Airis Smallwood: Creator of The Singer’s Lounge

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Dreaming is a human inclination. It is the metaphysical manifestation of hope. Can you imagine growing
up in an environment where it’s considered taboo to dream? Over the many years that I’ve been involved and invested in local “singer’s circles,” there have been many conversations about the area’s live music scene. During those conversations, comments such as,
“There isn’t anywhere for me to sing,”
“People don’t support local talent,”or
“We have to leave the city in order to pursue our musical dreams,”were typically heard. I started The Singer’s Lounge to challenge those comments and what was considered in this city to be universal truths. It turns out they weren’t true at all. Sometimes, all it takes is for someone to step out on faith and a dream, and to push for the change we wish to see. That sentiment is what pushed me to create The Singer’s Lounge. With over 75 alumni performers and over 200 audience supporters in attendance every
third Sunday, we’ve effectively challenged the status quo to become a source of quality entertainment for those seeking the same in the city and the surrounding area. We’ve also had singers and guests travel from
Philadelphia, Lancaster, York, Washington, D.C and Wilmington, Delaware. The Singer’s Lounge is a perfect combination of the things I love: my community, the arts, soul music, creativity and being a witness to the statement that says,
“With God all things are possible!”
Many people passed on my idea, but even when obstacles came my way, I persisted. For years, I struggled to get a venue and proper resources. I would schedule a performance, only to have it end up being
cancelled because promoters or venue operators did not think it could be successful. Many people
questioned my vision. I would often get asked,
“What makes your open mic different than other area open mics,
“Why do you need a live band,”
“Why do you have to have house background singers,”
or, “Why can’t artists just perform to tracks?”
Through it all, I remained focused on my original idea, refused to budge from how I envisioned it coming to fruition and it paid off. Finally, I found the right venue to house my vision. Our first show was
one I will never forget. The initial turn out of enthusiastic supporters in the audience was amazing and the energy in the room was undeniable. Fifteen shows later, we’ve kept that original energy, and some! Every show gets better and better. We have been very fortunate in that The Singer’s Lounge audience
encompasses varied demographics, showing what many musicians believe: music brings people together.
Along with my amazing team, we will continue to come up with new, exciting themes and seek to attract
new talent. Our aim is to continue the revitalization of the independent artist scene in Harrisburg and
more specifically, for soul singers. We plan on venturing out into other markets, but Harrisburg will
always be the flagship. We have plenty of talent in Harrisburg and it’s time that the world takes notice!

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