SHERRY FINZER & DARIN MAHONEY
Sherry Finzer & Darin Mahoney believe anyone can transform their life. On their first album together, appropriately titled Transformation, this flute and acoustic guitar duo creates music to encourage listeners “to walk through the next door and change your life for the better.”
Both musicians have had personal transformations. On the musical level, Finzer went from being a classical flutist winning competitions to recording acclaimed new age music albums. Mahoney came from the direction of country, rock and folk music before turning his talent to soft instrumental acoustic guitar music and his own solo album. Finzer says, “I was drawn to new age music because it helps people with healing and I have learned how much people can be affected in a positive way by music.” Mahoney overcame a life-threatening illness in the Nineties and discovered “this type of music helps your mind and body. It can put you into a state where your body can heal.”
The music on Transformation is available as a CD or as digital downloads, and can be purchased at variety of online music sales sites including CDbaby, Amazon and iTunes. Also available are Finzer’s other solo albums — Sanctuary, Sanctuary II: Earth, Desert Journey, Someone Like Me, Masquerade and Radiant Sky — and Mahoney‘s solo recording In The Grain. More information about the artists is available at their individual websites: sherryfinzer.com and darinmahoney.net. Transformation is on Heart Dance Records.
All of the music on Transformation features Finzer on classical flute (DiZhao curved-head alto flute on all tracks and Guo bass flute on two tunes) and Mahoney on acoustic guitar. There also is a tiny dash of synthesizer in the background on a few tunes (played by engineer John Herrera), and special guest Jane Merial Hilton playing viola on “Jane’s Song.” Finzer is an official Pearl Flute Recording Artist and a Guo Flute Performing Artist. Mahoney is a trained luthier who built his own guitar from koa wood and western red cedar, and he plays it exclusively on this recording as well as his own solo CD.
Finzer and Mahoney met two years ago while performing separately at the same wildfire benefit concert in Arizona where they both live. Since then they have performed numerous concerts together, and Mahoney played guitar on two tunes on Finzer’s Sanctuary II: Earth album. “We have a special musical connection when we perform together,” explains Finzer. “We really understand each other musically. There is great chemistry. Neither of us is trying to outshine the other. We want to compliment what the other is doing.”
Finzer has long performed with other acoustic guitarists. On her first solo album, Desert Journey, she was joined by recording artist Ric Flauding. She also performed concerts with flamenco guitarist Diego Andres (Drew Bennett) and recorded two albums with him in which she was featured (Pasion y Rosas and Guitarra del Sol). In addition, Finzer formed the group Dulce Vas with harpist VeeRonna Ragone, and they released two CDs (Christmas Picante and Unexpected).
One of Mahoney’s inspirations is acoustic guitarist Will Ackerman who liked Darin’s style enough to fly in and produce a track for Mahoney’s album. “It was a surreal moment because it was ten years to the day that I had gotten out of the hospital where I had been treated for extensive cancer,” remembers Mahoney. “I wasn’t supposed to live because the stage-four cancer was so bad, but they tried an experimental chemo-therapy treatment that was so invasive they had to put me into a medically-induced coma for several weeks. During that time my parents brought in and played this music by Will Ackerman. His tune ‘The Impending Death of the Virgin Spirit’ really affected me in a positive way when I was in the coma and recovering. I listened to it over and over and I am convinced it helped me get better.” Although Mahoney went into the hospital with the weight of 180 and came out weighing only 79 pounds, the cancer went into remission and he began the long road of therapy. “I had to learn to walk and talk again, and making a simple chord on the guitar was a real struggle.”
Not only did Mahoney work his way back to being a performing and recording musician, he also fulfilled a life-long dream and learned how to make and repair acoustic guitars (which he continues to do when he is not busy with his music career). He took a five-month course at the Roberto-Venn School of Lutherie and graduated at the top of the class. His love affair with guitars started when he was 12-years-old and he got his first guitar. He immediately learned some John Denver tunes. Soon he got into country-picking — Roy Clark, Jerry Reed, Chet Atkins and Vince Gill — and not long after that was introduced to rock’n’roll — Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler. After Mahoney had the cancer treatment, he further explored Will Ackerman’s music as well as Michael Hedges, Preston Reed and Billy McLaughlin. Another interesting aspect of Mahoney’s life is that he regularly entered rodeo competitions for 17 years (mostly bucking bronco riding as well as roping contests). He often sat in with bands while he was on the rodeo circuit. More recently Mahoney played for five years with Mary Hoffman, one of Arizona’s top country singers (opening for Keith Urban and Kenny Chesney), and also backed Americana singer Teneia Sanders.
Finzer grew up in New York state (Syracuse and Rochester) and performed flute in bands throughout her school years (her teacher had studied with world-renowned Jean-Pierre Rampal and introduced Sherry to him). As an adult, she has won First Place Awards at many top competitions — the Rochester Flute Association (2002 and 2004), the National Flute Association (2006 and 2007), the Great Southwest Flute Fair (2006 and 2007), and the Arizona Flute Society (2008). After moving to Phoenix, Sherry started listening to new age musicians such as Nicholas Gunn, Dean Evenson and Suzanne Ciani. She began to perform with a wide variety of different groups (Radiant Sky, Desert Fusion, the Central Arizona Flute Ensemble, Azzmenco, Trillium Flute Trio, Desert Echoes Flute Project) and those experiences helped her learn to improvise. She also became the founder and president of the Arizona World Music Initiative, and taught private lessons. Finzer recently performed onstage with Clay Aiken at one of his Joyful Noise concerts.
The music created by Sherry Finzer and Darin Mahoney on their new Transformation CD — classical flute mixed with acoustic finger-style guitar — is soft, gentle, melodic, peaceful and inspirational. It is ideal for relaxation, meditation, healing, inner-journeying, light-athletic-workouts (including yoga), intimate socializing and times of personal motivation.
The tune “Alger St.” was titled after the place where Mahoney grew up. “It is the street I was raised on in Michigan where the trees overgrew the road and there was a baseball field and railroad tracks,” he remembers. “Confused” is a composition by Mahoney capturing his state of mind when doctors told him the cancer was in remission (“I wanted to hear the word ‘cured’.”). Similarly “Jane’s Song” is a tribute to another cancer survivor. “Reflection” was penned by Finzer (“Every time I play it I think about memories and events of my life, especially moments with my children when they were young.”). Finzer also chose the tune “White Sky in November,” composed by Tom Febonio and arranged by Finzer. Mahoney says, “It has a dark, sad, wintertime feeling to it.” An opposite time of the year is spotlighted with “Early Spring,” written by Mahoney in tribute to childhood hunting and camping trips with his father (“It brings back all those memories of the forests, a rippling creek, woodsmoke on the wind.”). Mahoney started writing the piece “Joplin” while sitting on the floor of a motel in Joplin, Missouri, on his way to Arizona, but it took him a dozen years to complete this tune inspired by love and happiness.
The album ends with Mahoney’s “The Door.” “The music symbolizes the different choices and opportunities we have in life,” explains Finzer. “It is important to overcome fear, open the next door and step through.” Mahoney agrees. “Sometimes what seems like the right path at one point feels wrong later and you know it is time to try another door to a new place in your life,” he says. “It is simply an analogy for making transformation happen.”