"It is often, people ask me where I get my inspiration. As for me, the pieces almost seem to write themselves. I think it must be then, that the source is divine, and while I play one instrument, I become, yet another."
Sweeten's journey in the performing arts began at the age of 6 in both Music and Ballet in Westfield, NJ. She received a Hammond Organ for Christmas that year after showing interest in keyboards and was soon to master it, though the first year she had to stand to reach the pedals. For her ninth Christmas, she received a Baldwin Piano and soon began intensive study with Russian-born Concert Pianist David Sokoloff. Under his tutelage, she learned to play the music of the great masters. She sites Sokoloff as her greatest mentor, whose influence in developing her technique and in encouraging her musicality, was paramount. All during these years Sweeten was also dancing the classic ballets, Swan Lake, Les Sylphides, Sleeping Beauty, with a Regional Ballet Company in NJ. A Dean's list scholar throughout academia, Sweeten earned a B.A. from Smith College in foreign languages, graduating Cum Laude, and continued study in Paris and later at the Boston Conservatory.
Sweeten did a brief two year stint as Female Front and lyricist to the Pop/Rock Band: FALLOUT. Then she began appearing on Cruise Ships, in Cabaret Clubs and Resorts playing and singing a wide range of material including Jazz, Pop, Folk, New Age and Broadway music. Sweeten began composing around 1989 in the midst of her Musical Theatre Career, starring in such roles as Aldonza (Man of La Mancha), Sister Amnesia (Nunsense) Miss Mona (Best Little Whorehouse in Texas) and Velma Kelly (Chicago). When she started introducing her own original material to her setlists, the response was overwhelming. In 1997, Sweeten released her debut album, "Prism". By Sweeten's third album, "Reflections" (2000), her music was selling on listening stations at major record chains (Borders Books & Music, Sam Goody's) weekly by the hundreds. Fans began to write in depth of the effect of Sweeten's music on their lives; speaking of the music as hope, as giving the power of healing or a way of finding peace. She has stated “the fact that my music touches people so strongly is the greatest reward I receive from my music and I have been moved to tears by the personal stories people have shared with me." Having written over 100 musical scores to date, Sweeten is also author to all of her albums' liner notes and is a poet in her own right. In 2008, Steinway and Sons welcomed Sweeten into its prestigious international roster of Steinway Artists, touting her, a true Renaissance woman.
The Inspiration for
Orange Band Records was inspired by an article I happened upon, by Robert J. Waller, entitled My Name is Orange Band, concerning the last remaining Dusky Seaside Sparrow and his plight. Duskies were common once in the marshes of Merritt Island, Florida and also along the St. John's River. Someone thought Merritt Island should be flooded to deal with the mosquito problem at the Kennedy Space Center. The water rose and took their nests. Ultimately the St. John's River marshes were drained for the construction of highways. Pollution and pesticides did the rest. By 1979, only six duskies remained. Five were captured with no female to recover the species - the last sighted in 1975. The five duskies were brought to Disney World's Discovery Island to live out their remaining days. By March 31, 1986, only one little male, called Orange Band, was left. I would like to quote from the article.
"The last member of the rarest species known to us. He became blind in one eye, became old for a sparrow, and yet he persisted as if he knew his sole task was to sustain the bloodline as long as possible. I wondered if he felt sorrow or excruciating panic at the thought of his oneness. On June 18, 1987, a Washington Post headline said "Goodby Dusky Seaside Sparrow." Orange Band, blind in one eye, old and alone, was gone.
But the day Orange Band died there was a faint sound out there in the universe, hardly noticeable unless you were expecting it and listening. It was a small cry, the last one, that arched upward from a cage in Florida. If you were listening closely though, you could hear it. "I am zero". Extinct. The sound of the word is like the single blow of a hammer on cold steel. And, each day, the hammer falls again as another species becomes extinct due to human activity.
But we press on. With highways and toxic waste and all-terrain vehicles and acid rain and pesticides and the straightening of pretty creeks to gain an extra acre or two on which to grow surplus crops. In the name of progress and something called "development", we press on, though we seem reluctant to define exactly what it is we seek. That definition, you see, likely is too frightening to contemplate, for the answer along our present course might be nothing other than "more".
And each day, the hammer falls again. And, each day, another small cry arches upward, slowly and forever, it arches upward. And sometimes I sit with my back against a granite ledge near a river in a distant twilight-colored blue, and say, "I am Orange Band." (Reprinted by permission of Warner Books, Inc. from, OLD SONGS IN A NEW CAFE by Robert James Waller Copyright 1995 by Robert James Waller. All rights reserved.)
The decision to use the name Orange Band is not only in remembrance of the last little Dusky Seaside Sparrow, but is also a testimonial tribute to the fight we must wage to preserve our blessed Mother Earth and all her creatures, before we, too, utter a final cry: Extinct.