The abundance of musical talent in our area shines like gold in the midday sun. Here we highlight a few of the incredible performers who light up local stages.
Our love of music knows no bounds. The melodies pull us in, thrust us into motion and possess us with an undeniable urge to lift our voices in harmony. These artists represent a wide range of musical genres and influences—amazing us with their talent, drive and passion. In a time when live music performances are limited, we hope you will show some love and appreciation to all our talented local musicians.
LEFT ON BROADWAY
Olivia Ortiz, Mike Wall, Karim Martin and Greg Snider
The sound: Pop fusion multi-genre collaboration of originals and reimagined covers.
The genesis: Left On Broadway was founded in 2014 by Olivia Ortiz (lead vocals) and Mike Wall (guitar, vocals). The two have written original songs and new arrangements of popular songs in a style they call acoustic lounge, a fusion of indie-pop, blues, soul, alt-jazz, and folk rock, to name a few. Karim Martin (percussions) joined the band in 2018 and Greg Snider (saxophone) shortly afterward, with regular guest appearances from other local musicians.
Recordings: The group is currently working on a recording, which they intend to offer on such digital platforms as Spotify, Pandora and iTunes.
Upcoming performances: Rockin the Drive-In on September 6th at the Ocala Drive-In; ZNights on September 25th at The Art Castle; a tentative launch event of the Songwriters Room event in October; and a social-distanced mobile music collaboration.
Olivia Ortiz says she came to the area in 1987, when her dad “picked Ocala because it was in the middle of Florida and there weren’t any sharks to eat his kids, but he forgot about the alligators.”
“I like Ocala because it is a small town vibe with room to grow,” she offers. “I worked in the hospitality industry for 12 years and it made me realize that I like anticipating people’s needs and making lasting impressions and memories of art and music through experience creations for our community, whether that be with Left On Broadway, Couch Sessions, Hidden Spaces, ZNights, Songwriters Room or Shoogie (her brand of handmade, natural beauty and personal care products.)”
She says the pandemic has been inspiring because it allowed her to slow down and write again.
“It has taken me down a totally different musical journey and style because I have been writing musical pieces themed around an art gallery show,” she explains. “Plus, the feelings of isolation, panic and uncertainty that COVID has brought up have shaped the new style I have chosen to write.
“I wrote a song for 8th Avenue Gallery’s ‘Covid Chronicles,’ titled ‘Art War.’ After writing it, I was kind of on a roll and have been cranking out about one to two songs a month,” she adds. “I sampled sounds of my artist friends painting and cleaning their brushes and doing other art stuff and integrated it into beats and background instrumentation. I formulated the entire song with what I had at the house, an iPhone, my daughter’s JoJo headset and my son’s gaming PC headset as well. I recorded it all into GarageBand. It is crazy!”
When asked where she would direct visitors to Ocala, Ortiz notes she would walk them around downtown to some of her favorite spots.
“I do walking tours for Ocala Main Street and I created the interactive walking Google Map for them,” she shares. “Some of the must-see art spots are the downtown murals, the Horse Fever horses, the sculptures in Tuscawilla Park and the Art Park, The Reilly Arts Center, 8th Ave. Gallery and the Appleton Museum of Art. For live music, she points people to The Keep Downtown, Pi on Broadway, La Cuisine, Black Sheep on Broadway, The Courtyard on Broadway, The Corkscrew, The Lodge, O’Malley’s Alley, Molly Maguire’s, Infinite Ale Works and Bank Street Patio Bar.
Greg Snider is an adjunct professor for the College of Central Florida, a producer at Snider Productions and says he performs any music that involves the saxophone.
“It is my hope to stay openminded to all forms of music and get involved in as many styles as I possibly can,” he offers. “That said, my bread and butter is jazz. For me, it is the real time presentation of artistic melody through personal and group improvisation using harmony and groove. I perform regularly with Left On Broadway, Showtime, Ramblin Mutts, O’Chancey, Swing Theory, the Ocala Symphony for Schools program, my own jazz duos and trios, as well as the Greg Snider Group.”
The Greg Snider Group is preparing for a full album recording that will feature all original music in a traditional jazz quartet/quintet style. Greg Snider Productions is working in tandem with Creative Community to produce ZNights, a guided, character driven, immersive experience that looks at jazz through the eyes of its creators. The premiere is September 25th.
Snider moved to Ocala in 2017 after earning master’s degrees in music performance and education at University of Florida, because he saw “a niche for not only jazz music, but music in general, being cultivated and encouraged throughout the city.”
Now he’s hoping to be accepted as one of four new saxophonists accepted into the Regional United States Army Bands.
“I was successful in the audition in July and now am awaiting a spot early next year to enlist. I am proud to be looking into serving my country as a musician.”
Mike Wall, originally from Miami, moved to Marion County as a child. He’s lived other places but likes “the amazing talent you can find around every corner of this community.”
He recalls road trips with his parents, riding in the back seat of the car as they played their favorite songs on the car radio, the sun on his face, and staring out the window as the world passed by.
“It was a simpler time, solidified in memory with the sounds coming through the speakers,” he notes. “I find it amazing how music and song can invoke a feeling or a memory, or just a sense of wellbeing. It wasn’t until well into my twenties that I played for the first time to large groups of people. I think the act of being able to make people feel something is what got me hooked and as long as I can continue to make people smile, I don’t think I’ll ever stop.”
He says he is inspired by the courage and sacrifices that people make for others. As for future plans, in addition to Left On Broadway’s first album, he has plans for a solo album.
Karim Martin also performs with Stephen Perry in the duo Peaches and Karim, which is set to perform on September 12th from 11am to 3pm at War Horse Harley-Davidson. He says he is influenced by hip hop and R&B but is constantly trying different genres to expand his playing and his standing gig as resident DJ every Friday from 8pm-midnight at Pi on Broadway.
His family moved to the area when he was 3. After graduating from Graceland University in Iowa and serving four years in the U.S. Navy, he decided to move back to Ocala.
“I have always been around music, whether it be chorus, band or musical theater,” he explains. “I’ve always loved it and have seen myself playing a part in the music scene.”
In answer to what song invariably drags him out on the dance floor, he offers, “I really like this question because I’m a DJ, but really any song with a nice beat and lyrics makes me jump on the dance floor. Every night is different. You never know what type of crowd will come out and it keeps me on my toes.”
NAIDA CATHERINE KING RASBURY
The genesis: On October 10, 1935, at the age of 7 years, she made her Broadway debut at the Alvin Theatre in New York City in the production of Porgy and Bess.
Musical education: Graduated from the New York City High School of Music and Art in 1947, then enrolled at the Teacher’s College in Oswego, New York, where she became the major vocal soloist for the senior choir and later the director for the First Congregational Church Choir. She attended Syracuse University on a voice scholarship beginning in 1948.
Rasbury says people still often ask, once they know of her role in Porgy and Bess, if she knew George Gershwin.
“My 7-year-old self was his shadow whenever he was in the theatre, most times sitting with him or riding around on his shoulders, I’m told,” she recalls. “He had bit pieces inserted into the show for me. My mother, sister and I appeared in all touring and Broadway performances until 1943.”
She says while she was attending Syracuse University, she had a “gig” on weekends at an “after hours” nightclub called the Musicians and Entertainers Club.
“The club catered to professional entertainers as a place for them to unwind and let their hair down and jam with other musicians after their own shows were over,” she recalls. “I was the house singer and took song requests from the locals, until the pros arrived. Although I was only 20 years old when I started, I was able to jam with some of the musicians of the day, including guys from the Duke Ellington and Nat King Cole bands.”
She notes that although she received training to become a concert singer, “I honored my mother’s request to never pursue a professional career and become, in her words, ‘a starving singer.’ The singing I have done over the past 50 years or so has been professional quality thanks to my Syracuse University teacher, who was a retired Metropolitan Opera star.”
Rasbury recently completed a 10-year project of writing her memoir, Song Bird.
“I only had 50 copies printed, 48 of which went to family, and friends in Ocala and across the country who have had a positive impact on my life journey,” she explains. “I have been asked by many of these recipients for additional sale copies. I finally got the message and am now seeking a distributor.”
She and her husband Frank came to Ocala 32 years ago and she loves the simpler lifestyle here.
“I have found the audiences here attentive, gracious, and a pleasure to perform in front of,” she says. “I was taught that as a singer you have the responsibility to tell a story when you sing. Therefore, your diction and body language should draw your audience in and get them involved in what you are telling them. Many of us have been given a gift and we should not take it lightly. We all have a responsibility to use whatever our gift, whenever and wherever, to benefit others.”
The sound: “I like and sing many different types of music: Disney music like Frozen and Descendants, Christian music by artists such as Lauren Daigle and classic music such as Juice Newton’s Queen of Hearts.”
Performances: “I will be releasing a new video at least every other week on YouTube, where you also can find performances for the Celebration of Music Contest from August 9th, 2020, and in the Super Happy Awesome News ‘virtual’ play, directed by Terry LeCompte from the Ocala Civic Theatre from August 16th.”
Kaitlin Teresa was born in Kaua’i, Hawaii, but came to Ocala when she was just a few months old.
“There is more opportunity here on the mainland, so my parents brought me here because of the opportunities and schooling (Ambleside School of Ocala),” she explains.
The 8-year-old says if she had a theme song, it would be High Hopes from Panic at the Disco. She adds that she loves performing and making “the crowd feel something.”
“The audiences here are great,” she enthuses. “They are very encouraging and have a lot of kind words to say.”
Going forward, she hopes to record an album, sing at Carnegie Hall and appear on America’s Got Talent. In the meantime, she loves being a kid and playing games and reading chapter books.
The sound: Singer-songwriter style with alternative pop mixed in.
The genesis: “I love all things Florida—from the quiet rural fishing towns to the urban cities. Florida is the backdrop for my new single release, Key West, and my experiences as a Florida girl flavor my lyrics.”
Recordings: Key West is available for download on major streaming platforms.
Upcoming performances: “Pre-pandemic, I had a full calendar booked through the end of the year. When everything was cancelled, I decided to redirect my energy to recording and releasing some of the songs I’ve written. I have two more singles I’ll be releasing this fall. My big projects are filming the music videos.”
Godiva says she has always loved to sing and that when she was 8, her mother encouraged her to audition for a children’s music video/movie.
“I got the part, and that experience really sparked my desire for more,” she recalls. “From there I moved into pageantry, so I could sing in the talent competitions and simultaneously began several years of classical choral training. I realized in time that I love the rush of singing solo, so I began looking for local and regional singing competitions.”
She says she began meeting people who opened doors for her in the music industry and decided to take a “never-say-no” approach toward singing opportunities.
“If my calendar is open, I go wherever,” she remarks. “With every event I’ve met new people who’ve connected me to other venues and opportunities. It’s amazing how quickly a network can grow, and I am ever grateful for all the people who have helped me along the way thus far. I’ve certainly had my share of disappointments along this path, just like any other, but my love of singing and the joy it brings me has kept me going. Singing is like breathing.”
Fearlessness and perseverance inspire her, and she loves to create.
“I love artistry, beauty and light—my ultimate goal is to be able to continue to create music and perform my own songs as a full-time career.”
Godiva, a native of Jacksonville, says she was invited to sing at the Fairytale is True Christmas Concert on the downtown square last December, which led to her traveling here frequently to sing at different venues.
“Everyone I’ve performed for here has been super sweet and supportive,” she notes. “The audiences here actually take the time to come say hi after the show, take a business card and interact with me later on social media. Those kinds of fans start to feel like family friends, which is really special.”
CALY & MEGAN
The sound: Female acoustic duo. Typical sets include folksy, stripped down covers of popular songs, mixed with their original music. “We don’t like being confined to one genre.”
Recordings: They are currently in the process of recording some original works. “We’ve been writing some of our most personal and vulnerable pieces over the past couple months. We’re eager to get into a studio so we can share these songs with a broader audience.”
Caly moved to Ocala at age 10. The guitarist and singer says she has loved music her whole life but didn’t think of performing until she met Megan and received a push from her.
“She encouraged me to attend some open mic nights with her, which turned into us now performing all around town,” Caly notes. Her inspiration, she says, comes “from everything!”
“I’ve been inspired by love, family, COVID-19, friends, travelling,” she expounds. “As cliché as it may sound, my biggest inspiration has probably come from relationships. I started writing and playing guitar as a way to cope with heartbreak, and now I use it as a coping mechanism for many aspects of my life.”
Megan is from Maine, traveled around a bit and lived in a few different states before settling in Florida nine years ago. She says she was drawn to “the way that you can express emotion through music.”
“I think it’s such a beautiful thing to be able to put a piece of yourself into each song and share it with someone else. Making someone feel because of something you wrote or sang is one of the best feelings ever.”
The duo has found the local music scene welcoming.
“Since Caly and I started playing out last year, we have met so many fellow musicians who have wanted to help us excel and presented us with opportunity to do so,” Megan offers. “Same with the locals in the audience. Everyone just wants to support each other.”
“My favorite thing about living and performing here is the support that I’ve seen from the community,” Caly says. “From our audiences, to our friends, to other local artists and musicians, we have seen nothing but love and support from the day we started performing.”
The sound: “I’m not your typical country musician. I like to put my own spin on songs to give it that extra push to get people out on the dance floor, as well as mixing into different genres. I think that’s what makes someone an artist!”
Recordings: Just released his first single, County Line, and is working on recording three more songs, as well as a music video for his current single.
McNeil is native Ocalan. He says he joined the U.S. Navy after high school and once he was discharged, he came home to start his music journey.
“I’ve been a lot of places and there honestly is nowhere like home,” he states. “I love being able to see familiar faces in the local bars and knowing people by name because that’s where the fun, love and support is at.”
He says his future goals for his music are to work hard, release good music and let the rest work itself out. “I never thought of playing music as a career,” he explains. “I always wanted to, but never took the chance. Finally, after years of dedication, seeing my progression inspires me more in just my everyday life—knowing I’m capable of so much more.”
If he had a theme song, it would Blessings by Chance the Rapper.
Musical education: Thomas received his formal musical education at the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz at New England Conservatory in Boston, now known as the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz.
Career highlights: Thomas is the founder of the Jazz Alliance of Trinidad and Tobago (2007) and his career highlights demonstrate his passion and commitment to cultural and artistic diplomacy as a development tool. He has collaborated with many acclaimed international musicians in various genres of music and has produced, performed and promoted events through the alliance.
Early in his career, he toured India and Thailand with the Thelonious Monk Jazz Ensemble under the direction of distinguished Jazz Masters Carl Atkins, Thelonious Monk Jr., Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, and performed on drums and steel pans at the Snowmass Jazz Festival in Aspen, Colorado, and in India and Thailand. Following this initiation, he returned to his native Trinidad to begin his journey as a composer, musician, performer, arranger, inventor, entrepreneur and teacher.
Thomas says he was born into a family of music.
“My dad made the steelpan instruments and led his own steelpan orchestra, which I joined at age 7. And my grandmother was the first female to play the steelpans,” from New York three years ago to establish a cultural exchange program between Trinidad and Ocala by creating an International Youth Steelpan Orchestra with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Marion County.
“Thanks to the support from Marion Cultural Alliance and Insight Credit Union, we were able to purchase some of the steelpan instruments and are on our way to making this project become a reality.”
He finds Ocala “an easy going and quiet place to live. You can hear yourself think here.”
His future plans include publishing several books and fulfilling the completion of a 16-piece steel band orchestra at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Marion County.
Online: Instagram @hannahmatosmusic
The sound: “It is hard to describe my music with just one genre or style, but I will say my music is heavily influenced by R&B vibes.”
Matos says she moved to the area in 2008, after her family relocated to The Villages.
“They felt it was a safer place to raise my sister and I,” she remarks. “I appreciate the support of the arts in the community. I’m excited about what is happening and for what is to come and am happy to be part of it.
“Growing up, I was always around music. Whether it be for my mom’s church choir rehearsals, my sister’s dance rehearsals, or just listening to gospel music at home,” she adds. “It wasn’t until I moved to Ocala that I started to develop a personal relationship with music. Being new to the area and not knowing many people, I decided to teach myself how to play the guitar. I started singing in 9th grade and was involved in many music classes at West Port High School by 10th grade. Music has helped me get through many seasons in my life. When I can’t express myself with words, I express myself through music. If I didn’t have music, I would feel lost.”
Her theme song, she says, would be Unbreakable Smile by Tori Kelly.
As for the future, she cites Psalm 37:4—“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
“God has placed a big dream in my heart for my music,” she explains. “I would love to be a professional musician and share my music with people all over the world. I’m not sure what exactly God has in store for me, but I am excited to find out!”
Online: Facebook and Instagram; music available on www.reverbnation.com/beckysinn, Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube, Pandora and other platforms.
The sound: A sultry siren specializing in all things jazzy, bluesy and retro.
Coming up: “I am working on some new songs and collaborating with my longtime musical partner, William Cansler. He produced my first album and provided most of the instrumentation.”
Sinn is an Ocala native and says she loves how the local arts scene is flourishing.
“It’s always been here, it’s always been awesome, but I love that now it’s everywhere you look,” she enthuses. “It’s been spilling out into the streets and onto buildings for the past few years. I think the city is more involved than ever and it is thrilling. I love the murals and sculptures just popping up everywhere. I love all the new young musicians carrying on a tradition of Ocala music. Live music on the square and music festivals at the Drive-In—there is so much to do!”
Sinn says she was drawn to music way back.
“As far as I can remember, music has always caused physical and emotional reactions in me. It moves me so intensely,” she muses. “Music is my gift, it’s a part of the fabric of my being. I feel so lucky to have the natural ability to express myself through art and music. I continue to stay with it because I was blessed with this talent. It is my mission to spread joy and happiness through music.”
The singer and guitarist says she is inspired by “other artists, colors, moods, emotions and places.”
Rather than a single theme song, Sinn reveals, she would have “a theme album called A Touch of Tabasco by Rosemary Clooney and Perez Prado.
The sound: “During shows I love to include a few songs from all genres just so there’s something
for everybody. My personal style is more alternative rock.”
Performances: Singles Not a Quiet Thing and Backwards Fairytale, available on music platforms such as Apple Music, YouTube and Spotify.
Coming up: “I am working on writing and finishing an album and have recently gotten a band together, Arctic Red, and we will be making our debut at the Ocala Drive-In event on September 6th.”
Vogel was born in Manhasset, New York, and has been in Ocala for 20 years.
“My favorite thing about living here is being able to be a part of such a close-knit community,” she says. “The amount of support I’ve been shown from the beginning is extremely overwhelming and I’ve just met the most amazing people.”
The singer and guitarist says she is inspired by people who are passionate about what they’re doing.
“People are my passion, and everyone is so important in some way,” she declares. “I feel like the love that everyone has as a whole for what they’re doing ultimately inspires and lifts everyone up.”
Her goal for the future is to create as much music as possible.
“Performing is a huge passion of mine,” she explains, “If I can inspire at least one person to get out and follow their dreams as well, that’s already more than enough for me.”
ECLIFF FARRAR TELFORD
Online: Ecliff Farrar Facebook page.
The sound: “I’m a soul singer at my core, but I cover a wide range of pop music with my soulful influences in mind.”
Coming up: “I hope to record and promote an original single by summer 2021.”
Telford moved here from New York 15 years ago, after being hired at a job fair for Marion County Public Schools.
“I love that live music and the arts have become a significant part of the social culture; it may make way for further growth in other significant areas,” he offers.
He says he was drawn to music when he heard a woman sing in church when he was young, “and I knew one day I wanted to make people feel that way.”
“I’d like to write a song I can be proud of and have it stuck in someone’s head and maybe another musician covers it at a bar gig,” he says of his future hopes.
The singer and guitar player says if a tourist walked up and asked him about the best local sites, he would tell them, “The downtown area has a tremendous variety, including gourmet restaurants, an art gallery, Irish pub, sushi, wine and beer spots, a movie theater—just to name a few. But I’d absolutely have to specifically mention a few of my favorite places—The Keep Downtown, La Cuisine, The Courtyard On Broadway, Pi on Broadway, The Corkscrew and Big Hammock Brewery.”
The sound: “People say I have a big voice coming from a tiny body. My sound is a blend of country, rock and blues. They call me the ‘Mississippi Hippie’ and it wouldn’t be unusual to see me around town in bell bottoms and a flower in my hair!”
Coming up: In the studio writing and recording songs to be released in 2021. From September until the end of the year, scheduled performances at The Orange Blossom Opry (virtual), writing and recording in Nashville with Lee Brice band and performing one of her original songs in a movie.
Mac and her mom moved to Ocala, where they have family, about five years ago.
“I hated to leave Mississippi, but I have met so many amazing people in Ocala, which makes me proud to call it home,” the teenager states. “I am grateful for our local audiences. I have performed at many great venues in Ocala and am always amazed at all the love and support I get from everyone. Ocala is big enough to have a lot to offer and small enough to feel like a hometown.”
As for her start in music, “My mom says that I have been wailing since I came out of the womb,” she notes.
She says she was drawn to her career through local community theater plays, school productions and entering singing competitions as early as 6 years old.
“I have been blessed with so many opportunities with my music,” she outlines. “I have traveled all over the country performing at venues including the stages of America’s Got Talent Season 13, the House of Blues and The Bluebird Cafe in Nashville. I have performed the national anthem for MLB and NBA games, which include the Orlando Magic, LA Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies and Tampa Bay Rays. A little closer to home, I have enjoyed performing at the Suwannee River Music Jam and the Orange Blossom Opry in Weirsdale, which has somewhat become my second home. I am always happy performing at Ocala’s events/festivals and our local restaurants and venues. I haven’t performed at the Reilly Arts Center, but it’s certainly on my wish list. It seems like every time I finish a project another door always seems to open.”
She says her inspirations stem from a long line of artists, including the Beatles, Jack White, Eric Church, Elle King, Elvis, Janis Joplin, Patsy Cline, Aretha Franklin and many more, and by talented local artists such as Doug Adams, Mike Smithson, Doug Stock, Bill Bartling and others.
“My goals for the future are to continue growing as an artist and keep creating music to perform all around the world,” she offers. “I plan to maintain my Christian beliefs and values throughout my career and hope that whatever I do, it makes people happy.”