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Straight outta Bloomfield Hills, Sofi K is primed to perform
Sophia Washer started talking when she was five months old, and singing shortly thereafter.
Thirteen years later, she hasn't stopped.
"She was singing all the time, non-stop," recalls Linda Washer. "From two years on she was singing in the grocery store, in Target, around the house. We thought it was going to drive us crazy."
Instead it's driven Sophia -- known as Sofi K -- and her family into show business. Since starting violin lessons at the age of four (joining the Livonia Youth Symphony two years later), the eighth grader at Bloomfield Hills Middle School has studied voice and dance, sung in the choir at First United Methodist Church in Birmingham, appeared in theater productions at school, at the Cranbrook Theatre and with the Village Players in Birmingham and was part of the Motor City Melodies youth singing troupe.
She's just finished her first album, which Sofi hopes to have out within the next few months -- although a single, "One Way Ticket," is available via iTunes and is streaming on her official web site. And she's gearing up to make videos and stage some live performances this summer
"I'm just really excited to have people hear my music and for me to share something that's really personal to me," Sofi says during a break from rehearsals for BHMS's April 28 production of "Bye Bye Birdie," for which she has the female lead role of Rosie. "I sing because I want to make people feel better. I know if I've had a bad day I'll listen to music and that will make me feel better.
"So it's to help people feel better in a different way. There are doctors and there are people who help people in all different ways. This is my way of helping people."
Linda Washer says she and her husband Brian, an engineer for the Ford Motor Company, inadvertently launched Sofi's artistic path at the age of four, when they asked if she wanted to try gymnastics or soccer. "She said, 'No, I want to play the violin,' and we said, 'What?!'" Washer remembers with a laugh. "Neither my husband nor I play an instrument, neither of us are musically talented. But that's what she wanted to do, so we found a teacher and the rest has become history.
"You know, this is her extra curricular activity. Some girls might do soccer or lacrosse or volleyball, boys might do football. This is what Sophia does, and she takes it every seriously. She puts a lot of energy into it. She loves it. One day it could be a career."
Kate Hart, Sofi's longtime voice teacher, calls her "the rare one that has everything it takes to make this possible. Sofi not only has the singing, performance and writing talent to accomplish this, but she is pursuing being a singer for much more than wanting to be famous. Sofi believes she can make a positive difference. She is mindful that the world around her can be improved by the music that one creates, therefore pushing her to take her craft very seriously."
It was Hart who encouraged Sofi to start writing her own songs, which led to a binder full of lyrics. "I love to write," says Sofi, who's also active in the Student Leadership Team, the forensics team and the orchestra at BHMS. "Language Arts and English and stuff, those are my favorite subject in school. So when (Hart) asked me if I was interested in writing songs, it was very easy. Something I like to do anyway. ONce I get an idea, I can probably have the lyrics done in 30 minutes."
Those ideas, she says, come from everywhere -- including a couple of songs Sofi wrote especially for friends' bat mitzvahs. "It could be the randomest thing," she explains. "I think as a songwriter I look at people differently than normal people who don't write, I look at every little thing. Sometimes the smallest thing will become a song."
The single "One Way Ticket," which was downloaded on four continents during its first 24 hours on iTunes in January, is a case in point. "I was not having such a good day and I came home and I was sitting in my room, thinking," Sofi recalls. "It was in the middle of the school year, the point of the year where everybody just gets tired of each other. I heard a plane go by and I was like, 'Well, it would be nice if we had a break right now and I could just leave and get out of here, almost on a one way ticket.'
"And then I was like, 'Hey, that would be a great idea for a song,' and that's how it started out."
Bryce Harding, the Berkley-based musician who's been co-writing and producing Sofi's album, calls her "lyrically very gifted" but adds that it's more than just the writing that makes her so accomplished, even at this young age.
"Sophia is one of those artists that has the whole package," Harding explains. "She's a really good singer. She can write. She can perform -- really everything you need in the industry. She's impressive.
"And what's interesting about her is when the lights get brighter, so does she. To be that young and understand that and have that, intuitively, is definitely cool. When we're in the studio or when she gets on stage, she lights up. She's a born performer in that way."
If all goes according to plan, the lights will indeed be getting brighter for Sofi -- and soon. "I think I would definitely like to be a singer for the rest of my life," she says. "But I want to be my own person, too. I want to invent someone who other people will be, like, 'I want to be like HER.' So I want to go my own way."
Her parents, meanwhile, feel the best way to do that is gradually. There's no stage parents' push going on here -- no agents, no reality shows, no move to New York or California in the works. The Washers would prefer to exercise some patience with their prodigy.
"We tell her school is important; you have to put energy into school and energy into (music) and see what happens," Linda Washer says. "This is just an opportunity for her, a very big opportunity for her. We just want to give her choices.
"But we're very excited. I never in a million years figured it would get like this. It's a pretty amazing time."
Join Team Sofi
Sofi K is holding auditions for dancers aged 12-18 to appear with her on stage and in music videos. The tryouts will be held noon-3 p.m. May 3 at 444 W. Maple Road, Ste. E, Troy. Those interested can call 248-227-4476 or visit www.sofikofficial.com.
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