A popular presence in the piano bar circuit, the classically trained singer / songwriter / musician Sarah Glassman remains one of the few women in the NYC nightlife scene. And while keeping busy during lockdown with digital programming and studio recording, Sarah and her 88 keys are now conquering live venues once again.
Thotyssey: Hello Sarah, thanks for talking to us today! You’ve certainly been busy lately, but did you catch the Grammys at all on Sunday?
Sarah Glassman: Hey love, thanks much for having me! I actually didn’t get to watch the Grammys this year.
It was a pretty low key affair, but surprisingly fun. Beyoncé broke records as history’s most winning female singer!
Right on! Beyoncé is a beast and a whole lot of fierce woman, so I’m not surprised she cleaned house.
Do you generally follow pop music, or are you mostly a classicist?
I actually listen to all genres. I grew up playing classical piano as a kid, but I’ve gone on to sing in several projects. I even sang in a gigging Filipino band out here–and sang In Tagalog, which was super cool.
Where did you grow up, exactly?
In rural America: Hays, KS, the 1996 All-American City!
Wow, you’re not in Kansas anymore! I bet you never heard that one before…
Ha, right!? Never.
What brought you to New York?
I studied opera and theater in college, and always dreamed of moving out here since I first visited in 2000. My first Broadway shows were Thoroughly Modern Millie and Swing, and I immediately fell in love with the music and the beauty of the fast pace life.
Does performing in a stage musical draw from a very different skillset and creative energy than making music?
Certainly every gig takes a different energy, but it’s always all about the music for me. It always has been. Music is the air I breathe, and really all I know.
Do you have an all-time favorite song?
All time fave? Eek! Lately I’ve been channeling Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman,” as I’ve been going through some personal life changes.
You’re also a songwriter.
Yes, and a new original album is on the horizon! I’ve written and released tunes before, but this album is going to be a different vibe… and something I’ve never been more proud of, as I’ve allowed myself to show more vulnerability. I’m also currently collaborating with a friend Joshua J. Bennett on an all original holiday album to be released later this year.
Yay, that’s something to look forward to! So how and when did you find yourself in NYC’s gay piano bars like Uncle Charlie’s?
Well, a friend actually recommended that I head down to Charlie’s… and the rest was history. I played for my friend [veteran bar pianist] Maurice Ross, and immediately fell in love with the piano bar vibe. It wasn’t long thereafter that I would end up subbing–and eventually playing regularly–at Don’t Tell Mama’s.
I recall that you also had a recurring night at that always mysterious venue, Evolve!
Yes, I did play Evolve back in the day. It was definitely full of unpredictability, but always a good time!
For all the pop starlet worship in the gay community, there is actually very little cis female representation in nightlife entertainment these days!
So true, right? I do know a couple in the industry, and I’m actually a member of a women’s pianist community on Facebook–but the majority of those ladies are on cruise ships or different cities. Other than the lady I look up to most in the city, Karen Brown, I don’t really know any women that play the piano bar scene. I take pride in being one of the few!
What experience do you prefer as the Piano Woman: the big group sing-alongs with all the requests, or when patrons just let you perform what you want, solo?
Hmm… that’s a great question. It really depends on the vibe of the room. Currently with Covid rules, it’s not really the time to have group sing-alongs. However, I do enjoy working a room and keeping the crowd entertained when I’m able.
Is there a song in particular that everyone always wants to hear?
Well, the running joke is “Piano Man” for $100–because I’ve literally received up to $200 to play that one song.
I think that song has like 90 verses, so, that’s fair!
Ha, right? I’ll take it!
Now that the city is allowing indoor venues to slowly increase capacity, we have many opportunities to see you live again!
I most recently started playing at Townhouse [Tuesdays and Fridays at 6pm-11pm] once they reopened during this pandemic. It’s such a pleasure working again with old friends and colleagues.
And we can see you in Queens every week as well.
I play Thursday nights [6pm] at Albatross in Astoria, and I consider it an old stomping ground! I started out living in Astoria on Ditmars when I moved here back in ‘06, and it’s one of my favorite nights to play currently–so many theater people and musicians! I feel like I have my own Broadway ensemble whenever I venture into a Rent number or Sister Act jam.
You also have a considerable online presence! We can often see you digitally performing live at Townhouse and Albatross, for one thing.
It’s amazing to be able to continue to livestream from these venues, to allow the friends and fans to be a part of the action from their own homes. And I’m going to be livestreaming “Josh and Sarah” [from home, with Joshua J. Bennett] this Wednesday for St. Patrick’s Day, 5 to 7pm on Facebook. It’s the one year anniversary of my first Covid livestream–an you believe it’s been one year!?
What else is coming up for you?
I also have some other projects lined up, including our daily dose of requests with “Josh and Sarah.” If people would like to hear more, follow us at @sarahglassmanmusic and @joshandsarahsing on Instagram. We will be posting more about the release of those tunes, as well as the release of my new single, coming soon.
Excellent! So lastly, when it’s finally announced that the worst of Covid is behind us and NYC is back to full capacity… what should the song of that moment be?
“Celebration!” We all have worked hard to remain patient to get to this place, and deserve to come together in song and dance to celebrate the good times ahead. It’s all about living life to the fullest!
Cheers to that! Thanks, Sarah!