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Springfield singer's rendition of 'Massachusetts' put forward as official state jazz song

Springfield jazz singer Montenia Shider, holding a copy of the bill to make "Massachusetts" the state's official jazz song.
Karen Brown
Springfield jazz singer Montenia Shider, holding a copy of the bill to make "Massachusetts" the state's official jazz song.

A Springfield, Massachusetts, jazz singer found herself the unexpected focus of a legislative ceremony this week.

Montenia Shider thought she was invited to a routine civic event on Thursday at the Indian Orchard Citizens Council. So she was surprised when she was asked to sit at the head table with her city councilor, Zaida Govan, and state representative, Orlando Ramos.

“There is one person in this room that does not know why we are here,” Ramos said as the event began. “But she's about to find out.”

The 76-year-old singer’s eyes got wide when Ramos announced the real reason for the ceremony: He was filing legislation in the house to make Shider’s version of the song “Massachusetts” the state’s official jazz song.

“It’s official?” she asked aloud.

A legislative aide played the song on a Bluetooth speaker. As Shider buried her face in her hands, the audience shimmied in their seats.

After some tears, Shider said a few words on the fly, starting with the surprise itself.

“I had no idea,” she said. “They have good poker faces, don't they?”

After the ceremony, Shider said she would “truly be so honored” if her version of Massachusetts ends up being voted an official state song. “Because that's like really realizing your gift.”

“Massachusetts” was written by Andy Razaf and Charles Roberts decades before Shider recorded it in the 1990s with new lyrics focused on western Massachusetts.

Ramos’ bill now goes to a legislative committee for review. He said he thinks this is the first time anyone has proposed an official state jazz song, and as far as he knows, there is no competition.

Karen Brown is a radio and print journalist who focuses on health care, mental health, children’s issues, and other topics about the human condition. She has been a full-time radio reporter for NEPM since 1998.

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