NEWS ARTICLE FROM THE RICHMOND TIMES DISPATCH 5/16/2002 A passion for performing BY JIM O'BRIEN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT Amy Henderson finds her musical career to be a lot of fun - and work. Henderson's first musical opportunity gave her a tough choice: play her first show by herself or study for the high-school calculus class she was failing.'I'd never failed anything before, but a band had canceled and the [owner] called me up and asked if I wanted to play,' Henderson said. 'I said I'd be there in 20 minutes. Well, I ended up playing all night and I made a zero on the test the next day. Not even any partial credit.'So she figured she might as well just keep performing and not pursue any more math.That was 14 years ago, and Henderson has been writing and performing her guitar-based music since (usually without the need for any calculus). She is a regular performer with the Floating Folk Festival and plays every Monday night at Shenanigan's.The Atlanta native also plays around the city while holding down her day job at Virginia Commonwealth University.Henderson is 32 now, but it's only in the past two years that she has become more serious about music. Before then she was teaching high-school history and had little time outside of school and grading papers.Now with a more traditional 9-5 schedule, she has the time to rehearse or play out every day.'In college it was part of the party scene,' said Henderson, who graduated from Furman University. 'Now, it's a lot of fun, but it's also work.'Henderson has released one solo CD and now is collaborating with a local band, Orphans Torch, on a second one. Orphans Torch includes Mike LaBeau, John Vondra and Chris Schup.For her new release, Henderson said, she's comfortable putting her songs along with someone else's songs.'I am trying to be in a band but bands come and go so quickly,' Henderson said. 'But I have to use my own name to book gigs. Otherwise, [club owners] ask 'What's the name of your band this week?' It's more name recognition.'Henderson's influences include The Indigo Girls, The Beatles and Fleetwood Mac. Every day while she was in middle school, she said, she would go through the Fleetwood Mac anthology songbook with the closest thing she could find to a guitar.'I learned the guitar on a baritone ukulele,' Henderson said.Henderson's own songs don't come off as quirky as her early training would hint. Her Orphans Torch bandmate John Vondra calls them submarines: They're pressurized, compact and airtight structures.She draws comparisons to other local female acts such as Susan Greenbaum and Regan. Her music is mostly acoustic, but a band can neatly complement her. Her songs are witty and fun, but the energy she has onstage sets her apart. Her songs are also catchy.She said she's become more driven to write with the attention she's giving her music.'It comes in spurts. I'll write three songs in a month and then go a month without writing anything,' Henderson said. 'It's easy to write when things are going bad, it's such a catharsis. But I am pretty happy right now so I have to make up things to write about.' After the CD with Orphans Torch is released, Henderson wants to play outside of Richmond.After visiting the South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin, Texas, she noticed a group of bands from Richmond. As much as she follows other local acts, she had never heard of any of the ones playing all the way across the country.'It seems a lot of the good bands from Richmond never play here,' Henderson said. 'I would like to tour around different places, but it's hard. If it gets to where I could support myself on music I would do that.'Until then, Henderson plays around town eight to 10 times a month and runs the fire-safety program at VCU.