Suzy Estrada wrote her first song at just 12 years old. “It was actually a country song, which is odd, because at the time, I didn’t listen to country music. I guess I should have realized then how important lyrics would become to me…they always came very naturally.” Suzy grew up the youngest of 5 children to very young parents. Her mom and dad, Sherry and Jim, had all 5 of their children by the time they were only 22 years old. Needless to say, they had an admittedly difficult childhood, where Suzy poured out her feelings into diaries, poetry, and ultimately, song lyrics. “This was just my way of talking to someone, getting out my emotions and feelings that I thought no one else would understand.” Suzy’s dad always wanted to be a musician, but with trying to raise 5 young children, it never happened. “I remember him sitting there with his tape player, playing James Taylor songs all the time. He had a beautiful voice, he sounded exactly like James Taylor.” Suzy wrote and performed the song for her 8th grade graduation from Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie, Maryland. “Forever Friends” was a big hit. “My friends Jill and Maureen helped write some of the lyrics and we sang in 3 part harmony. I think I was hooked from that moment.” She went to Bowie High School where she tried to balance her school life and her home life, which was becoming increasingly more difficult. She sang in the choir and became involved in musical theatre…playing Anita in “West Side Story” in 11th grade. Her senior year in high school, Suzy wrote and performed the graduation song “Will You Remember Me” along with her friend, Jill Barrett, who played the piano, and Connie Dalton, who performed the song in sign language. “There were at least a couple thousand people at the graduation and we were so nervous. But we did it. It was on the front page of the newspaper…I knew my dad was proud of me.”
Suzy graduated from high school and went on to study music at West Virginia Wesleyan College. “I didn’t realize that to be a music major that I would have to either study music education or opera performance. There was nothing else I wanted to do…so I became an opera singer, and I ended up loving it.” By studying opera and having a strong desire to travel and see the world, Suzy was able to study abroad in Italy for the summer between her sophomore and junior year, and the fall semester of her senior year. “I took out student loans to study in Italy. It was the best experience of my life. I sang in a jazz band in Florence, learned Italian, travelled throughout Europe to places I never thought I’d see while I was growing up.” Suzy’s senior year in college was an exciting time after she returned from Florence. She was planning to move to New York City with 2 of her best friends, where they planned to get jobs and go on auditions together. “I had landed a great job working for Herbert Breslin, who was Luciano Pavarotti’s manager in New York at the time, I was on top of the world. When I was home packing for the move, I found out I was pregnant. I knew I couldn’t raise a baby in New York without the support I needed…so I stayed home.” This was a monumental turning point in Suzy’s life. “I planned on being a single mom, I started waitressing and moved in with my sister and her son. It was a very difficult time, but I knew things would be okay…they always were.” Suzy put her dreams of singing on hold and started a family. She ran into an old friend, Steve Estrada, and they hit it off immediately. Within months they were engaged and Steve adopted Suzy’s daughter, Alyssa.
Fast forward 10 years…Suzy and Steve have 4 more children…3 girls and a little boy they adopted from an amazing young woman. Suzy has been singing in church and enjoying it, but really misses the music she once longed to perform. After finding out her dad was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, Suzy wrote a song for him called “He Taught Me How to Sing” and performed it at a benefit to raise money for his medical expenses. “Preparing for that benefit was where I met Joe, who plays the guitar. We hit it off immediately and had a similar style.” Although neither of them were in the position to start playing their music publically just yet.
“My dad died on January 11, 2008. He was able to hear the song I wrote for him and I knew he was proud of me, which was very important to me. I wanted to keep singing and writing but the timing still wasn’t right. I kept waiting…and a terrible tragedy helped me to see that life is too short not to follow your dreams and live every day as if it might be your last.” Suzy’s 14 year old nephew, Christopher Jones, was murdered on May 30, 2009 while riding his bike home from his community pool. “It was devastating, there are no words that can describe how we all felt, especially my sister, my niece and Chris’ dad.” Suzy realized at that time that she had waited too long to pursue her passion of singing. She wanted to teach her 5 children that it is never too late to reach for the stars and see where God may lead you. Suzy auditioned for a local singing competition, Annapolis Idol in February of 2011. She sang the song that her sister, Jenny, had playing on Chris’ memorial video, “Anyway” by Marina McBride. She won the competition.
“When I won the Annapolis Idol competition, I knew I had to do something with my music. I had been writing some over the years and had even done a little recording, but never sung my music for anyone. It was time.” Suzy called her good friend Joe Burcham, who had played for the benefit for her dad, and asked if he’d be interested in starting something up…”I didn’t want a full band. I have 5 children and I don’t have time for 4 or 5 people’s schedules to line up. I asked Joe if he’d like to do something acoustically, just the two of us, and he said yes! So, here we are…”
Suzy and Joe learned over 65 songs in 6 weeks and performed them at open mic nights until they had enough music to play for 3 hours. They were hired in May, after only playing together for such a short time. “We were both so nervous, but once the music started, it just happened. It felt so good being back up there singing the songs I love.” Suzy and Joe have a very basic CD of 8 original songs that she has written over the years. “Some of the songs I write are very personal, some are stories that come to me, some of them are Christian songs that I hope to sing in church someday…I write whatever comes to me and I hope that my music reaches people where they are.” Suzy doesn’t know where her music will take her, but she’s enjoying the ride. She’s trying to balance her music career with her 5 children, husband, and home…and doing a pretty good job. “I’m so blessed to have such a supportive husband and family. They (my kids) are so happy for me that I’m singing. They love coming to my performances when they can.”
“I feel very content with my music right now. I’m not chasing down fame and fortune or hoping for a record deal. I’m just doing what I love, writing what’s in my heart, and singing what I feel in my soul. It couldn’t really be much better.”