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Playing Around: Elea Plotkins 

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Somebody's listened to more than her fair share of Carole King. To hear Elea Plotkin play her piano, you'd think she took lessons from the tapestry weaver herself. Her keyboard-based folk-pop resonates with late-'70s influences (Carly Simon, Bonnie Raitt, Pheobe Snow) and her vocal delivery is clear, mature and feminine.

Plotkin, however, came to her current emulations late in her career. As a child in the rural Cascade Mountains, she studied piano religiously in between recitals and competitions. She earned degrees in piano and choral conducting from the University of Washington before moving to Denver, where she taught piano and worked as an accompanist. Each day, she would practice for hours in preparation for an audition for the Denver University Masters Program for Piano Performances.

Then one day, she couldn't use her hands. Suddenly, Plotkin couldn't write her own name, much less perform. She had incurred a repetitive stress injury, and was in constant pain. She lost her job, her students, and had to cancel her audition. It took years for her hands to heal, finger by finger. While Plotkin had no illusions about becoming a superstar, she didn't abandon her skills. She used the healing process as an excuse to compose melodies and write lyrics, most dealing with love and relationships. She released an album of the songs, Behind the Eyes, and her poignant, markedly female presentations earned her much critical acclaim.

Only in recent years has Plotkin been able to play publicly again, small shows here and there. She performs a free show Friday night at Borders Books and Music in Briargate. Call 266-1600.

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