by Jim Bessman

Oct 12 2002

GHENT’S GIFTS: New York songwriter/producer/performer Valerie Ghent is active in a number of areas, most visibly as keyboardist/backup vocalist/ProTools engineer for Ashford & Simpson and as host of the Songwriter’s Beat series of monthly acoustic songwriters’ nights at the Cornelia Street Cafe in Greenwich Village. There, she books a variety of musical stylists and encourages performers to play new material. (She also holds a regular Songwriter Beat Clinic workshop there that covers the business aspects of songwriting.)

Like so many other local songwriters, Ghent was deeply affected by the horrors of Sept. 11th, 2001, and on March 11 organized a pair of benefit concerts commemorating the six-month anniversary of the World trade Center (WTC) attack. On her own West Street Records label she recently released We’ll Carry On, a WTC charity CD featuring 16 artists from those concerts – more than half being members of New York’s uniformed personnel or, like Ghent herself, WTC Ground Zero Relief volunteers.

The CD cover is also noteworthy in that it shows a panoramic photo poster of the WTC’s Tower 1 and the city skyline taken from the observation deck of Tower 2, surrounded by hundreds of signatures of recovery personnel.

Ghent attended the Sept. 11 first anniversary ceremonies at Ground Zero.

“It was a long and painful day, but in the midst of it all there was such an affirmation of life,” she says, singling out an unexpected opportunity. “I was at the bottom of the WTC site when the president and first lady walked down the ramp. I stayed back as he moved around the circle, greeting the families of the victims. Then he started signing autographs, and I realized I could get a CD to him as people were passing cards for him to sign. It was given to a Secret Service agent.”

Ghent then approached National Security Advisor Condoneeza Rice, Secretary of State Colin Powell, New York Govonor George Pataki, Mayor Mike Bloomberg and former mayor Rudolph Giuliani, presenting CD’s to all. “I explained to Condoleeza who the songs were by and whose signatures were on the cover, and she warmly said how much she appreciated it and that she would h the crowtreasure it,” Ghent says. “Colin Powell was moved by the cover photo and put the CD in his back pocket.

“Then I realized that the president was merging with the crowd, so I went over to him, gave him a CD, and said, “Mr. President, thank you for coming here today. It is my honor to present you with a CD of songs written by firefighters, police, volunteers like myself and local NYC musicians’. He looked at it, then thanked me for giving it to him and thanked me again when I told him about the signatures on the cover and that they were the uniformed personnel who had cleared the very space we were standing in. He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Thank you, all the people on this CD. Thank you for all you’ve done.’ Then he looked at the signatures and said ‘All these people,’ and paused, then continued: ‘This is powerful. You see, that’s what I’m going to talk to the American people about this evening.'”

We’ll Carry On is available through Ghent’s Web site. She reports that the Coalition of 9/11 Families is using two of its songs for an upcoming DVD release and has asked her to serve as the group’s music/poetry curator.


© 2002 Billboard