You might think that the first time they performed would be a memory Emily and Rachel Bt would carry forever. But the truth is that the twin sisters from Crafton can't remember when they weren't singing for people.
Whether it was serenading their mother in the car when they were children or jumping on stage to jam with some teenage friends in a band, there really was no "first time" for their singing.
But there is a "next time." Tonight at Sienna Sulla Piazza in Market Square, the Bts will be playing and singing their soft-pop covers in the background from 6 to 8 p.m., but those of you drinking and dining are welcome to pause and appreciate them.
"The songs we play depend on the venue and the audience," Rachel said. "Restaurants, you know, people are talking and eating and we play mellow, slower songs. When we play in bars, it's fun to get the crowd involved. People are out and want to have a good time and we try to be more interactive."
And they're flexible. One night, Emily said, they booked a gig at the Hard Rock Cafe. Over the phone, she got the impression that it was going to be Light Up Night.
"But when we got there, we saw all these motorcycles," she said. "It turned out it was Bike Night. So we had to make a couple music switches and adjust the set list and learn some rough, tough country songs in, like, 15 minutes."
And then, of course, there are the impromptu gigs on the Roberto Clemente Bridge, Downtown, playing for people as they cross over to PNC Park for a Pirates game. The Bts are the 19-year-old blondes with the guitar case bearing a hand-made sign reading "College fund."
"That's a whole different way of playing," Rachel said. "On the bridge and outdoors, we're trying to be loud and upbeat and do songs that everyone knows."
The sisters are students at the University of Pittsburgh, where they are studying business. Right now, playing music provides pizza money.
"I love performing music," Rachel said. "It's fun and it's something I'll always do, even as I make money and start a career and find a husband and be a mom and all that good stuff."
"It's a passion and it's the same since we were little," Emily said. "But I think if we were given a shot [at careers in music], we would take."
When they're performing, Rachel sings and Emily plays acoustic guitar, though there are harmonies throughout.
"We do covers and originals," said Emily, who also writes some of their songs. "We like to do a lot of fast covers that tend to be more upbeat. I find it a lot easier to write sad songs. I'm the more emotional twin sister and I've been through a recent breakup, so I have six songs and there's three more in the making."
Singing for people has been their way of finding comfort and building confidence, ever since they were little.
"Our mom always sang to us and made us sing for anyone who would listen," Rachel said. "When we first started, we would get embarrassed. But eventually we just got used to it and got comfortable. It was good practice and we had to get over our fear if we wanted to be successful."
"As a mom, I want my kids to be creative, and cultural things have always been important," said Carol Baric, their mother. "I always loved to hear them singing, and it always let me know where they were in the house."
Ms. Baric remembers entering them in a talent show in which the twins sang a song by the Dixie Chicks and finished second.
"Then they sang at festivals and parties," she said. "So now it's nice to see them going out and earning money doing it. I am nervous, but they're both brave. And when you hear their harmonies -- it's always been a joy for me."
As they grew up, Emily and Rachel would sing in school plays, in choir and in musicals.
This summer, Emily has been working at an ice cream shop and as a Pathfinder, giving tours to prospective Pitt students. Rachel is a waitress and a lifeguard.
"We love our jobs, making money for ourselves," Rachel said. "But when we're playing music, it's like, 'Hey we can dress up and sing and help people have a nice time.'"
Emily and Rachel Bt will be playing at Sienna Sulla Piazza from 6 to 8 p.m.
This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/