Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Dinner

I hosted both sides of my huge family in my home for Christmas dinner this year. Over 40 people arrived, laughed, ate, played games, and had a great time! Over the past few years, I've pretty much stopped cooking. A serious gourmand, I used to cook elaborate meals at least every 2 months for friends and family, but hadn't cooked a major meal in just over 2 years. I hadn't made a holiday dinner in nearly a decade!

This year, I volunteered to make the Christmas turkey, and despite my lack of practice, I broke out my trusty old "Maple Lemon Roast Turkey" recipe. I was a bit nervous that I'd lost my culinary touch, but much to my glee, I hadn't! The turkeys (I cooked 2) turned out juicy, fragrant, and most of all DELICIOUS! I did not have many leftovers. Even the non-turkey-lovers thought it was tasty. Phew! Good to know that when my schedule allows me a bit more free time, I'll be able to get back into making my gourmet meals and start entertaining friends again. I really miss my dinner parties...

Opening a gift: A cool Obama tee-shirt!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Dearest friends,

This holiday, it is my goal to exemplify the spirit of the season. I am striving to be more grateful, empathetic, gracious, considerate, friendly, loving, generous and peaceful. I am daily striving to contribute to at least one person's day in a positive way, to be an impetus for a genuine smile, and to infuse a small dose of joy through reminding myself and others that even in the toughest of times, there is always much to be grateful for. Whether or not 2008 might have been challenging for you (and it certainly has been challenging in many ways for me), I encourage you to look back, review the year and realize all the ways in which it was perfect. It was a great year! : >

I wish you a beautiful holiday season, and a new year full of expectation for and manifestation of all things GOOD!

Be well, dream big, smile freely and enjoy the holidays!

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Kwanzaa! Happy New Year!!! : >



Wednesday, December 17, 2008


I was interviewed for the first time on live Radio this past Monday! It was a fun experience, and I believe (I hope) that I did a good job! : >

Listen to Victoria's live interview with ArtistFirst radio host Susan Stackpole, on her weekly broadcast "Younique!"

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


A friend sent me this quote by Thelonious Monk. I love it so much, I had to share it. See the handwritten text here:


Here's what is says:

Just because you're not a drummer, doesn't mean that you don't have to keep time.
Pat your foot and sing the melody in your head, when you play.
Stop playing all those weird notes (that bullshit), play the melody!
Make the drummer sound good.
Discrimination is important.
You've got to dig it to dig it, you dig?
All reet!
Always know....(monk)
It must be always night, otherwise they wouldn't need the lights.
Let's lift the band stand!!
I want to avoid the hecklers.
Don't play the piano part, i'm playing that. Don't listen to me. I'm supposed to be accompaning you!
The inside of the tune (the bridge) is the part that makes the outside sound good.
Don't play everything (or everytime); let some things go by. Some music just imagined. What you don't play can be more important than what you do.
A note can be small as a pin or as big as the world, it depends on your imagination.
Stay in shape! Sometimes a musician waits for a gig, and when it comes, he's out of shape and can't make it.
When you're swinging, swing some more!
(what should we wear tonight? Sharp as possible!)
Always leave them wanting more.
Don't sound anybody for a gig, just be on the scene.
These pieces were written so as to have something to play and to get cats interested enough to come to rehearsal.
You've got it! If you don't want to play, tell a joke or dance, but in any case. You got it! (to a drummer who didn't want to solo.)
Whatever you think can't be done, somebody will come along and do it. A genius is the one most like himself.
They tried to get me to hate white people, but someone would always come along and spoil it.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

House Full of Toys

Yesterday was the annual Stevie Wonder’s House Full of Toys benefit. This year, Stevie asked Rickey Minor to serve as music director for the guest artists, so I was thrilled to have my first opportunity to work with Rickey as a music director! Last year, at the Hollywood Bowl concert, Rickey conducted the string section, but I hadn’t worked with him directly…until now!
The guest artists were all wonderful:
Lauren Smith, a classical Soprano;
Fior, a singer/pianist/songwriter;
Leigh Jones , a singer/pianist/songwriter;
Shelea Frazier, a singer/pianist/songwriter;
Boney James, the saxophonist;
Esperanza Spalding, a singer/bassist/songwriter, and
Maysa Leak, singer/songwriter from the heralded group Incognito.

I arrived in LA Friday morning, and was taken to rehearsal at the Nokia at 3pm. It was lovely to see everyone again. All of the band, staff and crew were present, and I made sure to go around and give hugs to everyone. After a brief lunch, we headed to the stage to rehearse for the show. By Friday afternoon, we still hadn’t received charts (sheet music) to use for rehearsal, so we focused on Stevie’s music, knowing we’d have to work hard the next day to prepare for the guest artists. The stage had to be clear by 11pm, so we finished and said goodnight. I managed to go to sleep before 1am! A miracle! Saturday morning, I woke up at 8:30am, and tried to make a few charts on my own. I finished 2 charts, but ran out of time before needing to head to reception for the shuttle back to the Nokia. Once we arrived at the Nokia, Rickey was ready to get to work. I grabbed a veggie wrap, went to my keyboard station, and was more than a little delighted to find that Rickey had prepared charts of all of the music for us. Hallelujah!!! The show would have been so much more difficult without charts.

We rehearsed most of the music without the artists for a couple of hours, took a short 10-minute break, and then started rehearsing with the artists. Everything went very well, and relatively easily. However, there was one song that required a solo piano while Esperanza sang. I hadn’t had time to examine, much less practice, her song, and I’d only heard it once, but it was time for me to rehearse accompanying her. That was the most frustrating moment of the day. I am a perfectionist, and, being familiar with her astonishing talent, I wanted to do the music justice. I sight read it decently, and she complimented me, but I just wish I’d had a chance to really work the tune before having had to play it with her. Oh well! In the end, Stevie played and sang the song with her, but it was a pleasure to have accompanied her, even if only in rehearsal.

We finally stopped rehearsing at 7:15pm, and I had to rush to get some food, get dressed and head to the stage. We had a make up artist to work for us, but because of the long rehearsal, he didn’t have time to get to everyone. I’d been excited about having a professional make my face, but alas, it wasn’t to be!

Stevie opened the show with some fun Christmas sing-a-longs, and then sang a solo while accompanying himself on the piano. The first guest artist was Lauren, who sang a gorgeous rendition of Summertime, with her accompanist, Manuel Arellano, at the piano. She then sang “O Holy Night”. Nate and I accompanied she and Manuel, while Stevie took a harmonica solo during the piece. Next up, Fior sang 2 of her own compositions, both very heart felt and evocative with compelling piano motifs. After her performance, Stevie had the band join him onstage for a rendition of “My Cherie Amour”, and we stayed onstage to accompany Leigh Jones’ soulful rendition of her catchy tune “Free Fall”. After more songs with Stevie, Shelea Frazier came on stage and accompanied herself on the piano singing “Who Could Imagine A King”. What a beautiful performance! I loved everything about it! Next, she sang a song that she composed in honor of Barack Obama’s election, and after she started the song on the piano, the band came in, and I took over the piano part.

The next artist, Boney James, was a lot of fun! He’s a vibrant performer, and chose two popular songs he’s recorded “The Christmas Song” and “I’m Gonna Love You” (on his upcoming CD). The next scheduled guest artist was Esperanza Spalding. Esperanza is nothing short of amazing. She epitomizes musicality, is utterly brilliant on the bass and has the voice of an angel. I was astonished at her musical knowledge and prowess. Her music was challenging, but invigorating. She sang her compositions “Fall In” (which I ended up not playing – but the boss did a beautiful job…of course! lol) and “I Know You Know”, which are both great tunes.

At this point, we moved into Wonder music, playing songs from the tour set list. In the midst of the set list, Stevie announced a surprise guest, Tyrese. Tyrese performed several songs (much to the delight of we female observers!), and joined us for the remainder of Stevie’s set. Maysa Leak, performed a great rendition of her version of “Don’t You Worry About a Thing”.

Despite the stress of learning so much music, it was a great show! Everyone performed well, I was happy with my performance, and the audience seemed to enjoy themselves. Best of all, everyone involved with the show was pleasant, friendly, talented, and genuinely happy to be there! What a way to celebrate the season. Happy holidays to everyone!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


An Election Day to remember…The impact of this historic night still hasn't quite sunk in for me. I’m excited and thrilled, but also sober and focused. As I watched the polls close, the vote tally ratcheting steadily upward for my chosen candidate, I sat next to men and women who had lived lives replete with personal stories of extreme discrimination, unprovoked abuse, the most abhorrent epithets, scars from overt and covert hatred directed towards them for no reason other than their skin color.

I chose for a few moments to be more an observer than celebrant. These septuagenarians and octogenarians never dreamed that they would see this day in their lifetime. These everyday heroes (descendants of slaves, survivors of Jim Crow, participants in the Civil Rights Movement and victims of redlining and urban decay) applauded, hollered, cheered, laughed loudly and sang songs of praise as they witnessed a virtual miracle taking place before their eyes: the election of the first African-American President of United States! What was once unfathomable has come to be a reality! The joyful tears streaming down those beautiful, weathered and wise faces inspire a great hope for our future within me.

We are the catalysts for and the progenitors of fundamental change in the world. As my mentor and employer has said many times on stage “Impossible is unacceptable”! We can and will make this incredible nation an even more perfect union! We can and will make this world a more beautiful place. YES WE CAN!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Tomorrow is Election Day

Tomorrow is Election Day! Regardless of your (OBAMA) political leanings, I encourage (OBAMA) you to get out there and exercise your (OBAMA) right to vote! Make sure that (OBAMA) everyone you know who is eligible (OBAMA) to vote does the same (OBAMA)! We can make a difference (OBAMA)! We can create a better world (OBAMA). YES WE CAN!! : >

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Christchurch, New Zealand

I didn’t wake up until 2pm on Monday! The fatigue is definitely catching up with me. I got up and went for a long walk/run. I use my walks to clear my head and meditate on the beauty of nature. I walked along a beautiful river, and came upon a huge park. I ventured into the park only as far as my tree allergy would allow me. Once the sniffling started, I turned around. I couldn’t resist all that verdant beauty! : >

Once I returned to the hotel, I called Kim and she joined me for dinner at a cute restaurant near the hotel. Even though it was a Tuesday night, the restaurant (oddly named “Sticky Fingers”) was packed. The food was quite tasty and the service friendly.

I’ve got the best morning music list! I’m very much a fan of books, music and concepts that motivate me to be my best, to start out the day on the right foot, so to speak. I’m listening to “Lovely Day” right now, and that song always makes me smile. Today I didn’t get out of bed until nearly 2:30pm. I had the worst time trying to sleep. I think it’s because of the tough workout I had yesterday. I had a ton of lactic acid built up in my neck and shoulders. I should have stretched before going to bed. But despite feeling rickety and sore, I’m feeling happy! “Accentuate the positive”…Ella’s version. Gotta love it! : >

Tonight’s show in Christchurch was great! The audience was beautiful! Only 1 show left. I’m ambivalent. I want to go home, but I don’t. I miss my family, my dogs, my students, my friends, but I really love being on the road, performing for so many of Stevie’s adoring fans every night, meeting new people, seeing new places. I suppose eventually one grows tired of the road, but I am still having the time of my life!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Heading to New Zealand

Today was a long travel day. After the show last night in Brisbane (the last in Australia, the venue had a lovely range of color on the seats - I couldn't help but notice during sound check), we had a fun little end of tour party at a bar in the Valley district of the city. I left the party around 4am, went back to the room and packed before laying down for an hour or so. At 8am, we boarded the bus for the trip to the airport. We had to fly to Auckland, New Zealand, and then transfer to a flight to Christchurch. We didn’t arrive at the hotel until 10:30pm. Granted, there was a change in time, but it was an exhausting day nonetheless.


Plane to New Zealand

Welcome to Christchurch

Friday, October 24, 2008

Sydney to Brisbane

It was lovely to have mom with me the past few days. Yesterday, I was so exhausted from lack of sleep, I couldn’t get up until 11am. We went to the Centrepoint Tower and were met by a staff member, Mira, who’d attended the concert on Wednesday night. Mira set up a personal tour by some staff members. The view of Sydney was gorgeous despite the overcast and rainy skies. I can only imagine how it looks on a clear day! After the concert, mom had the chance to speak briefly to Stevie, which was nice. She’s so proud of me and grateful to him for having hired me! This morning, we woke up late again, and only had time to prepare for leaving. I suppose I’ll just have to keep working hard and one day save up for a vacation in Australia, giving us enough time to look around and do some real sight-seeing!
Mom took off for her flight back to the USA and the rest of us flew to Brisbane. This city is also beautiful! I went for a nice walk and dinner with Ryan, Roman and Munyungo. It was a good day!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Found luggage!

After a long day of trying not to worry about my bag, with mixed results (at times I was at peace with the idea of replacing all of my belongings, at other times I was struggling to suppress rage and sadness at having to spend the time and money to replace everything), my luggage was found and delivered to the venue! I was extremely happy to see my suitcase in tact! Yippee!

Tonight’s show went very well! The audience was lovely, and it was a joy to see mom in the audience enjoying herself. Finally I can get a good night’s rest!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Mom's in Sydney!

I barely slept at all last night. I fell asleep around 7:30am, but was awakened every 90 minutes by calls from my sister and the hotel staff for various reasons. I finally gave up at 10am and prepared for departing Melbourne. By 10:30am, we still hadn’t heard from Mom, and Nina was starting to become worried. I wasn’t worried yet, as I expected that it would take a while for her to retrieve her luggage, get through customs and drive to the hotel in morning rush hour traffic. It turns out that Mom hadn’t written down the name of the hotel, and had to be resourceful in finding a way to call Nina for the hotel information, as she doesn’t have a functional cell phone here in Australia.

In the end, I arrived at the hotel (once again missing one piece of my luggage…sigh) and Mom opened the door to my hotel room. She’s here! In order to take advantage of the 2 hours of remaining daylight, we immediately hit the street and walked to the Sydney Opera house, passing the Conservatory of Music on the way there. The view from the Opera House is stunning. The weather in Sydney this week is rather chilly, so despite a vibrant Food Festival taking place in Hyde Park, we only had a small snack and kept walking. Sitting and eating in the cool air was not ideal!

We stopped at the grocery store and headed back to the hotel before going to dinner. The concierge recommended a lovely spot, Fix at St. James. He suggestion suited me perfectly! The food was delicious, with adequate portions and reasonable prices, as well as a very friendly, personable waiter.

Once we finished our meal, we walked back to the hotel to get some sleep. Mom is already asleep as I write today’s blog. I’m struggling to stay awake as I write. Hopefully I can rest tonight!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Avoiding illness

It’s actually 5:30am Tuesday morning, but I’ve barely slept all night. I woke up around 4am feeling weird. Several people on the tour have been sick, and I’m determined that I won’t join them, regardless of how I’m feeling!

Over the past couple of days, I’ve met some very cool new people. I took yoga class on Saturday and Sunday, and loved both! It felt so good to move my body and have instruction from two lovely teachers, Sean and Tony, guiding me through Iyengar yoga. I’d never used a chair in my yoga practice before, but I enjoyed it tremendously! A back bend over the chair reached muscles in my chest and shoulders that I’d never felt before. Beautiful! Of course, I’m rather sore today, but that’s ok! There was a masseuse at the venue both yesterday and today, but I didn’t manage my time in a manner that would have allowed me to get a massage. She was reasonably priced, but I’m trying to be careful with money. Mom arrives in Sydney later today! It will be nice to have her with me for a few days.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Adorable Adelaide and Marvelous Melbourne

We flew to Melborne from Adelaide today. Last night’s concert was great! On Thursday, I woke up late (1pm), and went for a short walk in town.

A square in Adelaide

During my walk through Adelaide, I came across a music store and went inside to play some pianos. I spoke with a really nice guy in the store, Stephan, and ended up inviting him to the show. He was very excited and more than pleased! Later, during the Meet and Greet, he told me that all the guys in the store knew who I was! They said to him “wasn’t that Victoria?”! Amazing! Lol

Today I took a nice walk through a cute shopping district in Melbourne with Valari and Greg, meeting James and Mick at a Chinese restaurant. The food was extremely greasy, but I was so hungry I didn’t care. I’ve had gas ever since, so I’m sorry I ate it now. The internet at this hotel is ridiculously expensive. They’re charging up to $66 for only 10 hours! Amazing. I’m using the internet as little as possible.

Photos of Melbourne
Flying to Melbourne

Driving into town

Rod Laver Arena

The city

A friendly fish at the Melbourne Aquarium

Bollywood Festival

Fausto trying a Didgeridoo

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

To the beach!

Yesterday morning, my friend Berni picked me up and took Greg and me on a trip to Cottesloe Beach and King’s Park. Berni brought along Kerri (I’d met both of them in Los Angeles when they were on vacation) and her daughter Jennifer. We drove to Cottesloe Beach and I had the chance to put my toes in the Indian Ocean!

The water was very cold, and I had no intention of allowing the water to go above my knees, but the weather was warm, the sky clear, and the breeze gentle. It couldn’t have been better! We sat and had drinks at a small cafĂ© overlooking the beach (I had a delicious blend of apple and ginger juices).

We then drove to King’s Park, where I took in the glorious scents of the Botanical Garden.

I’ve been suffering from mild to moderate allergy symptoms (I’m allergic to trees and grass), but decided that the view of the meeting of the Swan and Canning rivers and the beauty of the wildflowers was worth a few (if intense) sneezes and sniffles. I found this tree to be particularly beautiful:

I took a nap when I returned to the hotel (I love the fact that I nap so easily), and left for the venue to do sound check.

The show at the Burswood Dome went well, though many people said the sound in the venue is terrible. I wear in-ear monitors, so it’s difficult for me to get an idea of what people hear in the audience. After the show, my friends took me to dinner in Perth’s China town. It was a lovely day!

Today, we flew to Adelaide. With the flight and the time change, we basically lost the entire day. A few of us ventured down a restaurant district into a local Thai restaurant for dinner, and then we directly to sleep!

Saturday, October 11, 2008


I haven’t written in the past few days. At first, I’d adjusted immediately to the difference in time zone (Europe to Australia), but now every other day, I’m waking at 3am, regardless of what time I go to sleep. I went to bed last night at 2am, and at 3am, my eyes sprung open. Most people on the tour are experiencing this kind of erratic and unpredictable sleep patterns. I’m not too stressed out about it, since we’ve had several days off and I’ve been able to make it up by taking naps during the day.

On Saturday, I woke up at 3am, couldn’t go back to sleep until nearly 9am, and slept until 11am. I went into town with some of the guys, did some souvenir shopping at a lovely Aboriginal art gallery, and went back to the hotel to rest, since I didn’t feel good. It turns out that I’m experiencing some mild allergic reactions to the beautiful wildflowers and trees that are in bloom as its springtime here.

I mostly stayed in on Sunday, sleeping over 10 hours (until 2pm), only going outside to go for a walk and to eat dinner. I usually do more of a jog than a walk, but I had no energy, and didn’t want to push myself if I was catching a cold. I stayed up all day, and went to bed at 2am after practicing for 2 hours, waking up again at 3am. By 4am, I gave up trying to sleep and practiced a few more hours. I finally nodded off at 8am, but was awakened at 9am to go on a morning walk. So, I got up and walked into Perth with Kimberly and Greg. We left at 9:30am and didn’t return to the hotel until 2:30pm. We did some serious walking! Lol On our walk back to the hotel, we came across a curious sign: DUCK CROSSING!

I’ve been up all day today, and now it’s 11:30pm. I took a 75-minute nap earlier, before going to rehearsal, and I’m hoping that when I get in the bed, I’ll pass out and not wake until 8:30am. Wish me luck! The first Australian show is tomorrow night! : >

Friday, October 10, 2008

Sight-seeing in the Land down Under!

Today, I was determined to do some sight seeing, so LaTanya and I took the train into Perth where we boarded a tour bus with a group of other tourists.

We were lucky enough to land the front seats and could see the entire landscape before us. It was another glorious, sunny day, perfect for a tour of the Swan Valley! Our first stop was a winery, Sandalford Wines.

The winery also hosts musical events throughout the year and on its walls hang memorabilia from several artists, including Lionel Richie. I don’t actually enjoy wine (or any other alcholic beverages) but I decided that when in Rome… and I tasted a few different bottlings.

I only poured a tiny sip into my glass and found that one white wine was tolerable. It was very fruity, smelling almost as sweet at grape juice. I find that sniffing wine and observing its color holds far more interest for me than the actual tasting. Even the wines that I can’t imagine drinking (Shiraz for example) were very interesting to smell.

The next stop was Margaret River Chocolate Factory. I’m more of a savory fan, so I don’t have a sweet tooth, but I do enjoy an occasional taste of fine chocolate. Usually, I prefer dark chocolate (I can’t eat candy bars, with their super sweet milk chocolate…yucky!) but the milk chocolate at this factory was excellent.

We left the chocolate factory and headed for Caversham Wildlife Park!

I had been waiting all day for this part of the tour! I’m an animal fan, and am fascinated by the beautiful diversity of life on Earth. Our tour guide, Tracey, was great!

She was informative, funny and attentive. We met all manner of animals, from Wallabys and Wombats, to Emus and Koalas, to Cockatoos and Tasmanian Devils.

We toured the Kangaroo petting zoo, and fed some roos.

We even had the luck of seeing a young Joey stick its head out of its mother's pouch!

But my favorite animal was this adorable young Kangaroo. He walked right up to me, stood and waited for me to feed him! I must be missing my dogs…lol

Both LaTanya and I dozed on the bus ride back to the hotel, had dinner and went to sleep. I thought I’d take a short 30 minute nap. Ha ha ha. My short nap turned into a 4 hour sleeping session. I didn’t get out of bed and downstairs to the restaurant until nearly 10pm, just before closing time. I sat and ate with a few of the guys, then went back upstairs, worked on a track for a client and went to bed by midnight.