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Sweet-singing Kim Kalman ministers to those who would feel

Kitty Hawk's singing song-writing Kim Kalman connects her heart, hands and head with her spirituality.

Her musical magic leaves listeners, who would allow themselves, to become emotionally ensnared and entranced. Kalman's oh-so-sweet voice is a precision instrument matched only by her fingers which seem were born picking guitar strings.

With lyrical diction never leaving one to wonder, 'what did she say?,' Kalman could just as easily live in the New York, Los Angeles or Nashville areas and make a living at melody. In fact, she's been there and done that. But she prefers the Outer Banks. It's good fortune for those here who allow music to touch them and be healed.

With a high-tech blaze in the TV fireplace, Kalman sings at Chip's Wine and Beer Market in Kill Devil Hills, helping to bring business to the store before the holidays, while marketing her singing and her recorded CDs.
(Ed Beckley | Sentinel)
Kalman has been a professional musician for more than four decades, but back-to-back CDs recorded in Nashville over the past year have people abuzz, and radio program managers offering up her disks on the airwaves.

Before the holidays, she released "A Christmas to Remember," knocking the title song and the old standard, "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm," out of the park. Her voices-only rendition of "Christmas Again" demonstrates that she can stand up and powerfully hold one's attention without instrumentation. But it was her earlier release this summer that may have changed Kalman's life. A Christian CD titled "I'm Not Alone," with tunes such as "Sweet Redeemer," and "Take This Offering," represented the first time Kalman said she really "got it," in terms of realizing that her music is her passion.

"I had a major AHA in my heart," she said, "It's one thing to know it intellectually, but when you combine that with what's in your heart, together it just explodes."

Kalman said she had lived outside L.A. for eight years right after graduating from the College of William & Mary. She called it "the networking town," and "a good place to start." There she honed her writing skills but realized she was "becoming" an L.A. networker. "You're always thinking what can you do for me instead of wondering what others are about. I realized I didn't want to be there," she said.

To understand why Kalman would forgo a self-centered approach to her life and music, one must go back further in time. There's a photo of three-year-old Kalman on the front cover of her Christmas CD. She's sitting in front of a shiny aluminum Christmas tree, adorned in cowboy hat and boots, with a guitar at her feet.

She had not seen this photo until her mother fished through old boxes and sent it to her in October. One of Kalman's trademarks is wearing chic black western wear, including the cowboy boots. She said that when she selected the Christmas CD cover, it all came back to her.

"That's where it all started," she said. Kalman noted that her girlhood was a precious time for her. Both parents were artistic, and she and her Italian mother shared many moments in their New Jersey kitchen cooking and listening to the likes of Tony Bennett, Karen Carpenter and Dan Fogelberg on WNEW Radio. Kalman said she is a child of the '70's, and the music-related memories of her family bring joy and a little bit of melancholy over good times past. To this day, she enjoys singing standards of that era.

And then there was church. Kalman said she was 15 years old when the burly Irish priest at St. Lawrence Church in Chester, NJ, appealed to the Parish. The folk singers at church were graduating from high school. Were there any musicians in the congregation who could help? "I'm sitting in the pew. My mother and sister turned directly around and looked at me. The first thing I was thinking is, are you crazy? I'm not getting into this."

It was shortly thereafter that she and another girl became the church's music directors, which included all the adults and kids in the choir. Ten of her musical friends came aboard, as well. "I've always had a relationship with my God," she said, "but I had no clue he'd pull me out of the audience like this. My first paid gig was a church wedding. I've sung at church ever since that time."

Kalman said it seems that almost everywhere she's gone she's filled some musical hole needed at church. When she moved to Kitty Hawk, the previous music director at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church had just left — at Christmas time. "So I stepped in temporarily for some months." It wasn't long before Pastor Bill Walsh realized God's gift of Kim Kalman, and he asked her to carry on there, and also at Holy Trinity by the Sea Church in Nags Head.

She recollected days when she used to play in bars until wee hours of the morning, where conversations about politics, money and religion were taboo. As she matured, Kalman said she realized "my music has been a ministry to me. Music gives us permission to feel, heal and be healed."

The evolutionary revelation for her, capped by the recording of the Christian CD, changed her thinking about her career. She used to concern herself with securing a record label and working through a manager. She recollected having some success with her original songs from her CD "Moonlight," which played on 60 of 100 radio stations in Nashville.

But when she sought consistent work, people would ask her what label she was under, or who her manager was. Having neither, she faced the difficulties of a thousand musicians set loose on the streets of America's country music cornerstone. She decided to leave Tennessee and bring her talent to a place she had come many times during her college days: The Outer Banks.

"I let go of all of that. If a label came to me, then fine. But it's not something I'm out there digging for. I've only recently allowed music to be my passion, and I love being in control of my product, which in my case is me," she said. "I enjoy being able to create and do things like blitz a region or put gift cards on the web site. And the Outer Banks has always been very good to me businesswise. It's very acoustic music oriented."

Kalman, with the help of her partner Barbara Roche, have marketed very well here. Roche built as a birthday gift, and has since turned the web site into a hip sales tool. Kalman's marketing creativity seems boundless. Before the holidays she lined up appearances at local stores, including restaurants, pet stores and a wine and beer market. She also was booked for private Christmas parties in between radio interviews enabling her to sing and market some more. Her latest brainstorm is to provide singing telegrams for Valentine's Day, which would include a song at the loved one's doorstep, and perhaps some candy, a stuffed bear and, of course, a Kim Kalman CD.

She'll continue to record in Nashville, where she cut all six of her CDs. The music is eclectic and all good. From funky jazz to country, love songs of the 30s, 40s and 50s to contemporary pop, Christian and Christmas, she's become a favorite singing favorites for the generations. Her lyrical and musical writing talents are featured on the CD named "Moonlight," all original Kalman and inspired from living in Nashville, where the protocol is to write and sing your own material, she said. Her recorded "sound" is consistent because she's banded with the same professional musicians and backup singers over the past 10 years.

A musician must sing and play to eat. And to sing and play, one must market. Kalman is doing it her own way, and having fun at it. And she's proud to be bringing her ministry to those who would hear. "I consider myself a vessel. If a song is good and I can get something out of it, I can give it back to my audience. I want them to give themselves permission to feel when they hear my music because in hearing it they'll know that is my heart."

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