Three decades ago, Tracy Clark seemed on the verge of hitting it big as a vocalist.
When she was barely in her 20s, the Newton resident sang at fund-raisers and with wedding bands in the Boston area; then she moved to New York and found even greater success, appearing in live performances and recording advertising jingles. Both MCA and Virgin Records expressed interest in signing her.
But Clark had an even more compelling dream: She wanted to be a mother. When her son, Sam, was born, she put her career on hold and stopped singing professionally.
That was 18 years ago. For the past year and a half, she has been gradually reentering the performance world. On New Year’s Eve, she’ll perform a program of jazz, show tunes, and popular hits at the Social Restaurant and Bar, which opened just last month at 320 Washington St. in Newton Corner.
“At the age of 55, I have a maturity regarding life and regarding myself as a performer that I didn’t have when I was performing in my twenties and thirties,” Clark said. “I put the singing on hold for so long, but when my son turned sixteen and a half, I realized he didn’t need me around all the time. And I also realized that my yearning to perform was still pretty intense.”
Clark started asking around to see what work she could get.
Eventually she was booked at Scullers Jazz Club in Allston for her first gig in decades, and not long after that at Ryles Jazz Club in Cambridge. She performs with Bob Christopherson on keys and arrangements, Greg Holt on upright bass, and Casey Scheuerell on drums.
“I set myself short-term goals,” Clark said. “First, my goals were to perform at Scullers and Ryles. Once I achieved those, I set the next little goal. I’m so happy to be performing again. When I was in my teens and twenties, I was much more insecure as a musician. At this age, I’m very clear on what it is that I’m trying to do.”
And just what that is, Clark said, is use her singing to connect with people through music.
“I’m very interested in how I can make audience members feel like they are part of my show,’’ she said. “People come away from hearing me perform feeling like they know me. They feel like they’re in my living room talking with me.”
Even her son, now a senior in high school, saw something special when he watched his mother perform for the first time recently. Previously he had heard her sing only around the house or at small gatherings.
“After the show, he said to me, ‘Mom, I see that this is what you were meant to do,’ ” Clark recalled. As part of that show, she sang “Not While I’m Around” from “Sweeney Todd’’ especially for her son, and other mothers in the audience were moved to tears.
“I don’t for one minute feel like I gave up anything to be his mother,” Clark said of her decision to take a long hiatus from her singing. “But now, even though parenting is an ongoing role, I feel like I’ve achieved what I needed to. I was so happy to give up some things for him, but now I can fulfill this other dream I have.”
Her New Year’s Eve performance at the Social Restaurant in Newton will be “a warm night of reminiscing and looking forward,” Clark said.
“I plan for it to have an all-inclusive feel. Whether it’s people who want to come with their families to eat dinner, or singles who stop by for a few drinks before going off to a party, everyone will feel comfortable.”
For more information on the restaurant, call 617-244-4800 or visit www.socialrestaurantandbar.com.
PARTY TOWN: Needham throws its seventh annual New Year’s Needham celebration, a downtown extravaganza of performers, artists, live music, dance, and a gala party with a countdown to midnight. Admission buttons are $5 and cover everything but the countdown party, whose tickets cost $15 ($20 after Friday and at the door). For details, go to www.newyearsneedham.org.
UPTON’S BIG NIGHT: The small community of Upton has big plans for its first-ever townwide New Year’s Eve celebration, including live performances, raffles, and street art.
Admission buttons for First Night Upton are $10 for adults and $5 for children in advance; add $5 at the door. For more information, go to www.firstnightupton.org.