Faces of Fauquier: She gives voice to big band tunes
Photo/Don Del Rosso
“Fauquier County needs a fine arts center,” Wendy Martin-Shuma says. “Residents need a central place to go, to experience the wonderful entertainment in our hometown.”
We just decided that I was going to sing, and we were going to have an Andrews Sisters trio.
The New Baltimore technical editor and writer “many, many moons ago” performed in a school choir.
But that hardly prepared Wendy Martin-Shuma, 48, for the role of lead vocalist of The Silver Tones Swing Band, a popular Fauquier-based group that her husband and trumpet-player Dave Shuma has led since its founding about seven years ago.
For the longest time, Mr. Shuma wanted to start a “big band” of his own, Ms. Martin-Shuma said.
“And we just decided that I was going to sing, and we were going to have an Andrews Sisters trio,” recalled the Northern Virginia native who moved to Fauquier 20 years ago.
In the spirit of full disclosure, Ms. Martin-Shuma brought decades of music education and performance experience to the enterprise, making the move to solo vocalist a lot easier for her.
Besides the French horn, she plays the piano and trumpet.
“With French horn, you have to have pretty good pitch to play it,” explained Ms. Martin-Shuma, whose editorial clients include the American Red Cross and the American Diabetes Association. “And part of the challenge of being a vocalist is knowing if you’re on pitch and whether it’s coming across well.
“The singing seemed to work great, and I enjoyed it.”
> Video at bottom of story
Ms. Martin-Shuma, Larke Pain of Warrenton and Amy Hewes of Woodbridge comprise The Silver Belles, who fronts the 17-member band. Vocalist Gene Bates of Manassas frequently accompanies them.
In her view, the 1930s and 1940s produced best of American music, with “Swing” era favorite composers including Glenn Miller and Harry James.
Ella Fitzgerald heads her list of best female singers, a group that includes Rosemary Clooney, Doris Day and Peggy Lee.
“The Andrews Sisters are a favorite, because of all the trio music we do,” Ms. Shuma added.
Together, the band and The Silver Belles perform two to three times a month, including wedding receptions, anniversaries, parties and concerts.
“We don’t want to overextend the musicians,” Ms. Martin-Shuma said of the band’s schedule. “They all have jobs and families.”
Her husband, for example, works in Reston as a payroll manager for a government contractor.
Depending on the kind of event, performances last two or three hours, Ms. Martin-Shuma said.
A two-hour playlist — typically 24 songs with a short break — seems best suited for concerts “because people don’t want to sit for a long time,” she said.
The Silver Belles and The Silver Tones will perform concerts in Warrenton on July 5 and Aug. 3.
Over the years, the band has combined 1940s “swing” with more modern music to broaden its appeal, Ms. Martin-Shuma explained.
“We don’t do the Rolling Stones,” she said with a laugh. “But, we have tried to diversify our show. There are so many great songs out there to do — 1950s rock. We have some Beatles. We’ve done Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk,” Donna Summer.
Near New Baltimore
Free-lance technical editor and writer, 1999-present; American Diabetes Association, editor and managing editor, 1995-99.
• Why do you sing with The Silver Tones Swing Band?
It started almost eight years ago. My husband is a trumpet player. He wanted to start his own swing band. We took some of the more skilled members of the Fauquier Community Band, which I’m still part of. I play the French horn. And we just started The Silver Tones.
I had never sung before. With French horn, you have to have pretty good pitch to play it. And part of the challenge of being a vocalist is knowing if you’re on pitch and whether it’s coming across well.
The singing seemed to work out great, and I enjoyed it.
Husband, Dave; 3 children from a previous marriage. Dave has 2 children from a previous marriage and a grandchild.
Bachelor’s degree, English, George Mason University, 1994; Thomas A. Edison High School, Springfield, 1989.
• How long have you lived in Fauquier?
• Why do you live here?
It’s a wonderful place to raise a family. It’s a safe community. You have everything you need. The people are friendly. I just love going to Warrenton and seeing people you know all the time.
• How do you describe this county?
It’s country. But, it has all of the modern day conveniences and the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
I love Old Town Warrenton, with the cute shops and restaurants. It’s just a nice place to spend your weekend.
• What would you change about Fauquier?
Fauquier County needs a fine arts center. Residents need a central place to go, to experience the wonderful entertainment in our hometown. A venue of this nature could also act as rehearsal space, which is also a current need.
• What do you do for fun?
My husband and I like to hike a lot. Sky Meadows (State Park near Paris) is our newest and favorite spot to hike. When we’re not performing, we try to enjoy nature in the area.
• What’s your favorite place in Fauquier?
Downtown Warrenton, near the (old) courthouse. I just think it’s so beautiful there. I love the outside concerts. And Claire’s is our favorite restaurant. We try to go there as much as possible.
• What will Fauquier be like in 10 years?
I don’t think it’s going to be too developed, I think the rate of growth in Fauquier isn’t like Winchester or some towns that are close by. I think there’s a big move to conserve property, trying to keep the countryside intact.
• Favorite TV show?
• Favorite movie?
“The Shawshank Redemption.”
• Favorite book?
I don’t actually read a lot, because I read for a living. But if I did have to say a favorite type of literature, it would be on weight loss and nutrition, because I actually had a significant weight problem in my early life. I was 320 pounds. So, I’ve lost 160 pounds, and I’ve been able to maintain that weight loss for 17 years.
• Favorite vacation spot?
St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands
• Favorite food?
Popcorn, hands down. Air popped, of course.
• What is the best advice you have ever received? From whom?
My father. If you work hard, anything’s possible. It was drilled into me as a young person.
• Who’s your hero and why? My mom. She’s been like the best person ever. She’s like completely selfless and giving to everyone. Everyone loves her. She’s the person you aspire to be.
• What would you do if you won $5 million in the lottery?
I’d probably give most of it to my stockbroker. I’d probably invest in trying to keep the arts alive and strong in the community. It’s important to have live music.
Have a suggestion?