Sarah Blacker has a favorite memory from a summer evening when a close friend from New York visited her in Medford.
“We had one of those all-night backyard parties, enjoying the cool breeze and feeling the magic of summertime,” Blacker recalled.
But it wasn’t enough for Blacker, named “Female Performer of the Year” at the 2013 New England Music Awards, to just reminisce about the moment.
“My friend said, ‘I wonder if you could write a song about this,’ ’’ she recalled. She did, and that song, “These Summer Nights,” is an audience favorite on her playlist.
Blacker, who grew up in Wellesley and credits Wellesley High School’s music and drama programs with much of her artistic development, will return to the area to perform Friday night at the Center for Arts in Natick.
With a solid background in piano, guitar, and singing, Blacker entered Berklee Col-lege of Music with plans to study performance or songwriting. But the discipline required in those programs surprised her.
“I didn’t like all the rules in songwriting,” she confessed.
Then she learned about the field of music therapy, and its principles resonated with her.
“I have always found music incredibly healing. It builds relationships,” Blacker said. “My father and I used to listen to records and go to concerts together, and when I started writing songs, it was my own form of catharsis. When I found out about the field of musical therapy while at Berklee, I realized what a powerful tool it could be. Music therapy used all parts of my brain.”
Her early career unspooled according to plan. Blacker had an internship as a musical therapist at a residential school in upstate New York for children and adults with various physical developmental disabilities. When the internship ended, she returned to the Boston area and picked up work for numerous organizations, including a program for young people on the autism spectrum, after-school programs, camps, and even individual clients.
It was fulfilling, she said, until she began to notice how many of her friends were forging their way into the world of musical performance.
“I realized singing and songwriting were still what I really wanted to do,” she said. “And coincidentally, all of my musical therapy gigs seemed to run out of funding at just the same time.”
She went out on the road as a performer cautiously.
“I asked a lot of questions, and looked at what other artists like myself were doing,” she said.
Blacker believes her circumspect attitude toward business comes from her father, who ran a window treatment company in Newton Centre for four decades. But mostly, it was a matter of persistence.
“I used to ride my bike around town with a demo CD,” she said. “I applied to every single venue in the city of Boston. I played Harper’s Ferry with five people in the audience. I did open mike nights. I was willing to travel anywhere.”
And her persistence paid off. In 2009, her first album, “The Only Way Out Is Through,” brought fans and attention her way, and led to her first major tour.
Now she is working on her third full-length album.
“I get this really unsettled feeling, and I know I have to go write something,” Blacker said of the creative process. “And then it writes itself pretty quickly. My muse seems to tell me, ‘Show up or you’ll miss this.’ Usually the guitar part and the melody come first. It’s almost an involuntary process in the beginning. But obviously then there’s a time for fine-tuning. You tune the phrases, think about where your melodies are going, trim the fat.”
Friday night’s show at TCAN is particularly exciting, Blacker said, because she’s performing with Charlie Ferren, formerly of the Joe Perry Project and Farrenheit, as well as her usual band members, drummer Mike Levesque and bassist Sean McLaughlin, who is also her producer.
“I’m really excited about the direction of the music on my new album,” she said. “It’s edgier. More modern, more adventurous with sound. As an artist and as a person, I’m more comfortable with myself and my music than I’ve ever been, and I’m excited to put that out there.”
The show begins at 8 p.m. Friday at the Center for Arts in Natick, 14 Summer St. Tickets are $25, or $20 for TCAN members. For tickets or more information, call 508-647-0097 or go to www.natickarts.org.
STRINGS ATTACHED: The third annual Roman Totenberg Young Musicians String Competition is accepting applications and recordings from local performers 8 to 18 years old until midnight Tuesday.
The competition, broken into five age categories, will take place on Sept. 26 and 27 in the Cultural Center at Newton City Hall, where a gala concert and reception featuring the winners will be held on Sept. 28. An $18,000 violin made by Nikolai Tambovsky will be awarded as first prize in the senior division, for ages 16 to 18.
FRUITLANDS FESTIVITIES: The yearlong celebration of Fruitlands Museum’s centennial continues with “100 Objects, 100 Stories, 100 Years at Fruitlands Museum,” opening Saturday and remaining on view through March 29.
The exhibition highlights not only the most popular objects in the Harvard museum’s diverse collections but also the important role that Fruitlands has played in the community during the last century. Each of the museum’s five collections — the Land, the Shakers, the Transcendentalists, the Native Americans, and American Art — will be represented in the institution’s first publicly curated show.
To commemorate the exhibition, Fruitlands is offering free admission Saturday, with an opening reception from 1 to 3 p.m., gallery tours, live music, games, food, and crafts.
Regular admission to the museum, at 102 Prospect Hill Road in Harvard, is $12, or $10 for seniors and students, $5 for ages 5 to 13, and free for younger children and Fruitlands members.
For hours or other details, call 978-456-3924, ext. 292, or go to www.fruitlands.org.
FAITH IN LANGUAGE: Trinity Episcopal Church in Concord is hosting “Word — Believe It or Not: A Poet’s Perspective” at 9 a.m. Sunday at 81 Elm St.
The public event is part of the church’s Trinity Forum series on Sunday mornings.
Presenting the topic will be poet and writer Jean Monahan, who will read from her works and lead a discussion exploring how we arrive at what we believe.
For more information, call 978-369-3715 or go to www.trinityconcord.org.
One of the most beloved song cycles of the 19th century, “Italienisches Liederbuch,” or “Italian Songbook,” is a collection of short, works. The performers — college faculty member Anna Ward, soprano; Benjamin Robinson, tenor; and Samuel Bowern, baritone, accompanied by pianist Joseph Turbessi — have reimagined the cycle as a love triangle.
The free concert takes place in the MCC Concert Hall (Building 6) on the college’s Bedford campus, at 591 Springs Road.
SCULPTURE PREMIERE: In celebration of its newly commissioned permanent installation by critically acclaimed artist Chris Burden, the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University hosts a grand opening Wednesday featuring the dedication and lighting of his piece, “Light of Reason.”
A Boston native, Burden designed a work inspired by the university’s seal, which features three torches, three hills, and three Hebrew letters spelling the word “truth.”
The installation’s title borrows from a well-known quote by the university’s namesake, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis: “If we would guide by the light of reason, we must let our minds be bold.”
The 6:30 p.m. dedication ceremony will include music by the Lydian String Quartet, and will be followed by a reception and a concert by an indie rock band, the Antlers.
The free event will also open the museum’s fall season, including an exhibition of major new paintings and sculptures inspired by 16th- and 17th-century decorative sea maps by MacArthur Award-winning artist Mark Bradford. The show, featuring a large installation created for the Rose’s glass-fronted Lois Foster Wing, remains on exhibit through Dec. 21 at the museum, 415 South St. in Waltham.
For hours and more information, call 781-736-3434 or go to www.brandeis.edu/rose.
Send ideas to nancyswest@ gmail.com.