Songwriter / Composer

Sarah Motes Ashley is a classically trained composer, singer/songwriter, and librettist. While an undergraduate, she wrote book, lyrics and music for three musicals produced at James Madison University ("Shoptalk," 1983, "Waiting," 1984 "All's Fair," 1986).

She thought playwriting was her trajectory, but she ended up in Chicago after college; she pursued musical theatre but ended up singing her original songs in Chicago's many cabaret and piano bar venues. "Ended up" is a recurring theme in Sarah's career, but she wouldn't have it any other way.

Her instrument is not voice but voices. While still in high school, she started writing and arranging songs for her three-woman group The Blondes, which started out as quirky a cappella songs written on staff paper with pencil, and really came to life during her cabaret years in Chicago. Her musicals and her pop songs are stuffed with vocal arrangements large and small.

During the Chicago years, she went back to school, picked up the building blocks of a second BA in music, and completed her MA at Concordia University in Chicago. The MA is a beautiful thing; it allowed her to refine her composition, conducting, theory, vocal pedagogy, choral pedagogy, jazz theory, and piano, without having to be an opera singer. Which she is not. The goal was to be a better writer, which she now is.

After the marriage and the MA, she and her husband moved to East Tennessee. On her third day in town, she auditioned for the Knoxville Choral Society and continued her love affair with choral music. Playwriting has also come back in a big way, and this time she might be ready. 

She picked up guitar and ukulele the year she turned 50, and on any given day you will find her writing a song, writing an instrumental that sounds like a car chase or a sweeping vista, rehearsing with her new harmony group Blesser Heart, collaborating on musical theatre projects, practicing, practicing more, writing and arranging choral pieces, gigging, rehearsing with the Choral Society, and more - just not all at once.

Her songs have won contests all over the world, and she has signed songs for sync in TV, movies and other media. She's known for soaring melodies, witty, moving and brave lyrics, those delicious fat vocals, and her very funny onstage persona. She's always looking for co-writers, collaborators and co-conspirators because music is always better with friends.


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