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Guitarist Isaiah Sharkey
Grammy Award-winning Chicago entertainer returns to a familiar place to make a major contribution
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​Ross’ (David Schwimmer) girlfriend on “Friends.” During seven episodes on the show, Tom was kind of a lightning rod for fans of the show, some who didn’t like the fact that she had taken Rachel’s (Jennifer Aniston) place in Ross’ heart. “Fans still get angry about that,” she says. “There was a live audience [during filming of the show], and they would boo me when I came on because they really wanted Ross to be with Rachel.”
   Not to be discouraged, Tom moved on and exhibited even more of her talents, using her voice in popular animated series such as "Futurama," "The Simpsons," "King of the Hill," "Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness," "Pound Puppies," "Teacher’s Pet," "Batman Beyond" and "Mulan 2." 
   Now, it’s all about Andi Mack, the much talked-about series, where Andi, played by 13-year-old Peyton Elizabeth Lee, was abandoned by her teenaged mother. Enter Lauren Tom as Celia Mack, Andi’s grandmother who made her believe that she and Andi’s grandfather were her parents––and her real mom was her sister.
   There will be more to this continuing story when Andi Mack returns to the Disney Channel on Mondays in June.
Photography courtesy of Disney Channel
–– Walter Leavy
Photograph by Liz Lauren
   GRAMMY Award-winning guitarist Isaiah Sharkey, who has collaborated with the likes of soul singer D’Angelo and Grammy-winning singer/guitarist John Mayer, recently turned in one of his most memorable performances. But this time it had nothing to do with him being on stage.
   The former Cabrini Green resident returned to his alma mater, Emerson Elementary School, to make a difference by donating new musical instruments to boost the school’s music program and to give aspiring students a greater opportunity to live their dreams of becoming music-makers.
   While traveling the world and making music with some of the industry’s biggest names, Sharkey, a former class president and MVP on the school’s volleyball team, always held the school and his music teacher, Elizabeth Hedberg, close to his heart. So returning to the place of his musical roots was a sort of milestone in his life. “It brings back a lot of really good memories with friends and teachers,” said Sharkey, who captured his first Grammy Award in 2015 for his work with D’Angelo on the Best R&B album, Black Messiah. “[At 29}, it makes me feel old too.”
   Despite that feeling, a youthful Sharkey, who makes frequent TV stops on shows such as "Jimmy Kimmel Live," has carved out a special place for himself in the industry. In addition to D’Angelo and Mayer, the noted guitarist and singer has recorded and toured with a number of other renowned performers, including Patti LaBelle, Paul Simon, Ronald Isley, Keith Urban, Brian McKnight, Boyz II Men, Coldplay’s Christopher Martin, Lalah Hathaway, Smokie Norful, Donald Lawrence and several others. But recognition of his talent soared after the release of his debut CD, Love Life Live, which includes popular tunes such as “Pop My Toes,” “It’s A Shame” and “Special Lady.”
   Looking back, Sharkey has come a long way from his days as a 14-year-old playing at the storied Velvet Lounge at 21st and Indiana. Last month, he released his highly anticipated new CD, Love Is the Key, which, he says, “reflects funk, jazz, classic R&B, hip-hop and other genres that have influenced me throughout my journey.” 
   That incredible musical journey continues as Sharkey begins to expand his exposure with appearances at venues such as Ravinia, where he recently opened for Michael McDonald and Chaka Khan. And his talent is taking him across the country to play at several other popular spots, including Austin, Boulder, Dallas, Denver, New York City and Columbia, MD. 
   With the release of his new CD and the hit tune “Time,” Sharkey is firing on all cylinders, and apparently there is nothing in sight to slow his momentum. As his website says: “More things [are] coming soon. So stay tuned.”
––Walter Leavy
Photograph: RachellLaValle1
Internationally recognized guitarist Isaiah Sharkey on tour.