An open soul: Maritri Garrett returns to the Folk Music Center

By Andrew Alonzo |

Maritri Garrett brings her soulful folk to the Folk Music Center in Claremont at 7:30 p.m. this Saturday, January 27. Tickets, $15, can be purchased at the 220 Yale Ave. store, or by calling (909) 624-2928.

The 59-year-old San Bernadino-based singer, songwriter and musician explores a range of subjects in her work, from bad breakups, the pandemic, to the death of family members.

Her father died in 2009, then her mother in 2015. These losses were followed by the death of her younger brother Marend in 2021, who left behind three children that Garrett now cares for.

“When I started telling really personal stories about my dating life or traveling or … dealing with the loss of parents and that sort of thing, that’s when the magic really started because I became really just completely open and vulnerable and just allowed the art and the music to come through,” Garrett said. “I think once that happened, the vulnerability just sort of carried it forward and people responded in a very different way.”

Garrett has played the Folk before, first busking outside the venerable store with her trio in the early days of the pandemic, and once again on its stage after restrictions eased.

She enjoys working in intimate venues such as the Folk. “Because I can actually talk to people and see their faces,” she said. She also invites audiences to ask questions about her — within reason — to keep the conversation lively.

Saturday’s show will incorporate elements of Garrett’s Facebook Live music hour, “Reunion of Souls,” which she began during the pandemic in an effort to boost spirits and moods. The show, which is streamed from her living room, continues to this day from 5 to 6 p.m. every weekday. Find her on Facebook to learn more.

Garrett was raised in a house filled with musical inspiration. Her father, Marion, was a professional saxophonist and introduced Garrett to jazz. Her mother, Martha, was a classical music buff. “I grew up in California, so I was listening to a lot of Stevie Wonder and The Beatles and The Beach Boys. You know, very California sort of things,” she said.

Garrett started playing piano at 2 ½, began taking lessons at 5, and by age 7 was reading music. Garrett toured with a church choir while in college, further expanding her musical vocabulary.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in biology from Nashville’s Fisk University in 1986, she enrolled at Howard University. Her goal was to earn a master’s in pharmaceutical sciences.

“I lasted for a semester in pharmacy,” Garrett said. “I had one music class, and I was so happy with this music class, and I would go up to the music building.”Garrett switched majors. Shortly thereafter she landed a gig playing piano on the 1989 limited series, “A Man Called Hawk,” a spin-off of “Spenser: For Hire.” She went on to earn a second bachelor’s degree in music composition from Howard, followed by a master’s in jazz studies.

While still at Howard, Garrett was recruited to perform as a backup singer for Barbara Streisand at former President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration in 1993. Her music career began gaining momentum around then. Her first post-college band, Hue, included Howard friends Deirdre Pascall and Latanya Peoples. The group played in New Jersey, Washington D.C., and New York. After her collaborators left, Garrett teamed with cellist Shana Tucker and continued to work primarily in New York. In 1997 the duo was commissioned to write music for The Washington Ballet, where Garrett had worked as a staff pianist. After Hue broke up, Garrett performed as a solo act.

In 2009 she formed The Soulfolk Experience with saxophonist, pianist, guitarist and bassist V. Jeffrey Smith — one of the founders of The Family Stand — and bassist, guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter David Pilgrim. Their albums, “Soulfolk Experience Vol. 1” and “Soulfolk Experience Vol. 2,” are streaming at Her solo work is streaming at

Maritri Garrett performs at the Folk Music Center, 220 Yale Ave., Claremont, at 7:30 p.m. this Saturday, January 27. Tickets are $15 at the store or by calling (909) 624-2829.

Garrett will head east after her show at the Folk to perform “Medicinal songs for 15 minutes ago,” a three-hour concert and dance event at the Open Arts Studios in Brooklyn on February 6.


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