Her pre-school teacher Sherry Vanderploeg told her parents she was a good singer. Her middle school music teacher was an inspiration, teaching her to love music as she sang in a show choir and other choral groups. So at 14 years of age, Sarah Darling from Mitchellville, Iowa, went to downtown Des Moines, and made an audition recording.
Darling knows what it is like to love music and pursue a dream, and now, a successful recording artist in Nashville, Tennessee, she will travel to Washington, D.C. on June 28 to visit elected officials on Capitol Hill in support of the National Association for Music Education and public school music education.
She will visit with Tennessee and Iowa legislators on the Hill. Later that day, she will perform at NAfME’s National Assembly of the Association leaders and will receive the Association’s “Stand for Music” award. NAfME’s Legislative Memo this week includes an overview of Hill Day.
“I am very excited to be doing this,” Darling said of the Washington D.C. visit. “It is very important to support music education in schools and I want to help in any way I can.”
That audition when she was 14-years-0ld ultimately landed her a gig singing at the Iowa State Fair. “It was so exciting, having a stage where I could perform. I knew that was what I wanted to do.”
Her determination was further encouraged by a Nashville record producer who suggested that she move to Nashville to pursue a career. After graduating from Southeast Polk High School, she waited tables in an Italian restaurant, saved her money and made her way to “Music City” where she was a waitress by day and a country singer in clubs at night.
“I didn’t know anyone or anything about the music business but I was willing to work hard,” Darling said in a recent interview with NAfME. “I’ve paid my dues.”
“It’s a city filled with people who are passionate about music. It is a wonderful, collaborative place to work,” she said.
Her efforts paid off. The New York Times called her a “sophisticated songwriter” with a “crisp, powerful voice.” She has appeared on ABC TV’s “The Bachelor,” program, performing a private concert for the contestants.
Darling also just finished a tour with 2011 American Idol winner, Scotty McCreery. She said the tour introduced her to a new group of country music fans.
The video for her single, “Something to Do With Your Hands,” hit No.1 on CMT.com, as did her cover of the Beatles’ classic “Blackbird,” which spent five consecutive weeks in the top spot. “Home to Me” topped both GAC’s Top 20 Countdown and CMT Pure.
Paying Homage at the Grand Ole Opry House
Since her Grand Ole Opry House debut in February, 2011, Darling has played the Opry more than 30 times.
She says she is still in awe of the facility and the music history it represents. “It is amazing to perform on that stage. You never forget where you are standing. For me, it’s magical, almost like going to church.”
Attendees at NAfME’s 2013 National In-Service Conference October 27-30 in Nashville may feel a little bit of that magic, too, when the Association hosts a free concert at the Grand Ole Opry House. The professional development conference will be headquartered at the Gaylord Opryland Resort.
Darling is also a songwriter whose latest release is “Little Umbrellas,” a song about some girlfriends sharing umbrella drinks in the aftermath of a breakup.
She calls it a “breezy, upbeat track.” She will spend the summer singing “Little Umbrellas” and more of her songs at festivals, fairs and in clubs across the country. “It’s going to be an exciting summer,” she says.
Discussing her views of songwriting, Darling said, “The way I approach songwriting is to write about things that are important to me, but for me the melody comes first. Then the words seem to flow from that. I enjoy singing other people’s songs but my songs come from my life.”
Darling is engaged to James Muriel, a British graphic design executive, and says her newfound happiness has been a songwriting inspiration as well.
She believes her success so far comes from her love of performing, which can be traced back to those Iowa State performances, and staying true to who she is.
“That is what I tell young people. Take a chance. Be passionate about your music, have something unique, but don’t try to be someone else.”
Roz Fehr, NAfME Managing Editor for News, May 30, 2013. © National Association for Music Education