Stephanie Sheppard strums a bit on her guitar.

By Dave Warner

Little Falls has always been known for having some of the most unique and interesting people, and Stephanie Sheppard is one of them. Fifty-two years ago, she and her brother wrote six songs for the legendary Nina Simone to perform. Unfortunately, Simone died before any of them were recorded. Longtail Films, out of England, made a documentary about the lost music and found just the perfect performer to bring them to light.

In the film, superstar Emeli Sande sets out on an emotional journey to bring to life that set of songs written for Nina Simone but never performed. Forgotten for all these years, these songs are beautiful and illuminate Nina Simone’s world. They are messages from the past.

Photo submitted – Emeli Sande performs onstage during one of her concerts.

Photo submitted – Emeli Sande performs onstage during one of her concerts.

The film has never been shown in the United States. But, on March 18th at Rock City Centre at 6 pm, you’ll get to watch the movie, hear from the film’s creators in England with a pre-recorded interview, and then get Stephanie’s perspective as she fills in the details about being at the center of such an important historical work.

After that, there will be wine, cheese, and live music with Oscar Stivala and his Jazz Trio. Oscar has created an 18×24 oil on canvas painting of Nina Simone to be auctioned off at the event to raise money for The Creative Outpost.

Sheppard started writing songs when she was twelve. “I became an actress at that age and was performing in off-Broadway plays in the City.”

From there, she continued with her acting career. “I was a card-carrying professional actress.”

Sheppard’s Granny got her a steel-stringed guitar at a pawn shop when she was twelve, and she played that for three years before being able to afford a Goya guitar. “I wanted a Martin because everybody had one, but I couldn’t afford it. My mother said if you’re going to get this Goya, then you’ll study properly. So I studied classical guitar.”

She had to write an essay to go to the Interlochen Arts Academy, and at the time was playing Cello, guitar, and recorder and studying dance, theater, and voice. “Very famous people went to Interlochen. There were maybe one hundred of us that first year for freshman, sophomore, junior and senior years. It was rough because it was the first year of the school being open, and we were all floundering.”

“We heard every day that we were America’s gifted youth. When you’re fourteen or fifteen and being brainwashed like that, you’re fearful of making a mistake. But, I got to play at Lincoln Center, Music Academy in Chicago. I got to do lots of things, and it was great.”

Sheppard graduated in 1965. “It was really hard, but I wasn’t writing my own words (to the music) at that point because I had so much going on.”

She spent the next several years in Bermuda involved in theater, dance, and music, returning to NYC in 1968.

“I did Jean Brodi on Broadway for a year. After that, I went back to Bermuda and was writing songs.”

Her brother said he had written all these poems and asked her if she wanted to write music for them. “He was a poet major at BU and a Latin Major. His poetry was very esoteric, so I said yes.”

“I wrote a bunch of songs for his poetry, maybe as many as fourteen of them.”

At about that time, she met someone who knew Andy Stroud, who was Nina Simone’s husband. “She was doing ‘Hair’ at the time, and I had just finished Brodie.”

Photo submitted - Stephanie Sheppard with her guitar in the 70s.

Photo submitted – Stephanie Sheppard with her guitar in the 70s.

Sheppard was invited to meet him at a studio in Brooklyn. He told her to bring her guitar and some songs. “We’re looking for music,” he said.

When she got there, he asked her to sing some of the songs for him. “As I was singing, Nina Simone walked in with her two bodyguards.”

Stroud introduced her, and he said, “I think these songs would be perfect for you, and we’re going to sign her. She looked right at me and said OK..that’s great, bye. She was there for like two minutes. Andy said, OK, you’re in.”

He sent the contracts to her, and they signed to produce six songs for him. About a month later, she got a call from him saying that he and Nina were getting divorced and that she didn’t live in the United States anymore, and they couldn’t do anything with the songs.”

“By that time, my brother had moved to England. I went back to Bermuda and told him about the situation. Andy didn’t do anything else with our music, so the rights to the music came back to my brother and me,” she stated.

Sheppard had also tried to get Essex in London to produce her songs, but that didn’t work, so she said, “I’ve had it,” and moved to London. “I put all the music I’d written in an envelope, put it in a drawer, and said, screw it.”

“Fast forward to two years ago, when I first moved to Little Falls. My brother had just died, and my nephew Patrick, his younger child, who is a brilliant musician, came over to this country for a wedding. I said Pat, I have all the music that your dad and I wrote together.”

“He said, what are you talking about? I told him we wrote music for Nina Simone, and he said what?”

Her brother had never told his son that he wrote music. “His wife didn’t know anything. Nobody knew,” she said.

Sheppard asked if he’d like her to send the package over because he was now the musician in the family. “I sent him everything. All the sheet music, and I also sent him a song of mine. When Patrick went home, he started talking to his mate Sam and told him that his dad had written all this music.”

At the time, Sam was studying film and wanted to do movies. “He was working for Longtail Films and told Pat this would make a great documentary.”

Sam then pitched it to his boss, and the rest is history. “The film took two years from the idea to the filming this past November,” stated Sheppard.

“That’s how the movie came about,” she said.

If you’d like to watch the trailer for the film, register for the free event, or purchase raffle tickets, please visit

The film will also be live-streamed, but you must register for a unique viewing link.