Last summer, Sloane Simon was celebrating becoming a bat mitzvah at the Kotel in Jerusalem.
This summer, the 13-year-old vocalist, songwriter and guitarist from Fox Chapel will ascend the acoustic stage at the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival, where she will perform solo before throngs of Pittsburgh music lovers.
Sloane was chosen to perform after submitting videos of her work to the festival’s open call for artists; she was the youngest performer selected for a solo spot on the acoustic stage.
The fact that she is only 13, though, did not factor into her selection as one of only 25 acts from among almost 400 submissions, according to Sarah Aziz, director of the festival.
“When I heard Sloane, I didn’t know her age,” said Aziz. “I just heard her and said, ‘Let’s put her on the acoustic stage.’ Then she filled out her bio, and my marketing director called me and said, ‘Did you know you programmed a 13-year-old?’”
The teenager has a “mature voice, and she writes mature songs,” Aziz continued, adding that she was impressed by Sloane’s “professionalism” and her “really great vocal quality. And you could tell she could handle the acoustic stage, and the crowd.”
“While Sloane’s music helped her — and me — through that difficult time, she quickly progressed on her own to use music to express her relationships with anxiety, mean girls, anti-Semitism, friends, feelings and generally everything else that affects her,” said her mother, Robin Simon, who is now healthy.
Sloane’s response to finding a swastika painted on the sidewalk in front of her family’s home last spring inspired her to write the moving lyrics and melody to “Hatred and Fear.”
“I had so many emotions seeing that swastika in front of my house that I couldn’t process them,” Sloane said. “So, I wrote ‘Hatred and Fear,’ and I hope that the kids who [painted the swastika] see the video posted on Facebook and YouTube, because it means a lot to me.”
When she picks up her guitar and begins to play, Sloane connects instantly with her audience through a clear, strong voice and poignant, relatable lyrics. She has the stage presence of a seasoned performer.
Her Three Rivers Arts Festival hourlong set will include many of her original songs as well as some covers, including those of artists as diverse as Johnny Cash and Led Zeppelin.
The covers, though, “are my own take on these songs,” Sloane stressed.
The 59th Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival opens downtown on June 1 and runs through June 10. Sloane will perform on the acoustic stage at Gateway Center beginning at 5 p.m. on June 1.
“I was so honored to be selected,” she said.
Sloane has other shows lined up in the next few months, including a June 24 performance at the Rex Theater and a performance at Ladyfest — a fundraiser for the Women’s Shelter and Girls Rock — on June 17.
And don’t be surprised if you see this talented young lady on a national stage in the near future: She is already working with Christina Chirumbolo, the New York-based artist developer that discovered Daya, the Mt. Lebanon teen pop artist who won a Grammy in 2017. PJC
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.