Duet for life: Allegheny Township's Suzy and Byron draw strength from music ministry
Suzy Chertik had long aspired to sing.
But even after vowing at a retreat years ago to pursue her musical ambition, she made little progress, unable to envision a path toward performing as a vocalist.
“I didn't know what that looked like,” Chertik, 47, says, referring to finding ways to start singing, for which she won contests as a youngster. She teaches occupational therapy at a technical school in Pittsburgh.
“I just kind of kept it in my heart, for a long time,” she says.
That is, until she was handed a cassette tape that included a Christian song she was told to rehearse, agreeing to sing a duet of it within a week. The person who handed her the tape was her future husband, Byron, whom she met in the Lower Burrell home of one of her patients who arranged the encounter.
That was 20 years ago, and the couple has since spent weekends singing covers of Christian songs at venues across the tri-state area, including coffee shops, festivals and retreat centers.
They are to sing that song, “More Than Wonderful,” which had long remained a staple of their repertoire, to open their Aug. 24 performance, marking the day they first met. It is to take place at a church in Freeport, where they are members and sing with a group during worship services.
“I found a keeper,” says Byron Chertik, 53, a project manager at a Monroeville telecommunications service. Around the time the two met, he was singing harmony with a choir and a singer-songwriter, but he was seeking someone for a duet.
The couple, whose stage name is Suzy and Byron, has recorded only one album, “Through Song,” comprising mainly covers.
But they have established themselves in the contemporary Christian music scene in the region over the years. That is particularly true in the Alle-Kiski Valley, where they live in Allegheny Township and still schedule a few performances each month.
“Have you ever heard them sing?” asks Rosetta Lecocq, who has long helped run a Christian coffeehouse, Lazarus Tomb, in Arnold. “It's beautiful, just beautiful.” Lecocq notes one song in their repertoire, “The Prayer,” which they sing partly in Italian.
The Chertiks say they have encountered doubts along the way.
They sometimes questioned their balancing of full-time jobs with late-night preparations for weekend performances, occasionally driving long distances to sing in front of only a dozen people. All the while, they were raising five children, all of whom are now grown and who had accompanied them for a time.
“There were times,” says Suzy Chertik, remembering an episode in which the couple engaged in a shouting match while driving on a highway somewhere in the middle of Ohio, straining their voices so severely that they had to cancel a show they had scheduled near Columbus for the next day.
Yet, they have endured, continuing to draw inspiration from what they suggested are the bedrocks of their relationship: their shared faith and passion for song.
“It is our ministry,” Suzy says.
Proceeds from the Aug. 24 show will go toward their second album, “Through Christmas,” for which they are currently spending time in a recording studio.
As to how long they intend to keep performing: “As long as people want to hear us.”
Jake Flannick is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins finally break through, defeat Devils at Prudential Center
- UPMC researcher who died of cyanide poisoning committed suicide
- Rooney says Pittsburgh is ‘good place’ for next northern Super Bowl
- HOF finalist Bettis ‘behind everything’ in 2005 Super Bowl run
- Sting highlights demand for Pappy Van Winkle bourbon
- Penguins notebook: Bennett a healthy scratch
- Serena Williams wins 6th Australian Open for 19th major title
- Dungy, Greene represent more Steelers ties in hall of fame voting
- Goodell defends league, dodges difficult questions
- Wilkinsburg auto dealer scammed at least 30 people, police say
- Homework: Pittsburgh Home Show to feature celebs, wine and pets