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A marriage heads west for the music

If you've paid your dues with years of singing in pubs and now feel ready to break into the big-money world of recording, Central Florida is not the place to do it, says Leanne Carpenter.

And if New York or Los Angeles or Nashville doesn't appeal to you, then Seattle is the place to be, she says. "Many national acts work out of Seattle."

So Leanne, 33, and husband Bob, 32, are leaving their Palm Harbor home and heading for the Northwest on April 1. Both have local claims to fame.

Leanne is part of a musical duo called Stealing Fire, which has performed throughout the bay area. She sings and plays percussion, acoustic guitar and flute, while partner George Michael sings and plays guitar.

Her husband will leave his job as the first aquatics facilities supervisor at the Long Center. He was one of the key people hired before the huge recreation-education facility was built on Belcher Road in Clearwater, planning and then overseeing the operation of the center's two indoor swimming pools.

Early center supporters joined the campaign to "be a champion." Leanne wrote a song with that title, recorded it and sang it at various events. "That was good for me," she said last week. It represented a turning point in her career when she realized she could write songs about more than her personal relationships.

Leanne has written country, pop and jazz songs, but mostly she sings acoustic rock. She has just finished a demonstration tape of her singing all her own material. It will be sent to recording companies in the hope they call her either about recording or about having one of their artists do her songs.

Luring her out West was an engineer she has worked with at a recording studio in Orlando. He is in Seattle now and has promised her free recording time in his studio. That may mean she'll be singing at 3 in the morning, Leanne said, but the money saved will be substantial.

For Bob, this will be the first time he has been west of Cleveland. He moved here from Cleveland in 1978 to attend the University of South Florida (USF). He was playing with a band to help pay school expenses when it needed a new singer. The drummer knew Leanne, who was living in Colorado, and brought her here.

When Leanne and Bob met, they uncovered one of those incredible small-world stories. When he was 5 and she was 6, they were in the same class in a one-room schoolhouse outside Baltimore.

After graduating from USF, Bob worked in 1982-83 as director of safety services for the Upper Pinellas Red Cross chapter and from 1983 to '90 as a lifeguard and then aquatics supervisor for the city of Clearwater. He joined the Long Center staff in 1990.

So now all we can do is wait for one or both of them to become famous, and then say, "Why, I knew Leanne (or Bob) way back when. He pulled me out of the water, and she serenaded my troubles away."

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