The Capital of Annapolis
ODENTON, Md. - Suzy Estrada once wrote a song about giving up her dream of a singing career to raise her children.
The lyrics just came to her on a family vacation, and she was so anxious to get them recorded she called her home phone and sang them into the answering machine.
Estrada hadn't written anything in a long time, but the song made it clear she'd made peace with her choices in life. A couple tragedies -- her father being diagnosed with cancer and the beating death of her nephew, Christopher Jones -- made her change her tune.
Today, the 35-year-old Odenton mother of five is balancing a budding music career with family obligations. She's enjoying the challenge, although it means sacrificing some sleep.
"I just love getting out, dressing up and doing what I'm doing," Estrada said. "Music is what I love to do."
She performs with guitarist Joe Burcham, a 50-year-old retail consultant and father of two from Arnold, who she met at church. "We instantly clicked and have a similar style," he said.
In a matter of months, the duo's cobbled together a repertoire of 65 songs, ranging from contemporary hits and classic rock to Christian music and country.
Several are originals by Estrada, which lean toward the country genre. Despite vocal training in college, she considers herself more of a lyricist than a singer.
Burcham thinks differently.
"Her voice is a gift from God," he said. "I get to hear her voice every time we practice and play, and I love listening to her."
They rehearse at Estrada's home once a week, often in front of her children, who are 12, 10, 8, 6 and 2, and her husband, Steve, who owns a construction company. The duo typically plays one gig a week, too.
"Her story is amazing," said Estrada's friend, Erin Harris of Annapolis. "The fact that she's got five kids and she just started going out and sharing her music with others. She's got a lot of talent. A lot."
Estrada inherited her love of music from her father, who wanted to be a singer himself until family obligations curtailed any ideas of performing.
A graduate of Bowie High School, she went to college with the idea of studying music, but the only performance major was in opera. Rather than choosing another field, she became a mezzo-soprano. She also sang in musicals and performed at coffeehouses.
After graduation, she planned to move to New York City and audition for singing gigs. She had a job and a place to live all lined up. Then she learned she was pregnant and decided to remain home.
Marriage and more children followed, and soon the only singing she did was at church.
"I missed (music) big time, but I think I was trying to convince myself I shouldn't miss it," she said.
The passing of her father and her nephew prompted her to write and perform songs for memorials, though, and got her thinking about her life.
"I didn't want to wake up when I was 50 and wish I'd done something with my music," she said. "I want my kids to see that you can still follow your passions."
The final nudge came earlier this year at Annapolis Idol, a contest she entered on a whim -- and won.
Eric Anderson, who owns Fins Hawaiian Fusion and Sushi Bar in Crofton, is glad she decided to perform again. The restaurant has become a regular venue for Estrada and Burcham.
"She's the real deal," Anderson said. "She can sell a ballad, or sing something ruckus and sell that. It's dynamite."
Estrada has no grand visions of heading to Nashville and stardom, but she's determined to continue singing. She'd be happy being a well-known local musician with a CD on iTunes who also maybe had a couple of her songs recorded by other artists.
"A lot of people my age struggle with balance," she said. "This is (how) I've found the balance."
Information from: The Capital of Annapolis, Md., http://www.hometownannapolis.com/
(Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)