As her website reflects, Rochester NY’s Danielle Ponder’s ‘pipes soar with soul, affection, and conviction. It’s both gut-wrenching and exhilarating. This sensational singer lists powerful influences that lit her fuse like Nina Simone, Big Mama Thornton, and Lauryn Hill. Named one of theTop Ten Bands to watch by CityPaper, and winner of the 2015 and 2016 Roc Awards, “Best Band,” Danielle Ponder transcends musical genres with a blast of deep, powerful soul.’
A former Tedx speaker, she’d worked for 5 years at the Monroe County Public Defender’s office where she provided criminal defense to indigent defendants. It was in 2018 Danielle left her job as an attorney to pursue music full time.
As a public defender, it wasn’t unusual for Danielle to represent 50 people in one day. And with her music, she continues to speak for thousands.
In 2019 Ponder released the single “Holding Me Down.”
She also decided to enter her song “Poor Man’s Pain” into NPR’s popular Tiny Desk Contest and became a favorite, featured artist in their ‘Top Shelf’ series. As she tells Tiny Desk, both her music and her career as a public defender have been, in part, inspired by her brother’s experience with the criminal justice system. “My brother spent 20 years of his life in prison for a robbery,” she says, “and that is something that has motivated me to do the work that I do, to write the songs that I write” . . . “**
Then in March 2020, Daniel Prude, a black man from Rochester NY, died of asphyxiation after being injured and forced to wear a spit hood during a police arrest. The tragedy set off powerful protests by many residents of the city. Ponder sang at a celebration of life for Daniel.
Reflecting on Prude and Poor Man’s Pain, says Ponder, . . . “I wrote [it] before all of this happened,” she says. “But I guess with the track record of this country, I should have known that it would find its relevance again. It was Willie Simmons’ story in March, and then it was George Floyd’s story in May, and now it’s Daniel Prude’s story in September. So these songs, I think, are timeless, because we have not found a way to end the pain and suffering of Black people in this country.”***
“Music,” she reflects, “has always been part of any social movement and what is happening in Rochester is no different. Music allows us to reach people that we might not be able to and it allows to offer comfort to those who are on the frontline.”
Ponders voice delivers on that promise.
What’s next for the artist?
“I’m working on an album” she tells Mason Street, “and I hope it will be out spring 2021. But mostly I have been insanely busy with work and activism.”
A native of New York, Danielle Ponder has performed internationally, everywhere from Poland to Attica State Prison. And no doubt given the singer’s dynamic voice and conscience, we’ll be seeing and hearing a lot more from her in years to come.
Learn more about Danielle Ponder HERE.∎
1. Biographical information from the singer’s website, daniellepondermusic.com
**NPR, September 2020