated herself to sharing her gift and her generosity.
“It’s about that spirit of giving,” she said. “That has always been me, so even on stage, whenever I am on stage, that’s what I do. It’s about me giving a great melody or song to move someone to make them feel happy or uplifted. That’s what I’ve always been about and it’s mainly because I grew up with a church and a beautiful, giving mother and father who filled me how to love people and how to care for people.”
Her goal with her music is the same as her charity. She hopes her messages of hope and her love of music come through to her audience. Andrews is looking to continue to share her Legendary Lady Singers show and share her original songs as well.
“Music is a glue,” Andrews said. “Music brings people together. The song might create a familiar feeling with someone and cause a community; it’s a great way for a community to get together. Music makes you forget about your issues and problems. It is the greatest drug. When I perform, my audience gets transformed. They start dancing and singing. It’s a lot of fun. Of course, while I do this too, I hope it reaches people in a deep way. I hope people can lose themselves in my music and they can enjoy it. I’m hoping I can still – I want to keep my giving spirit because that’s who I am. So, as my career grows, I want to continue that giving spirit too.”
Andrews most recently played two shows in Ridgewood in early September. She has an upcoming performance at The Angelica and Russ Berrie Center for Performing and Visual Arts at Ramapo College of New Jersey on March 16, 2019 at 8 p.m.
For additional information on Andrews, visit her website at https://www.shermaandrews.com.
By Tara DeLorenzo