Forbes Center and WMRA Radio Partner for 'Songstress Sojourn'; Concert Lineup Announced

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September 1, 2021 - The Forbes Center for the Performing Arts at James Madison University is excited to partner with WMRA radio for the inaugural Songstress Sojourn, a concert celebrating five female singer-songwriters from the Shenandoah Valley. Gina Furtado, Erin Lunsford, Molly Murphy, Ebony Nicole, and Suz Slezak will perform several original songs and share the personal stories behind their creation in a performance on Friday, September 10 @ 8 pm in the Forbes Center Concert Hall. Tina Owens from WMRA’s The Acoustic Café will host the event, which is sponsored by Cross Keys Studio in Port Republic, Virginia. Songstress Sojourn is part of the 2021–2022 Masterpiece Season, which is sponsored by Kathy Moran Wealth Group.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with WMRA once again. Showcasing such talented Shenandoah Valley performers is a powerful way for the Forbes Center to reach out to our community,” says Regan Byrne, executive director of the Forbes Center. “We have a vibrant music scene in our region and with this Forbes Center partnership, Songstress Sojourn, we have an opportunity to amplify this talent in a very creative way,” adds Matt Bingay, WMRA general manager.

Born and raised in Front Royal, Virginia, Gina Furtado is known for her work as the banjo player for Chris Jones & The Night Drivers; she made her international debut with the group shortly after joining in 2016. Furtado’s tween-year East Coast tours with her siblings led to Bluegrass Today praising her for being “absurdly talented.” She currently tours with her band, the Gina Furtado Project.

Erin Lunsford is an award-winning singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist originally from Fincastle, Virginia. She is the frontwoman of the Richmond, Virginia-based funk/soul band Erin & The Wildfire and has opened solo for Bruce Hornsby, Darrell Scott, and more. Lunsford was selected as a top NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert in 2018 and 2019, and was included in “FloydFest 2019: 10 Best Things We Saw” by Rolling Stone Country.

Molly Murphy, who studied music at JMU, plays guitar, sings, writes and arranges music. She began playing with the Charlottesville, Virginia-based band The Bourbon Specials in 2005. A few years later, Murphy and her friends formed The Judy Chops, which performs regionally as well as up and down the East Coast. Murphy also performs in the duo ensemble The Marvelous Murphy Sisters with her sister Sally, and owns Queen City Music Studios in Staunton, Virginia, a school of music for learning by ear.

Ebony Nicole is an East Coast singer-songwriter who lives in Harrisonburg, Virginia. She plays keyboard and acoustic guitar. Nicole’s single High and Dry was awarded a special mention in the Singer-Songwriter category of the UK Songwriting Content 2019. Her four-track EP project is available for download at

Suz Slezak, who grew up playing the fiddle and singing rounds, is a pioneering folk musician who performs solo and as a duo with husband David Wax in the Charlottesville, Virginia-based “Mexo-Americana” band David Wax Museum. The band’s release of Line of Light in August 2019 resulted in a national television debut on CBS This Morning: Saturday and three features on NPR’s World Cafe. Their ballad “Big Sur” debuted during the marriage scene on Netflix’s Firefly Lane in 2021.

WMRA is an NPR News/Talk radio station that has been serving listeners in 29 counties in the Shenandoah Valley and Central Virginia for over 45 years. The WMRA network includes five transmitters, 90.7fm in the Shenandoah Valley, 103.5fm in Charlottesville, 89.9fm in Lexington, 94.5fm in Winchester and 91.3fm in Farmville. WMRA also operates 91.7fm WEMC, a classical music service in the Harrisonburg metro area.

The Forbes Center for the Performing Arts is comprised of the Dorothy Thomasson Estes Center for Theatre and Dance and the Shirley Hanson Roberts Center for Music Performance and houses five state-of-the-art performance venues: the Mainstage Theatre (450 seats), the Concert Hall (600 seats), the Recital Hall (198 seats), the Studio Theatre (200 seats) and the Earlynn J. Miller Dance Theatre (200 seats). It also includes classroom, rehearsal and office facilities.

Tickets are $34–$35. For tickets, visit or call the Forbes Center Box Office at (540) 568-7000. 

Songstress Sojourn artwork by Sue Overton.

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Published: Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023

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