Seated on the armrest of a couch in her grandparents’ Edgartown parlor room, Caroline Miskovsky straps a guitar around her back and positions her left hand, lightly manicured, on its neck. She begins to play a song she calls Detour in a full, melodic voice. The song is about a love story that’s taken a wrong turn.
Eyes closed, a listener might expect Miss Miskovsky’s voice to belong to a woman of at least 21. But she’s just turned 13, and will enter the eighth grade in September. When she’s done playing, and the toe-tapping from the small audience has been replaced with applause, she smiles and reveals a slight dimple on the right side of her mouth.
Caroline has been practicing her set every day for an upcoming concert on Sunday, July 14, with Island pianist David Crohan. The concert will be held at the Whaling Church in Edgartown and benefit the Island Elderly Housing, which provides housing and essential services to the elderly and the disabled.
Caroline performed five songs with Mr. Crohan at the Tabernacle last July along with other young Island musicians. Formerly the owner and main entertainer of David’s Island House in Oak Bluffs, Mr. Crohan recently began sharing the stage with younger artists. He says playing with them gives him “energy, a real charge.”
Most musicians are at 70 per cent of their talent potential as pre-teenagers, he says, with an exception for singers, whose voices take slightly longer to mature. Not in Miss Miskovsky’s case, however. Her voice gives the impression that she is far beyond her true years.
Having visited the Island since she was born, Miss Miskovsky sometimes performs in front of the Paper Store in Edgartown. Last summer, she raised a total of $800 for a music foundation.
“Through music, Caroline comes alive in lots of different ways,” explained her mother, Kara Connors. “I am not a musician, but I can tell with her, if she has had a bad day, she puts it all into a song.”
When Mr. Crohan first heard Caroline sing, she sounded like a talented but young vocalist, he said. A year later, her voice had matured by leaps and bounds, he said. “She had really grown — her style, her musicianship, her joie de vivre, had developed to an astonishing extent.”
Mr. Crohan also sees in her the same passion for music that he has known all his life.
“The sense of control I have in music and the ability to express things in music that I can’t say in words . . . I don’t understand how the rest of you live a life of happiness without it . . . The absolute joy that I get from playing, even after all these years . . . I am so blessed, and I feel that Caroline has the same relationship to music and it will grow and grow as it gets older. I am very happy for her.”
Miss Miskovsky says she is honored to open for Mr. Crohan at the concert. “Obviously he’s an amazing pianist,” she said. “That was pretty inspiring to see that level of musicianship, and it was an amazing opportunity to perform with him and even rehearse with him, and I think we sounded really good together.”
The theme of Mr. Crohan’s portion combines two 50th anniversaries — the Kennedy assassination and the Beatles’ invasion. Mr. Crohan will perform numbers from the musical Camelot, often associated with the Kennedy administration, as well as arrangements of the Beatles’ music.
While Caroline hesitates to confirm that she will perform alongside Mr. Crohan in the concert, he is resolute. “Absolutely, or I won’t do it,” he said.
At home, Caroline has sung with the San Francisco Girls Chorus, where she learned “music theory, how to sight read music,” she says. She also sang in the San Francisco Opera’s production of Turandot, and has performed with Arnold McCuller, backup singer for James Taylor, and Jeff Watson.
Both Mr. Crohan and Miss Miskovsky say they feel grateful that their musical gifts allow them to give back to organizations they care about, including Island Elderly Housing. While the group receives federal subsidies for housing, the government does not fund their quality of life programs, such as the Blueberry Van, a transportation service that allows the residents to get to their medical appointments, errands and social gatherings. The organization accommodates 165 residents, and there are another 200 people on the waiting list.
Miss Miskovsky met some of the Island Elderly Housing residents when she rode in the Blueberry Van during the Edgartown parade.
“You can tell that these people have worked so hard in their life to provide for their family, and they have done service to the Island . . . ” she said. “And I am really glad that music is one way to raise awareness and to help out.”
Following the concert, the musicians will attend a public reception in the basement of the Whaling Church.
“I hope this becomes a tradition,” Mr. Crohan said.
David Crohan with Caroline Miskovsky benefit concert for Island Elderly Housing begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Old Whaling Church, Main street in Edgartown. Tickets are $35 in advance, $40 at the door.