At 5 foot 3 and less than 110 lbs. Miss Sybil Gage is a petite person. But that’s not how you experience her at all. Surrounded by a cloud of glamour Sybil always looks grandiose, brilliant and gorgeous. Her smile is warm like sunshine and her personality fills any room. But it’s when Miss Sybil takes the stage and sings her jazz and blues that she grows to be bigger than life. Her powerful sweet voice takes the audience to her hometown of New Orleans where she grew up singing and listening to all different kind of sounds. And by the end of the performance you might find yourself “sybilized” and joining her ever growing fan base.
In her private life Miss Sybil Gage is - private. Her online bio states her love for New Orleans and her accolades. You’ll find some information about her Stormy Monday radio show that she hosts on WMEL AM 1300 every Saturday night at 7 pm and there are lots of videos and sound bites from her CDs Red and Nola Calling. It’s all about music. Last month Brevard Live Magazine was honored to sit down with this grand lady of jazz and blues for a rather private interview about her life that goes along with her music.
Sybil was born in the heart of New Orleans and raised by a conservative family and strict grandparents. Her father was a Liberian and the young girl was expected to pursue an education. Being a part of the ever pulsing New Orlean party scene was out of the question. That was a hard thing to follow with Erin Neville (of the Neville Brothers) just living a few blocks away and a nightclub right next door where the Neville Brothers and Professor Longhair were performing. Night after night Sybil would hear the bar sounds, listened to wonderful music and people having so much fun. “That’s when I knew that one day I wanted to be an entertainer just like them,” she said.
Sure enough, during her first years in college Sybil got caught up in the never-ending parties of New Orleans and decided in her mid-twenties to move to New York City to concentrate on her education and career. She attended New York University Tisch School of the Arts where she graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in 1983.
In 1981 Sybil had already started a job in radio as a reporter and news anchor in Manhattan. “I had to support myself and my son Jay so I had to work,” she explained. For the following 10 years her professional career consisted of radio and news and Sybil was a popular voice in Manhattan and a well-liked colleague for her co-workers. This all was about to change when a new talk show host entered the scene - Bill Gage. That was in 1991.
Bill had his own claim to fame as the owner of a well-known steak and sushi restaurant who used to be an off-Broadway actor with highly acclaimed reviews. The executives of the radio station were frequent guests in his restaurant and liked the way he handled his guests and discussed his views. When a time-slot opened they asked Bill to host an hour show and Sybil was assigned to show this new college the “tricks of the trade.” Not good. “It wasn’t love at first sight,” laughed Sybil, and Bill added that he overheard her asking the boss to fire him. But management didn’t want to hear it and Bill stuck around.
So what changed their tense relationship? Bill remembered: “One day she sat down with me, put her hand gently on my knee and said ‘you’re alright, Billy Gage’. - Bill paused and we witnessed how the memory of this life-changing moment still overwhelmed this man. And the moment re-visited became a moment re-lived: Sybil put her hand on Bill’s knee and said with her convincing sweetness “It’s ok Bill. I love you too.” Everything in the office came to a halt. The most powerful emotion had just entered the room - True Love.
Bill and Sybil got married followed by a few very happy years. Bill became husband and father and both had very successful careers Then life had another challenge for them: Sybil’s father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and needed care. Bill and Sybil discussed the situation and decided to move to Florida to take care of Doctor Mack, Sybil’s dad. A former educator, athlete and proud man of the “old school” it was hard for her father to deal with his ailment and Bill stepped in as the care-giver who lifted him, showered him so he could stay with them. That sealed the couple’s fate. They gave up their careers to accompany Doctor Mack until he passed away five years later when he was buried in New Orleans.
In the meanwhile Sybil had revived her singing career that she had started in the mid 90s. Back then she fronted a little trio with whom she performed at The Village Door in Queens, NY. She played piano and guitar, wrote her own music, and loved to sing. When she came to Florida, she decided, together with Bill, that she would pursue her talent professionally with Bill as her manager. Her first performance was in 2004 at the Melbourne Library on Fee Avenue. The rest is music history.
Since then Sybil has been performing in several clubs and for festivals. She’s a sought after performer on the Mardi Gras circuit and has been a part of the New Smyrna Jazz Festival for the past 4 years. She also performed at the Thin Man Watts Festival in Deland, the Daytona Blues Festival, the Melbourne Arts Festival. Her main stage is the prestigious Heidi’s Jazz Club in Cocoa Beach where she sings for a loyal following every Tuesday night.
For more information go to www.sybilsings.com. Here’s a sneak preview: Sybil will perform the National Anthem at the 2012 Brevard Live Music Awards. She’s also made a song available for download on our website, www.brevardlive.com: “The Christmas Beat” - an original Christmas present from us to you.