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How I Got Here: Stamford mom follows rock-star dreams

December 11, 2016 GMT

STAMFORD — Jennifer Harper, a local musician trying to get her career off the ground after raising three children, looked every bit the part when she floated into The Fez on Friday afternoon.

Wrapped in a black, faux fur-trimmed trench coat fit for a rock star and wearing boots that Nancy Sinatra might have sang about, Harper commanded the room the minute she arrived.

“I have these two sides: one is very subdued ... the other side is this sort of ’70s rocker chick,” she said, listing some of her musical influences. She says artists like Cat Stevens, Carole King and Alanis Morissette shaped her “updated, pop-rock” sound.

Harper, who has been living here for 15 years, was first drawn to the city when she saw a New York Times listing for a circa-1750 home in North Stamford.

“I was just ready to leave Manhattan — I had just had a baby,” she said. “It was a big adjustment. I felt very isolated at first, both by the fact that I had just had a baby and the change from the city.”

While Harper says she has come to love Stamford, she’s not sure it’s the place she’ll hang her hat forever.

“It’s been great to raise kids here, but I don’t know if I’ll always be here,” the Washington, D.C. native said. “I grew up in a big city and lived in New York for a long time — I kind of want to be in the middle of everything again.”

Harper started satiating that wanderlust earlier this year when she finally started touring the Northeast for her second album: “All The Love.”

“Working on that album coincided with my father’s passing, and that ignited something in me,” she said. “I knew then that I had to put myself out there in a bigger way.”

She has performed throughout Connecticut, and even ventured into New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia in the past year.

Harper, a pianist and vocalist, first tickled the ivories when she was just 4 years old. Playing music has always been part of her self expression, but performing in front of people was less enchanting.

“I used to be really shy to sing and to perform,” she said. “I decided to face that fear this year and I’ve developed a lot more courage ... I found the message I wanted to get across, expressing my heart to connect with other people’s hearts.”

The musician said she was able to find her purpose in music through Buddhism.

“Studying Buddhism helped me to connect why I was doing what I was doing with this greater purpose,” she said. “I wanted to overcome my fear in a way that shows other people they can do the same, starting with my children and then out into the general public.”

Harper put her music career aside more than a decade while she raised her children, ages 15, 11 and 9. She says she battled herself for a long time, debating whether she would be shirking her duties as a mother to hit the road and become a rock star.

“I still can’t be ‘on tour,’ technically. I’d have to leave for months at a time and I’m not willing to do that to my kids,” she said. “What I hope my kids get out of watching me do this is that anything is possible with hard work and good intentions.”

“The bottom line is to never give up on your dreams,” she added.

Heading into 2017, Harper has some big plans for the Stamford music scene.

“I’m looking to put together a show in 2017 for all-female artists — maybe start an all-female group,” she said. “It would be a great addition to the cultural scene here, plus I love working with and supporting other female artists.”

For now, Harper said she is withdrawing from the scene to work on her next album.

“I’m trying to focus on writing new music right now, and I’ll work on an album in 2017,” she said. “I don’t know if it will be finished in 2017, but I’ll work on it.”

nora.naughton@scni.com; twitter.com/noranaughton