Wednesday, November 21, 2007
It is once again Thanksgiving and I feel compelled to express thanks for my many blessings. I am humbled by the abundance of grace that has been poured forth into my life. At the moment, I am most grateful for (1) the fact that my beautiful 5 year old niece is surviving leukemia and (2) for the opportunity to perform with the phenomenal Stevie Wonder, both of whom inspire and compel me to be my best!
My niece is beating the odds! Despite a very difficult and challenging course of treatment, Naomi is giving us every reason to believe that she will survive and, through her strength, continue being an inspiration to me and to everyone who meets her. She endured a particularly difficult chemotherapy session this past Monday (including 8 unsuccessful attempts at inserting an IV), and yet, today is filled with her usual irrepressible joy. She is, without doubt, one of the bravest people I know. Her strength belies her mere 5 years.
In August, I was hired to perform with one of the greatest artists of all time, Stevie Wonder. I could not have asked for better! Stevie Wonder is, as you know, a genius, and, through his creativity, talent and humanitarian spirit, an inspiration. On his example, I spend several hours per day while on tour in my hotel room practicing, creating, expanding as a musician. I've had the honor to accompany Stevie Wonder (just me and him on "If It's Magic"!) several times in concert, and even played the grand piano in Madison Square Garden on November 17, 2007, as Stevie Wonder and Tony Bennett sang "For Once In My Life"! Wow!! I am truly living a dream and am filled with gratitude for having been given this opportunity. Every member of the Stevie Wonder team has welcomed me, and has been professional, warm and encouraging. It is a beautiful experience. I am grateful for them all.
I pray that each of you be filled with the spirit of gratitude and joy, and that love envelopes you this holiday season.
Music, art, education, well-being, compassion, peace and joy!
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Around 11pm, the band was expanded by Mike Olmos (Trumpet), Adam Shulman (piano) and Howard Wiley (sax). Mike jumped right in and showed why he tours with Etta James! Evan and Adam had solos that were fluid and full of great musical ideas. Once Howard got to the stage, they ripped into an Ellington Blues (don't remember the name of it... I'm trying to get better with remembering names!) Howard was AWESOME!!!!!! His solo was so expressive and free. I felt like I was in church! He made me want to jump up and play too! But, really, it was lovely to just sit and enjoy music. That's a rarity for me.
Marcus and Jeff were solid all night. Both played without frills; just the perfect subtext for the solo instruments to soar and play. Marcus and his band are in residency at Jazz at Pearl's every Tuesday this month. I recommend checking them out!
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Several audience members asked where I was performing next (by which I'm sure they meant where would I be playing more classical piano). Of course I told them about my wildly diverse freelance performances (this week alone has classical, gospel, jazz and R&B gigs…phew!), but I immediately thought about the fact that I have not performed a classical recital in more years than I'd care to admit. I had wanted to do a recital this year, but I think it will be smarter to aim at 2008. There are so many wonderful pieces I'd love to perform (Rachmaninoff Etudes, Chopin Preludes, Scherzos and Ballades, Prokofiev Sonata 7, Ravel Jeux d'eau, etc.) One step at a time. At least I'm finally practicing again! Tonight's success was a direct result and evidence of that! : >
Friday, July 27, 2007
She is performing all week at Yoshi's with Christian McBride, Dave Ellis and DJ Jahi Sundance. The show was incredible! They're playing through Sunday, so if you get a chance, I highly recommend you check it out!
The music is fully improvised and SUPER funky! Patrice played beautifully. Her rhythmic ideas, technical prowess and soulfulness kept me and my fellow pianists (the raucous Rushen cheering section) on the edge of our seats! The music was purely organic in its ebb and flow, wandering from church romp to hip hop groove to esoteric jazz with sprinkles of electronica. I, for one, had a hard time keeping still in my seat.
Once again, I'm truly inspired, and despite my exhaustion am about to put in some more practice time tonight before passing out.
Monday, July 23, 2007
I am still relearning the Rachmaninoff Etude in Eb minor, and it felt GREAT tonight! It's amazing how much freedom is gained when the notes are in hand thanks to repetition.
I've been trying to figure out why I've had such a hard time implementing a serious practice regiment. I practiced 6-8 hours per day in college, but have had the hardest time practicing even 1-2 hours in a week as a professional (embarrassing, but true. I play all the time, but practice is an entirely different matter). In any case, I did it this week! : > Next on my goal list is to get back to writing. Would be nice to get over that hindrance as well!
Saturday, July 14, 2007
The evening started with a short video of a family who'd recently been given the opportunity to own a home as a direct result of the good work of Habitat for Humanity. After the video, the mayor of Pleasanton, Jennifer Hosterman, made a brief statement encouraging those in the audience to donate more to the worthy cause being celebrated.
I opened the musical portion of the show with an overture that I created from the main themes of several of the more popular songs to be sung. Romar served as the musical host and entertained the crowd with his hilarious wit, immense charm and beautiful voice. Each of the singers brought down the house in turn: CJ with "Impossible Dream", Lorraine with "Don Juan", Julianne with "I Could Have Danced All Night" and Romar with "Gethsemane (I Only Want to Say)" from Jesus Christ Superstar.
All in all it was a wonderful evening.
Romar was hoping to raise at least $10,000. You can also contribute directly at Habitat for Humanity.
Saturday, June 30, 2007
I arrived at the SF International Airport Monday morning, June 18, at 11am. Several choir members were already there, including my assigned roommate, Brenda, and her aunt and uncle. They were what we referred to as “choir groupies”, people who don’t sing with the choir but provide the BEST enthusiasm and applause during the concerts! The tour directors could not have chosen a better roommate for me! Brenda is energetic, adorable, friendly, spunky, brilliant, beautiful and fun! Furthermore, she’s an experienced traveler and sleeps quietly! All good! lol The choir members and choir groupies, 82 people in total, were divided into two groups: Blue and Red. I was assigned to the Blue group, which included our fearless leader, Doug and his family.
We all boarded the Lufthansa airplane and took off for Frankfurt. During the flight, I intermittently watched and slept through 3 movies: Catch and Release, Freedom Writers (my kind of movie; I love that inspirational, real life, positive kind of movie) and Music and Lyrics. As usual, I chose the vegan meals in-flight. I have found that the vegan meal is generally more tasty and edible than the standard fare.
On Tuesday, 6/19/07, we arrived at the Frankfurt airport. It’s not exactly aesthetically pleasing. It was ugly and smelled bad. But we weren’t there long. We boarded a pretty new plane (yes, that’s my description; don’t ask me what type of plane it was), which I didn’t appreciate for long because I passed out again. I, thankfully, have no trouble at all sleeping on airplanes.
After a couple of hours, we landed in Munich (a very nice, clean airport). We boarded a tour bus and drove from the Munich Airport to Castle Neuschwanstein in Bayern. I have never in my life suffered as much from intense heat as I did during that drive. It was a hot, sunny day and the bus that the Blue group was assigned had no air conditioning AND the windows barely opened. We were nearly suffocating on that bus. We couldn’t get to the castle soon enough.
The castle was built for King Ludwig II (also know as Mad King Ludwig), and is incredibly beautiful. In fact, it’s the inspiration for the Cinderella’s Castle at Disneyland. As we toured the castle, Doug decided to have the choir sing in the Throne Room. I gave the pitch on the pitch pipe and we began to sing one of the pieces of our repertoire (“Sing and Rejoice” I believe). The acoustics in the room were stunning! We sounded so good that we all broke into smiles immediately! After leaving the castle, it was back onto the HOT bus for the ride to our hotel in Salzburg. Upon arriving at the hotel, I had dinner and quickly passed out!
On Wednesday, 6/20/07, I woke up, practiced yoga in the hotel gym, ate breakfast, dressed and headed with the group to downtown Salzburg. We met our very knowledgeable and friendly tour guide, Inga, and toured several notable locations: Mirabelle Gardens (simply beautiful), the old town, St. Peter’s Cloisters, Salzburg Dom and courtyard, and Mozart’s birth home, to name a few. It was quite sobering to walk on cobblestones in the old town and realize that people had traversed those actual stones for hundreds of years; perhaps even Mozart himself! The city of Salzburg is beautiful, very clean and full of botanical sights.
Once our tour guide finished the city tour, we were free to explore the city on our own for a couple of hours before heading back to the hotel to dress for the night’s event: dinner and a concert at the St. Peterskeller, one of the oldest restaurants in Europe (serving since circa 800 AD)! The food was decent, but the concert was lots of fun. A few students from the local conservatory performed scenes from a couple of Mozart operas. I was even serenaded by Don Giovanni, who bent before me on one knee as I blushed!
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
On Friday night, April 27, 2007, I performed with the wonderful Jeannine Anderson. She chose 2 pieces, Senza mamma from Puccini's Suor Angelica and an arrangement of the spiritual "Witness" arranged by Hale Smith, in that order. Both were riveting performances. Jeannine explained the scene from Suor Angelica, the torment of the lead character, who had been living in a cloistered convent (punishment for having had a child out of wedlock) upon learning of the death of her child six months after the fact. It is a very difficult and moving role to perform.
Hale Smith's arrangement of "Witness" is wonderful; full of angular rhythms and lush, jazz influenced chords. I had so much fun accompanying Jeannine for both pieces!
On Sunday afternoon, April 29, 2007, NANM held their annual spirituals concert. Normally, the concert is packed with numerous attendees, including fans, patrons, other musicians, etc. However, this year the audience was relatively small, though enthusiastic, thanks to the disastrous tanker accident that destroyed part of a major freeway system in the Bay Area that same morning. Nonetheless, we performers gave our all!
I performed my own arrangements of a pair of spirituals: "Heav'n, Heav'n" and "Ain't Gon' Study War No Mo'", which were both very well received. Despite my exhaustion at having played for 3 church services that morning, and having rehearsed before the concert with the sopranos I was to accompany (oh, and did I mention teaching on Saturday 9-2 and then playing another church service that afternoon, and then practicing until midnight!?!), I played with joy and energy. It was easy to use the knowledge of the origin of the spirituals to motivate me to bring my best to the music.
I accompanied Yolanda Harden on improvised arrangements of "Were You There" and "Hold On". Yolanda did a great job, and audience loved both pieces! Finally, I accompanied Hope Briggs on Roland Carter's arrangement of "Is There Anybody Here" and Margaret Bonds' "He's Got The Whole World In His Hand". Hope was wonderful and will be featured this summer in the San Francisco Opera's production of Don Giovanni, singing the role of Donna Anna.
I love accompanying great artists! I'm so grateful for the opportunity and look forward to doing more!
Saturday, March 03, 2007
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Monday, January 08, 2007
Monday, January 01, 2007
Tonight I performed at Hotel Nikko with the Jeanette Harris Band. As always, Jeanette, Mike and Patrick were GREAT!
Jeanette plays with tons of soul and has a consistently lovely tone. Mike and Patrick are always solid and in constant communication, so as to make the gig an absolute pleasure.
I played well, using my A-37 keyboard and a sound module. I'm glad I was able to get in over 9 hours of practice this week, but I'm still striving to find a way to make 15 hours my standard practice commitment (perfectionist that I am). I'm trying some new strategies in 2007.
My beautiful mother was my date for the evening. She was resplendent in a gold 2 piece gown and (faux) fur stole. I wore my lovely black gown with rhinestones :
After the performance, I danced (solo, as I am wont to do!) for nearly an hour before changing and packing up my gear.
I think my level of my fatigue is finally catching up with me. After a long holiday season of consecutive gigs, rehearsals, church services, piano students, school concerts, recitals, etc., I'm ready for a (short) break!
If I am to make any New Year resolutions, they would be these:
1. To be the best I am able to be
2. To practice 15 hours per week
3. To get adequate sleep
4. To find more time for fun, friends and family
5. To continue being fabulous!
Performing with Jeanette was a great way to say goodbye to 2006 and welcome 2007! I have a most positive attitude and am determined to find the silver lining in any clouds that may appear, and remain open to receiving each blessing that is coming my way!