2006-03-02 / Top Stories

Well-Traveled Gospel Singer Remains True To Canarsie

By Dara Mormile

Canarsien Stephanie Simpson sang her heart out during her live performance last month.Canarsien Stephanie Simpson sang her heart out during her live performance last month. Regardless of where Stephanie Simpson’s travels take her, she chooses to remain in the community where she grew up.

The 34-year-old gospel singer, who spent much of her childhood with her mother and two brothers in the Breukelen Houses, started singing to commercials on television and soon lent her voice to the choir at the New Mount Carmel Church Of God and Christ.

As a teen, her involvement in extracurricular activities was not only a creative outlet, she said, but a way to keep busy and stay out of the projects after school. She attended Public School 260, Isaac Bildersee Intermediate School and Canarsie High School.

“I was always in the glee club or in the choir at school,” said Simpson. “During my years at Canarsie High School I got involved in everything I could.”

In addition to performing with the Elite and A Cappella choruses when she attended Canarsie High School, she was captain of the girls’ volleyball and softball teams, a member of the yearbook staff and served as the president of Students Against Drunk Driving. After high school, she briefly attended New Paltz State University where she studied psychology and was director of the gospel program.

“I never thought that I could turn my singing into a career,” Simpson said. “Singing has always just been a part of me and it’s been in my family for years past. My siblings also sing and my brothers sometimes sing with me. It’s great to have that talent in the family.”

Shirley Simpson, Stephanie’s mother, said “I taught her so many songs when she was a little girl – and at four she was walking around the house singing nearly every commercial that was on television! We definitely have a rich history of singers in our family. My mother was also an inspiration to our entire family. She had us listening to strong female vocalists like Nahalia Johnson, so I knew Stephanie would be successful with her singing.”

While Stephanie is a receptionist for a Canarsie medical facility full time during the week, her weekends and evenings are spent performing. She is also a minister at the Word For Life Church in Crown Heights.

Simpson has performed at the Apollo Theatre and at various conferences and cruises.

“I’ve traveled to Canada and the Cayman Islands, but my goals are to someday perform at Carnegie Hall and Madison Square Garden,” she said. “I would also love to intertwine gospel with the symphony.”

Simpson notes Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway and Gladys Knight among her musical inspirations. Motown has always been her music of choice, yet she also enjoys listening to such contemporary artists as Avril Lavigne and Joss Stone.

She unwinds before her performances with prayer and joins her fellow singers backstage, releasing some of the tension.

“We do a lot of laughing together and we relax before going out there to entertain the crowds,” she said.

Last month, Simpson’s performance at the New Life Tabernacle Church on Bedford Avenue in Flatbush was recorded for a live CD and DVD entitled, “A New Worship Experience,” both of which are scheduled for release later this month and will be available for purchase at various retail stores as well as online.

When Simpson’s busy schedule permits, her activities include going to the gym, as well as reading and spending time with her daughters, Diamond, 9 and Briana, 5 at their East 89 Street home.

“My daughters definitely mimic me and I can see singing in their future,” she said. “But no matter what happens with my family or career, I plan on staying in Canarsie and raising my children here. I spent some of the best years of my life here. My favorite memories are of high school and crossing Flatlands Avenue. There’s no other community I’d rather be in.”

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