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Julie de Azevedo to perform a slate of benefits

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Julie De Azevedo cannot imagine a life without music.

That's not to say music is her life. The Salt Lake singer/songwriter is also wife, mother, daughter, licensed social worker, carpool driver, friend and more.

In fact, she says, sometimes life gets so hectic that it is hard to find time for music. But, "the music doesn't give me a choice. It is so much a part of who I am, that I don't know who I would be without it. I know I wouldn't be the same person."

Music not only fills her life with passion, it enables her to share that passion with others. "It is my way of making sense of life. It's the way I sort out emotional and spiritual feelings." And she hopes that other people might see some things in the way she looks at life that will be meaningful to them.

"I love exploring relationships," she said. And if her music covers the gamut from playful to pensive, that's deliberate. "I try to allow myself a full range of emotions — in life as well as in my songs."

But if de Azevedo expresses her passion through music, she also uses the medium to express her compassion. One of her favorite things to do, she said, is perform benefit concerts. "I love doing benefits. It's truly a win-win. It gives me a chance to share the gifts I have. People come and have a great time. And the money all goes to a good cause."

In January, for example, she performed at a benefit for Kuddle Kids, a group that provides counseling for adopted children who need it. She has, in the past, worked with the American Mothers group and with the Galef Institute, a national organization that encourages arts in the schools.

And on Friday, March 1, de Azevedo will give a concert at Weber State to benefit a woman named Olive Christensen. "She's an older woman who still has to work full time on an assembly line, because she's having a hard time financially. And she has some health problems, too." Christensen is estranged from her family, and a group of friends and neighbors got together to see how they could help. De Azevedo had seen a news report on the situation and was interested in helping, too.

Several other concerts in the near future will be benefits as well, ranging from helping some BYU students go to Africa on a service project to providing support for families in her neighborhood who have children with leukemia.

"I'm doing concerts for great causes, and to help people that I don't even know personally," she said, "And yet there are people in my own neighborhood who need help! Two of my son's fourth-grade friends are battling leukemia. We pray for these two boys daily, but I realized I could do more. I can't even imagine the emotional, physical and financial stress that these families are going through. As a neighbor, it's so easy to feel helpless because you can't take the disease away. I appreciate Devin and Zak's parents allowing me to feel like I'm contributing in a small way." That concert is scheduled for April 21.

Sharing her talents is a part of who she is, a part of the heritage she grew up with, she said, just as much as music is. "I don't do anything I don't enjoy," she said. "And I just love doing things for good causes."

The daughter of noted composer/musician Lex de Azevedo, the granddaughter of one of the famed King Singers, she remembers traveling around the country with that group. "I grew up singing. I would go to my dad and say 'play this song.' I would make up little rhymes to sing. Music has always been there. It was always my friend."

But having a famous musical father has been both a help and hindrance in her own career, she said. "I had a lot of opportunities because of that. But it also made it harder to be who I am, to have people separate us. It was also harder to feel deserving of the opportunities I had; I've had to wrestle with that."

She gets tired of people asking her what it was like to have such a famous father. "He was a lot like everyone else. When I was a teen he would embarrass me in front of my friends just like any other dad. But he was very talented, and people were always playing the piano. So it was pretty much like a normal family that liked music."

She currently is "baby-sitting" her dad's piano. "He asked me to store it, and I thought, 'Where will I put it?' But it's so fun. It's the piano I grew up with. It has a personality that I know."

De Azevedo excels at both piano and guitar. And she brings her own style, her own perspective to her songs. It has a decided pop feel and flavor. At the same time, it is imbued with values and standards that are important to her. "The older I get, the more experienced at life I get, the less confident I get trying to preach or teach anything. But maybe what I feel will be what someone else feels."

And she hopes it is music that people of all ages will enjoy. Given what a lot of pop music out there has to say, the raunchy and suggestive lyrics that fill a lot of it, that's a significant goal. As a mother, she sometimes worries about what her kids will want to listen to. The good news is that a lot of quality music is being produced locally.

De Azevedo is currently working on a new album. "I have most of the songs written. And we'll start working on production in a few weeks."

And that is an involved process. "It's not like we go in and lay down the tracks, and that's it," she said. A lot of planning and pre-production goes into it.

For one thing, "I always try to write more than we'll need, so we have choices." All she knows for sure at this point is that John Hancock will produce the album. "I loved what he did before (he produced "Dive Deep," her most recent album). He does amazing things with the music."

De Azevedo writes or co-writes all her own material. "Sometimes I'm working on a song and I hit a wall. I've taken it as far as I can go, but I know it needs something more. So, I'll take it to one of my musical friends and say, 'Where do we go next?' And they are great."

But sometimes the process takes longer, she said, "because I do have a life. Luckily I've learned to thrive in chaos. I've learned to multi-task. Sometimes I get my best song ideas when I've driving the kids to gymnastics."

And, she said, if the house doesn't get cleaned one week or if there dust on the piano, she's learned not to worry.

She remembers when her son and daughter were little. "They would scribble on pieces of paper and then go bang on the piano. And I think, 'I may have given them more quick meals than I would like or maybe not done some other things I wanted to. But I've also given them that.' "

She has passed on the lifelong love of music that is so much a part of her. And she wouldn't have it any other way.

E-mail: carma@desnews.com