Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

2006 has been an incredible year! I’ve experienced some near devastating lows (most particularly, the diagnosis of my dear niece Naomi with Leukemia), but overall it’s been a year filled with extraordinary highs! Here's a basic summary of my musical year:


The year started with a lovely trip to San Diego. I needed a break and decided to get away on my own. I stayed in a cute, little boutique hotel (Bristol Hotel San Diego). I had a great time visiting Sea World and hanging out with a few friends. The weather was gorgeous.


My music was featured in a film on Showtime TV (“Jumping The Broom”).
I was interviewed and broadcast on the make-over program “What Not To Wear”, which aired on TLC.


I recorded a demo with my friend Elaine Romanelli.


Naomi was diagnosed with Leukemia. Though she must deal with the difficulty of chemotherapy, Naomi’s prognosis is excellent and we expect a full recovery!


I performed with the Oakland Opera in X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X, by Anthony Davis. The music was challenging and required every bit of my sight reading and improvisatory skills. It’s being staged again in 2007 in another venue. More about that soon!


I had the opportunity to audience for Beyonce. Despite not being hired, I’m practicing more than ever as a result of the disappointment, and am expecting my career to take off in a big way in 2006 as a result!
I met and played for India Arie!


I was a substitute pianist for Teatro ZinZanni in San Francisco. I had a great time playing piano, camping it up in my sexy ingenue wardrobe!


I was filmed in a Keith Urban music video! Only for a couple of seconds, but I’m there! lol
I performed in New York City for the first time and had a BLAST! I played at the Cutting Room, and the audience was packed full of record industry executives.


I celebrated my birthday with friends and family.


Naomi's fundraiser, held at the Emeryville Cold Stone Creamery, was a great success! We had a great turn out raised funds and awareness for Naomi and for Leukemia.


I went to LA to celebrate my cousin’s birthday and the party was crashed by Britney Spears and Paris Hilton!


The busiest month of the year. I’ve had all manner of performances, as an accompanist and soloist. Some musical theater, choral, spirituals, gospel, R&B and of course classical! Check out my 2006 calendar for an idea of the range of my performances.

On a personal note, I’m in the best shape of my life! My life is filled with family and friends who encourage, support, love and inspire me. My pets are the best doggies on the planet! (Ok, I'm biased!) I am grateful to all of the people who help me stay strong, fit, energetic and looking great! I highly recommend my trainers at Ice Chamber, my yoga teachers at Hot Box Yoga, my aesthetician Maisha of Skin by Maisha. They all keep me on my toes and I love the results!

I am blessed beyond measure, and am grateful for the gifts I am able to offer as a pianist, teacher, woman and friend.

May this season remind you of all that is beautiful in your life. Here’s to the best year yet for me and for each of you: 2007!

Abundant blessings and peace to you,


Tilly Key at Maxwell’s

Last night I performed with Tilly Key at Maxwell’s in Oakland. The band consisted of some of my favorite local musicians: Troy Lampkins (bass), Dante McClinton (drums) and Ken Harrill (guitar). The show went well, despite my having had a headache all day and feeling utterly exhausted. Somehow, my energy came up to do the show. Tilly’s got some great new songs, and the audience reaction was strong. So much so that they wanted to hear her single twice in a row!

In the second set, Bay Area legend D'Wayne Wiggins joined us onstage to perform Tilly’s song “It’s Up To Me”, a rock-influenced ode to self-determination. Dwayne also brought his talented sax player Rodney to the show, who played on several tunes with us. It was a fun night!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Recital with Lauren Michelle Criddle

Tonight I had the pleasure of accompanying soon-to-be-superstar soprano, Lauren Michelle Criddle. The recital went exceptionally well, especially considering that we'd only met 2 weeks ago! The program included a range of musical styles, from aria to lieder to spirituals, Christmas songs and pop tunes.

  • Exultate Jubilate: "Tu virginum" and "Alleluja" - W. A. Mozart

  • Nacht und Träume - F. Schubert

  • Wir Wandelten - J. Brahms

  • Morgen! - R. Strauss

  • I Wonder As I Wander - J. Niles

  • City Called Heaven - H. Johnson

  • Eccomi in lieta vesta...Oh! quante volte - V. Bellini

  • Oh! mio babbino caro - G. Puccini

Ms. Criddle is an incredibly talented, charming, engaging young woman. In addition to all of that, she's so beautiful that she could vie for "America's Next Top Model" and win! I am so grateful to her cousin, Luqman Frank, for recommending me to accompany her. Luq also performed on the program, two very heartfelt and expressive renditions of Stevie Wonder's "If It's Magic" (accompanied by Shannon, a talented 13 year old harpist) and "Visions". Luq and Lauren also sang an beautiful medley of "Silent Night" and John Lennon's "Imagine". Lauren's brother Taylor also performed 3 classical guitar pieces. What a talented family!

I enjoyed myself tremendously tonight. Lauren allowed me the space to freely improvise on the contemporary pieces, and chose pieces which allowed me to indulge myself pianistically, while still providing her support as a singer. I look forward to accompanying Lauren in premier venues around the world. She's a graduate of Julliard and has already performed at Carnegie Hall. I'm quite certain her future will be stellar. She's awesome.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Gig with Jeanette Harris

Tonight I played at Shanghai 1930 in Downtown San Francisco with sax player Jeanette Harris and her band (drummer Mike Harris and bassist Patrick Olvera). Jeanette and met a few months ago in line at the Beyonce audition (she didn't get hired either...oh well!) Here's the comment I left on her myspace page:
Hi Jeanette,

I had a GREAT time performing with you, Mike and Patrick last night. You guys are awesome! Mike and Patrick held it down, allowing me to playing freely, to be expressive and creative. They were EXACTLY what a pianist hopes for in a complete rhythm section. And you, my dear...WOW! You play with such passion, musicality and love! Your playing is an inspiration. I can't wait to play with you again on New Year's Eve!

Have a great show in LA and see you in a couple of weeks!

She will be releasing a new CD in 2007. Keep your eyes on this rising star!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Brush with celebrity

Last Friday, 11/24/06, the day after Thanksgiving, I went to Los Angeles with a group of family and friends to celebrate my cousin's 35th birthday. We had a FABULOUS time! After having a delicious dinner at Mastro's Steakhouse, where I had an excellent Chilean Sea Bass, and an array of delicious appetizers and side dishes, we went to Club Les Deux , an exclusive Hollywood hot spot. At Club Les Deux, the group of us (19 strong) danced to a wild mix of current hip-hop, nostalgic 80s tunes and 90s light pop. The DJ left much to be desired, as there was ABSOLUTELY no flow between the songs, but we managed to have a good time anyway.

What was most eventful, though, was that our party was crashed by two of the biggest celebrities in the world! At around 1am, Paris Hilton and Britney Spears ran into our private room (positioned above the main dance area) and started dancing with us. Unfortunately, they also started smoking immediately .. really strong, smelly cigarettes. I say unfortunate because the room was filled with non-smokers. So, despite the excitement of having these two very famous, wealthy and successful women in our presence, we were all rather put off by the cigarette smoking. Nonetheless, we continued dancing until around 2am, at which time we all left. Subsequently, we heard that there were radio broadcasts stating that Paris and Britney crashed a private party and drove out all the partygoers. Just to be clear, we left because we were all exhausted from a long day of frivolity and indulgence. We didn't leave because Paris and Britney crashed our party! In fact, I should have commiserated with both of them regarding hiring me as a musician for their musical projects! But, it wasn't the place or time. I just wish I'd had the presence of mind to at least take a photo with them. Oh well! Next time!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Passing Strange

I went to see the play / musical Passing Strange at the Berkeley Rep. My aim in going was to support my incredibly talented, brilliant and beautiful friend Eisa Davis, who plays the role of the Mother in the story. However, I was literally blown away by how fantastic the show is. Written by the amazingly talented singer/playwrite/musician, Stew, the play tells the story of a young man as he discovers himself. The story is told through some great songs, hilarious dialouge, and contemplative narrative from Stew. I laughed so hard that I had to keep wiping back tears. Passing Strange is one of the best plays I've seen in a while. If you have the chance to see it, don't miss the opportunity!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Keith Urban "Once in a Lifetime" Music Video

Ok, this wasn't a music gig. I was hired as a model for this one. I didn't end up totally on the cutting room floor. If you look really close, and don't blink, you'll see me walking in the background! lol I'm wearing a black top, my hair is curly and hanging down, sunglasses atop my head. They *almost* had a scene with my full face. They just show 1/2 of my face for about .05 seconds!


Keith Urban's "Once in a Lifetime" Music Video

I don't have the exact time codes for when I appear, but using my stop watch, I came up with these!

1. 0:9.85 The starring couple is standing looking at a painting (facing the camera) and I walk behind them, a blond man trailing just behind me. Keith Urban is humming.

2. 0:32.38 The starring couple is facing one another, with the female placing her hand on the male's chest. Keith Urban sings "it's a long shot, baby".

3. 3:58.37 The starring couple is looking into each others eyes, as if about to kiss. I'm hugging a guy, but you can only see the outline of my hair. It's a VERY short shot! lol Keith Urban sings " never giving up".

Friday, September 29, 2006

Playing with Arlington Houston

I played at the Downtown restaurant with Arlington Houston tonight. This was the first straight ahead jazz gig that I've had since I started practicing so much more. I didn't know most of the tunes, but thanks to my sight reading ability, and to the fact that I listened to the tunes during the day of the gig, I did a great job! I felt confident, free and very connected to the music. I feel like I was given an insight into what I'm capable of if I continue to practice at the pace I'd set. This performance was so much better than what I had been doing, and that's after only a few weeks of focused, extended practice. I can only imagine where I'd be if I kept up a 15+ hour regiment for over a year! Wow! Wish me luck....

Saturday, September 23, 2006

I met Mary J. Blige!

I met Mary J. Blige! I had an extremely exhausting week. The days following Labor Day were really tough. I drove to LA and back within 48 hours, and returned home to my usually grueling teaching, rehearsing and performing schedule. I never gave myself the time to fully recuperate from the drive and have been absolutely wiped out ever since. Well, on Sunday, after having played at church and having done a long rehearsal with a Latin band, I returned home for what turned out to be a short nap. I got a phone call from a friend inviting me to join her at the Mary J. Blige concert in Mountain View, CA. She had great seats and backstage passes. Well, of course, despite my fatigue, I couldn't pass up the opportunity! And I'm glad I didn't. I had never seen Mary in concert before, and she totally impressed me. She is such an honest performer. Her voice was great, but her spirit and connection to the music and the audience even greater. She literally had no artifice about her. I know people have always spoken about how "real" she is in her music, but that fact comes through very clearly in person.

LeToya Luckett (formerly of Destiny's Child) opened the show, and definitely demonstrated that she came from that superstar group. It was difficult to hear her (the balance wasn't great), but she looked beautiful and the dance moves were hot! I was yet again inspired to resume serious dance training (ah, but for the time!). Jaheim followed LeToya and it seemed he gave a great performance based on audience reaction. I missed his entire set because I was busy backstage taking a photo with Mary.

Another fun night, and hopefully a harbinger of the spectacular expansion of my career!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

NYC Performance with Tilly Key

Photos of me at the show
Wow! What a great show! I had a fantastic time in the Big Apple.

I arrived at JFK at 6am Tuesday morning, and drove to my friend's home in New Jersey, right across the GWB. I spent the morning reviewing the music for the show, and periodically passing out on the sofa from exhaustion having taken a red-eye flight with a stopover in Vegas. Later that evening I drove into Manhattan, struggled to find a parking space, and went into rehearsal. When I lived in NYC, I never did gigs, so I never took equipment around, and therefore only took the subway when I needed to go midtown. For this show, I had to take my keyboard, and had no intention of lugging that thing around on the subway! It's nearly as big as me! lol Suffice it to say, I was utterly shocked at the pricing for parking. Wow!

At the rehearsal, I met the rest of the band: Of course, my girl Tilly and Tim, the man; Luciana Padmore, drums; Zaid Shukri, bass; Richard Padron, guitar; Nabate, trumpet; Orlando and Allakoi, percussion. All of the musicians are incredibly talented and great people. I had such a wonderful time meeting, playing with and getting to know them all.

On Wednesday, I went to the Ouidad Hair Salon and got my "hair did". Afterwards, I met my friend Elaine, who recently relocated to NYC, at the famous Aquavit restaurant. I had the prix-fixe lunch of Cauliflower soup w/ croutons, olives & capers, Hot Smoked Salmon with Celeriac puree, asparagus salad, and apple-horseradish broth, and the signature dessert, Arctic Circle: goat cheese parfait, blueberry sorbet, and honey tuile. All quite amazing.

Wednesday night was the gig at The Cutting Room . I showed up early for the sound check and was able to park in a free legal spot after 6pm (a rarity in NYC). Right before the show, I needed to run to the car and get something and had a wonderful moment of Divine intervention. After I picked up the item from the car, I quickly turned to get back onstage since showtime was fast approaching, but a little voice told me to "stop and turn around right now". Normally, I would have ignored the voice and said to myself "I'll deal with whatever it is later". Well, this time I chose not to ignore it. I turned around and noticed that mine was the only car parked on that side of the street while the other side of the street was packed with cars! Clearly a problem! I walked about 20 feet forward so I could read the sign on my side of the street, and in small print it stated "no parking between 11pm and 2am". Can you believe that? However, without panicking, I looked up and down the street, and by a miracle there was only ONE spot available on the entire block; a spot exactly parallel to where I was parked. I quickly moved the car and said counted my blessings! If I hadn't taken the moment to become aware of the situation, not only would I have been ticketed, but most likely towed! I would have been out of probably $400! If that isn't Divine Intervention, I don't know what else to call it!

With that bit of wind behind my back, I skipped back inside The Cutting Room, and went on stage to do the show with Tilly. The energy and musicality were incredible. In fact, you can hear clips of the performance on Tilly's live myspace profile: Tilly Key Live. Tilly is such an incredible performer, and the audience loved us! I can't wait to perform once everyone has had a chance to really learn the music and get a feel for each other's playing. It was a very free, loving musical environment. Tilly allowed us all to be partially improvisational and to contribute to the overall vibe, which was wonderful. I always enjoy being able to organically create music. Structure is fun too (obviously, as I'm a classical pianist), but I also truly enjoy musical freedom, and love when artists have the confidence and security in their own performance to allow it from others. Tilly's talent and musical confidence make her a joy to play with and for.

After the show, a bunch of us went to Cafeteria Restaurant for a late night dinner and energized conversation. I didn't get to bed until nearly 4am. It was a blast! I haven't been out that late in ages! lol

Thursday was my last day in NYC. I slept late and didn't get out of bed until around 1:30pm. I got dressed and headed into the city to West 57th Street, home of Carnegie Hall. Across the street from Carnegie is Steinway Hall. I walked in, was greeted by the staff somewhat coldly, and asked about playing a piano. The young man at the front desk informed me that the public can access pianos on the ground floor for about 5 minutes at a time. I signed in and walked to the rooms that he pointed me towards. Inside, I found a series of very nice, but small pianos: nothing but baby grands. Yeah, those are nice, but I wanted a CONCERT GRAND and nothing less! : ) So, I walked back to the front and asked about their 9 foot concert grands. I think that let them know that I was serious. A salesman walked over, introduced himself and took me up the elevator to the next level where they kept the "real" pianos. He pointed me towards a row of concert grands and stood back as I started to play. I began by playing a Rachmaninoff Etude from the Etudes Tableaux. Upon hearing me, the salesman excused himself and shut the door behind him! I must have played for over an hour! I would have gone longer except that I had it on my agenda to visit Central Park. I thanked the people at Steinway, who insisted I let them know who I was, and walked towards the park...only to find another piano store with more concert grands! I'm such a sucker for a beautiful piano. Same procedure, but this time on a Shigeru Kawai. Lovely piano, but I'm still Steinway biased. At the next store, I played a Fazioli, but it wasn't as nice as the one I've played in San Francisco. In all, I spent my 4 hours that I was supposed to be touring the city inside of piano stores. Oops! No Central Park, no Ground Zero, no Harlem. Next time! lol

After my piano-gasm, I walked to Le Bernardin, known to be the premiere seafood restaurant in the country, changed clothes in their bathroom (I had to look gorgeous for my night out of course), and had dinner. I ordered the Le Bernardin Tasting menu, pricey at $130 per person - but worth every cent. Here's what I ate:

Amouse Bouche of poached lobster in Watermelon Soup. My eyes closed and rolled back in my head. I could barely contain myself...
I was also offered complimentary glass of Gosset Champagne. I tried a few sips...and I still can't stand the taste of alcohol. Oh well! As for Champagne though, it was better than others I've tried.

Layers of Thinly Pounded Yellowfin Tuna, Foie Gras and Toasted Baguette, Shaved Chives and Extra Virgin Olive Oli
This was the most amazing tuna dish I've ever had (and I've eaten the extraordinary Tuna Tartare at Michael Mina in San Francisco, so I know good tuna!). I have never before eaten foie gras and enjoyed it, but this I adored!

Grilled Salted Cod Salad; Avocado, Romaine, Aged Jerez Vinegar and Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Light and delicious.

Crispy Soft Shell Crab on a Bed of Jumbo Lump Crab Meat in a Fragrant Coconut-Lime Broth
I would eat this everyday if I could. Unbelievably delicious.

Poached Halibut, Sweet and Sour Golden and Red Beets, Citrus and Extra Virgin Olive Oil Emulsion

Baked Lobster; Braised Endives, Enoki and Black Trumpets; Bourbon-Black Pepper Sauce

Buttermilk Panna Cotta, Lemon Basil Gelée, Rhubarb Citrus Compote
If it weren't considered disgusting to lick the bowl...

Dark Chocolate, Cashew and Caramel Tart, Red Wine Reduction, Banana and Malted Rum Milk Chocolate Ice Cream
Super rich and delicious.

The meal was finished off by a series of petit fours, which I could barely finish, but did, because I was so full.

The service was excellent, all except for at the end when I was charged for a glass of Champage ($19) and it took a full 5 minutes for the waiter to understand that I didn't order Champagne. I think he should have offered me a discount for the stress of feeling like he was trying to pressure me into paying for the complimentary Champagne I barely sipped. But otherwise, I HIGHLY recommend this place.

After dinner, I went to see The Color Purple at the Broadway Theater. I had an EXCELLENT seat! Right in the orchestra center. I could see and hear everything perfectly. The story, as you all know, is fantastic, and the performers and music were wonderful. The singing and dancing made me want to jump up and sing along! I absolutely loved it! After the show, my friend Kemba, a phenomenal dancer, took me backstage so I could meet the cast. What beautiful amazing people! I just love performers!

In all, I had an excellent trip. I stayed with a dear friend, her husband and their beautiful children, got to spend a little bit of time in my old stomping grounds, and got to make music! Can't beat that!

Monday, June 19, 2006

I didn't get the Beyonce gig

Today I heard from several friends that Beyonce has chosen her band. Though I thought I played well at the audition, I never got a call back. Oh well. It seemed like such the perfect gig for me, but apparently it wasn't meant to be. I guess I'll just have to ramp up my practicing and be even better prepared next time! Though it would have been a dream come true to work with her (she is unbelievable), there's sure to be something out there that will be perfect for me.

Now that I've taken a foray into the auditioning world, I think I'll start going down to LA a couple of times a month. I should do more to let people know about me....

I can't wait to hear the band. The women must be FIERCE. I'm very glad to see that women who've dedicated their lives to excellence on their instrument get a chance to shine. We ladies don't always get the lucky breaks, so I cheer them on. It's an inspiration to me as I continue my quest to be more and more fierce.

Time to hit the keys... at least this experience has inspired me to strive even harder to reach the next level with my music. Wish me luck!

ps Ms. Knowles, if any of the keyboard players don't work out, call me! ; >

Monday, June 12, 2006

I auditioned for Beyonce's all female band

I auditioned for Beyonce's all female band yesterday in Burbank. I was stunned that so few people showed up. I think there were only around 75 women auditioning all together. I expected so many more. I thought I'd get there and it would be like American Idol, with lines around the block. Not at all. Very surprising.

I drove to Burbank Sunday night, after having played in church Sunday morning and played the final opera performance (Malcolm X in Oakland, for which I got a great review!) that afternoon, and that's after having had a tough week playing for the opera every night, playing for graduations and teaching. Once I got home that evening, I still had to compile my resume, head shot, etc., pack a bag, prepare my dogs to stay with my mom, go pick up my cousin, Donte (who served as my guy Friday...thank God for him! It made the trip SO much easier), drop off the dogs and then drive south. Since I was working so much, I had no time to learn the assigned song until I was driving down Hwy 5. I played it over, and over, and over, etc., learning it totally by ear without a keyboard. By the time I got to bed, it was 4am Monday morning.

Thanks to the person who previously occupied my hotel room, the alarm went off at 7am. Ugh! Feeling anxious about my chances to be heard, I threw on some clothes and rushed to the audition site (Center Staging, which was only a 5 minute drive from my hotel). Much to my dismay, there was NO ONE there! So I went back to the hotel to sleep more. I woke up again at 9am and decided to have Donte hold my space in line at Center Staging. I had packed a couple of small lawn chairs and an umbrella so that we could at least be comfortable as we waited. While Donte held my spot in line, I went back to the hotel to get dressed and practice for an hour with the keyboard I'd brought along. Feeling very confident and energetic (despite the lack of sleep), I went to Center Staging at 11:45am.

The people running the auditions, presumably from Beyonce's camp, started auditioning people around noon. First they called drummers. Then bass players, then guitarists. I thought, surely, keyboard players are next...NOPE! Sax players. Then, finally, around 3:15pm, they called for keyboard players. I swear, it seemed that no more than 6 women came forward. I couldn't believe it! 2 of them were friends of mine from the Bay Area, great players both. Perhaps there were more keyboard players who came later in the day, but I was totally surprised by the low turnout.

I was the 2nd keyboard player to be auditioned. I decided to present myself in a manner that exemplified what I hope Beyonce is looking for: I looked sexy, but classy, in a really nice bikini top, a mini skirt and heels (I don't do all that working out for nothing! I HAD to show off the 6-pack!), donned some lovely drop earrings and strutted into the room, confident and beaming with a smile. The music director walked over, shook my hand and introduced himself (I promptly forgot his name, my adrenaline level was so high). The only people in the room were him, a camera man and a tech guy who made sure I could access the sounds I wanted on the Triton keyboard (which I don't own, and therefore don't know). So, music director guy sat down with his guitar and asked me to "jam" with him in E using a clav sound. I did just that and felt like I did a great job. After about a while (I have no idea how long, but it felt like a minute) he asked me to solo, and I did. He was a GREAT guitarist, so it was really fun to play with him. Next, he played some chords on his guitar in a ballad style and asked me to play with him and solo over that too. I picked it up immediately (which I hope impressed him) and played a really pretty solo, very delicate and sensual, but with rich, contemporary chord voicings. Next, he asked me to play some jazz in C, but before we could start, the tech guy asked "shouldn't you have her play the Beyonce song?", and music director guy said "oh yeah". He said I'd be playing with the DVD track, starting in the middle of the song. The music came on, and I nailed it! I had the horn line, the string lines, the keyboard parts, all the hits, etc. I was bopping along, doing my little dance moves, having eye contact with the camera and music director guy, really getting into it, and when the music stopped, I wanted to keep going! Music director guy kind of laughed at me and said "you really want to keep going, don't you?", and I replied with an enthusiastic "yes". But, my time was over, so we exchanged thank you's and I exited the room.

Based on what the other keyboard players told me, he had me play more than they did, but it still seemed SOOOO short! I wish I'd had a chance to play some jazz and really show off my skills, but hopefully I'll get a chance to do that at the call back.

So far, I haven't heard anything. It's been a full day since I auditioned, and I'm eagerly anticipating a phone call. I'm so anxious about it I can barely keep my mind on anything else. I want this job so much! I think I'd be just perfect for it and it's perfect for me! I love the idea of being glamourous and supporting Beyonce in her band. I can totally envision playing a ballad with her where it's just me on the piano accompanying and responding to her musically. That's one of the things I do best! I've been an accompanist forever and to be able to accompany someone of her caliber!??? It takes my breath away to just imagine it.

Anyway, beforehand I prayed about it, meditated on it, did my best, felt confident, think I played well and believe I looked the part! I'm waiting on pins & needles. This job is sooooo perfect for me! I KNOW I can do it. I just hope they call tomorrow so I can breathe...

Wish me luck...say a prayer...pull some strings...whatever it takes! I want this job!!! lol