October 6, 2013 01:00AM
By Ken Lipshez
WALLINGFORD — Summer Edeen can hit a field hockey ball hard enough to make it sing, but not nearly as sweetly as she does.
Lyman Hall’s senior midfielder has long dreamed of a career as a country music vocalist. She’s been to Nashville and it seemed to be calling her name.
Her sport is a practical means to that end.
“There are different parts of how they connect,” Edeen said this week prior to singing Saturday at Celebrate Wallingford. “Field hockey is competition, but you have plenty of support because you’re part of a team. Music is kind of the same. You go out and compete against other people for playing time.”
But advancing in sports is easier because so much is within a player’s control. The entertainment business can be cruel because talent becomes secondary to impressing the right people, an ambiguity that enables some careers to blossom and many dreams to wither.
“You hope it’s not always about that,” she said. “You try not to let it be because music has to come from a deeper place. You try to separate it.”
Edeen proved to be a musical prodigy at an early age, not just singing and playing instruments, but writing songs.
“I wrote my first song in 5th grade to sing at a talent show,” she said. “I was nervous. I wasn’t really into it.
“I started taking piano, taught myself guitar and was writing as many songs as I could. A lot of them were rough, but every once in awhile there’d be a good one.”
As she’s learned in sports, achieving goals comes from beating the competition. She won a blue ribbon in a talent competition at the 2011 Durham Fair and another more recently in Madison.
“I’ve been playing out a lot and getting feedback,” she said. “It’s all about connecting with people on a personal level.”
Last year, she met with a New York producer, but found that they were on different wavelengths.
“He wanted synthetic music in the background with the club beats. That isn’t me,” she said. She visited Nashville and came away more determined than ever.
“Nashville was a really awesome experience,” she said. “I got to connect with people with the same mindset. It’s not that people around here don’t like the music, but they think of it differently. They don’t have the same interest. Everybody down there has the same goal and it’s cool to find that energy because everybody’s so passionate.”
She sang at the Bluebird Café, noted as a premium gathering place for singers and songwriters and the spot where country artists Kathy Mattea and Garth Brooks got their starts.
Her songs had impressed two noteworthy songwriters in Nashville. Meriden native Gary Burr, who has written for numerous Nashville heavyweights, is one. Georgia Middleman is the other.
“I did a demo with three songs over the winter and [Burr] liked what he heard,” Edeen said. “We made a family trip around it. I got to meet people and see a city whose main focus is on music.”
Witnessing Nashville’s inner workings has persuaded her to also consider the business end of the industry.
“Belmont University is my number one school because I can learn the business there,” she said. “If nothing happens for me as an artist, I can be in the industry without being an artist and [sing] as a hobby.”
In the meantime, she’s enjoying the field hockey season under second-year coach Stephanie Lavado. Edeen has found it stimulating to be a part of Lavado’s progressive rebuilding program that has taken Lyman Hall from a team that won one of 48 games over the three years before her arrival to one that made states last fall.
“It’s very rewarding when you can grow with the team,” she said. “Coach is amazing. She’s the main reason why. She grew up with us through our high school experience. Making it to states showed everybody that we weren’t a joke.”
The Trojans are well on their way back to the tournament with a 3-1-3-1 record at the season’s halfway mark. Edeen has assisted on three of the team’s six goals, five of which were scored by Sami Forster.
“Being athletic and being musically inclined are great parts of my life,” Edeen said. “I didn’t play as a freshman. I had friends on the team so I played as a sophomore. Junior year was my varsity year. It’s something I’ve really enjoyed and the team’s really nice. I love all the girls on it.”
Edeen ran track and cross country in middle school but never developed a talent for soccer. Field hockey was brand new to her. She also plays varsity lacrosse in the spring.
“I’ve put a lot of work into [field hockey],” she said. “As a sophomore, I had to work doubly hard because the freshmen were at my level. An athletic background helps and I learned the rules of the game.”
Just like when she’s dribbling the ball through the midfield, Edeen has her eye on the target and is determined to keep pushing forward until she scores.
“Because I’m so driven and focused on my future, it’s kept me on a track separate from my friends. I find myself more invested in how to expand my connections and make myself better. It sets me apart,” she said. “People in the business don’t care that I’m 17. They expect professionalism and I’ve had to learn to be poised because I have to be an adult in the business.
“There are no guarantees. If you go to school for medicine, you know you’ll get a job in your field but there’s never a guarantee in the music business.”