Thursday, April 30, 2009

OSA Lecture

This afternoon, I gave a lecture at the Oakland School for the Arts (OSA). Back in November, 2008, I was asked to participate in a choral competition as a judge. As someone who has both performed in and accompanied choirs, and loves choral music, I was thrilled at the opportunity, and immediately accepted the task. Although it was a pleasure to hear all of the talented young people who performed that afternoon, the students from the Oakland School of the Arts, directed by Cava Menzies , were superlative. Not only were these singers gifted with beautiful voices, but their intonation, musicianship, energy, stage presence and professionalism were unparalleled. Ms. Menzies had clearly worked very hard in training her students, and the results were ineffably spectacular. OSA easily won the competition that evening, and shortly afterward contacted Cava to congratulate her on a job well done. She, in turn, asked me to come and speak to the students in her music business class about life as a professional musician. Once again, I was thrilled at the opportunity. As a teacher myself, I relish being able to offer guidance, inspiration, advice, etc, to students in any way that I can. I live for the moment of epiphany when a student just “gets it”, and perhaps uses something I say as a catalyst for their art, education, life, etc. What greater joy is there than to know I’ve made a positive impact on someone’s life? Wow…

As the day for my lecture approached, I imagined what I might say to the students. I created a simple outline including important moments in my musical development, my work habits, influences, and music business insight based on my personal experience. Excited, I took off from home early, anticipating that I’d arrive at the school 30 minutes before my scheduled lecture time. However, on my way to the school, I encountered a major traffic jam. Apparently, CalTrans had decided to do emergency roadwork on I-880 North literally starting when I entered the freeway. So, I was stuck…for a while…a long while. While I appreciate those who keep our roadways safe and clear, it could not have been worse timing for my schedule. I exited the freeway as soon as I could, but then was stuck in street traffic because everyone else was trying to do the same thing. I ended up backtracking and driving through Alameda to get to downtown Oakland, which most of the other drivers didn’t know about as an option, therefore giving me clear roads, but even with my ingenuity and astute driving skill, I was 30 minutes late for my lecture. Oh well! What’s that old adage about making plans…

I finally arrived at the school, breathing deeply, determined not to be thrown off because of my tardiness. Cava met me as I parked and walked me around the building to her classroom. I entered and the students all applauded, which immediately set me at ease, and pushed the memory of extreme traffic out of my mind. Cava introduced me, and I began to speak about my life as a musician. I didn’t use my prepared notes. I felt inspired by the beautiful faces of the students in the room, and spoke extemporaneously, keeping the overall point of contributing pertinent information in mind (after all, I was there to offer guidance, not just spew my resume). Once I completed my lecture, which primarily focused on how discipline and determination are just as (if not more) important than inherent talent, with examples from my life, I took questions from the students. They had so many questions! It was great! Their questions included queries about the process of auditioning for superstars, my practice habits, what it’s like to perform in front of tens of thousands of people. Once the question/answer segment was completed, the students asked me to perform. I played a couple of classical pieces, and played and sang a couple of Stevie Wonder songs. After I performed, the students asked if they could perform for me. Exactly what I was hoping for!

The students sang “Blackbird”, “Zingela”, “The Color Purple” and a beautiful song composed by singer/composer Branice McKenzie “Angels Here On Earth”. I performed with Branice for the first time a few months ago in the Music, She Wrote concert at the Oakland Public Conservatory , and I’ve since become a fan of her work. After performances by each of the mixed choral groups, a group of young men asked to perform “A Ribbon In the Sky” for me. It was an awesome performance!

I had such a wonderful experience sharing my thoughts with the students of OSA. I am thoroughly impressed by their poise, work ethic, talent and excellence. Thank you to Cava Menzies, Branice McKenzie and all of the students who attended my lecture and sang for me. I encourage all of you to keep up the good work and keep being amazing!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Victoria Theodore May Performances

May your days be many and your troubles be few. May all God's blessings descend upon you. May peace be within you may your heart be strong. May you find what you're seeking wherever you roam.”

It's May (almost) and we've already been experiencing an abundance of beautiful flowers, blue skies and (mostly) warm weather. Technically, more rain would be good in this perpetually semi-arid Northern California climate I'm so attached to, but I won't complain!

This month, I've got lots of performances and it always is a joy to see your beautiful, smiling faces in the audience. Marcello's Restaurant is an "open mic" gig, so let your inner superstar shine, and come out, have dinner and sing / play / dance with me! It'll be fun. Be sure to bring sheet music, if you have it. I can read anything, but if you don't have sheet music, no worries, as I can also play virtually anything by ear.

Speaking of reading, I've been rehearsing some awesome musical works ("Dismal Swamp" by William Grant Still and "Appalachian Spring" by Aaron Copland) with the OPC Chamber Orchestra in Oakland. We're performing on May 31. I'm excited about performing with an orchestra again, and am enjoying the process!

I'm also heading to Morocco towards the end of the month, so if you happen to be in Northern Africa, let me know! It'll be my first trip to the continent, so I'm super excited!

Here's a listing of the shows I currently have booked:

MAY 2009

Sat, May 2
8:30pm - 11:30pm
Marcello's Restaurant & Piano Bar: Open mic! Come sing! Bring your instrument! Play a song or two with me!
515 San Ramon Valley Boulevard Danville, CA 94526 | 925.838.8144

Sun, May 3
NANM Festival of Spirituals
Beth Eden Baptist Church
1183 - 10th Street Oakland, CA 94607 | 510.444.1625
Donation requested

Fri, May 8
8:30pm - 11:30pm
Marcello's Restaurant & Piano Bar: Open mic! Come sing! Bring your instrument! Play a song or two with me!
515 San Ramon Valley Boulevard Danville, CA 94526 | 925.838.8144

Sat, May 9
6:30pm - 9:30pm
The Broadway Grill
1400 Broadway Burlingame, CA 94010 | 650.343.9333

Fri, May 15
8:30pm - 11:30pm
Marcello's Restaurant & Piano Bar: Open mic! Come sing! Bring your instrument! Play a song or two with me!
515 San Ramon Valley Boulevard Danville, CA 94526 | 925.838.8144

Sat, May 16
6:30pm - 9:30pm
The Broadway Grill
1400 Broadway Burlingame, CA 94010 | 650.343.9333

Sun, May 17
7:30pm - 10:30pm
Marcello's Restaurant & Piano Bar: Open mic! Come sing! Bring your instrument! Play a song or two with me!
515 San Ramon Valley Boulevard Danville, CA 94526 | 925.838.8144

Sat, May 23
Stevie Wonder
MAWAZINE Festival: Rhythms of the World
OLM Souissi • Sofitel Rabat Jardin Royal • Avenue Addoustour Rabat, Morocco

Sun, May 31
Oakland Public Conservatory Chamber Orchestra
Sandra I. Noriega, Music Director
Performing the works of Aaron Copeland and William Grant Still with Victoria Theodore, piano
Skyline Community Church
12540 Skyline Boulevard Oakland, CA 94619 | 510.531.8212

Please check out my website to see a full, up-to-date listing of when and where I'm performing. Just click on one of the links and then click the button that says "SHOWS".

Have a wonderful month! I hope to see you soon!

Victoria Theodore
Pianist / Vocalist

Monday, April 27, 2009

April musical adventures

Several weeks have passed, and again I’ve found myself struggling to follow a regular blogging schedule. I think about writing often, however, during the midst of the day, I am inundated by the mundane tasks of everyday life, practicing, chores, errands, teaching, email, phone calls, administrative tasks for my business, etc., and by the time the end of the day approaches, I’m too exhausted to consider writing anything…or if I do, what I write is lazy, poorly executed and not of a quality that I’d feel comfortable publishing. And that’s with a personal assistant! Once a week, my fantastic personal assistant, Mandoline, comes to my office and helps me with all manner of tasks. I don’t know how I ever got along without her help! One day, when I have a real budget, I want to hire an assistant full time!

Anyway, I shall attempt to bring you up to date with what I’ve been busy doing over the past several weeks:

On April 9, 2009, I taught the first session of my class at the Jazz School in Berkeley. A few months ago, I proposed teaching a class on the music of Stevie Wonder, and everyone at the Jazz School seemed excited about the prospect. Initially, my concept revolved around working with keyboard players, but it was suggested that instead I teach an ensemble class. I had a few weeks to prepare charts for the students, but given the fact that I had no idea who would show up, I really couldn’t begin charting until the class structure had been determined. So, at the last minute (as in the night before class), I stayed up all night doing quite literal transcriptions of Stevie’s recordings for the class. A classic example of my tendency towards perfectionism, I had no reason for putting that much detail or so many hours into class preparation, but I did it the night before the first class, and again for each of the past 3 Wednesday nights. I can’t do it anymore. My fatigue level has reached a new high (low?), and if I don’t find a way to get more down time, I’m afraid I may break. We’ll see…wish me luck in overcoming a lifelong habit of perfectionism… Nonetheless, I’m having a great time with the class. The students clearly love the music and are very responsive to my coaching, which makes teaching so much easier!

I’ve had several performances at local restaurants where I sing and accompany myself on the piano. This is a new phase of my musical journey. I’ve played hundreds of gigs as a solo pianist, but only in the past few months have I started singing too. All of a sudden, I get more requests for performances as a singing pianist than as a solo pianist! I must say that I am enjoying the process of honing my skills in this new role. My confidence as a lead vocalist is growing (singing background is ENTIRELY different), and I’m working on building a repertoire. I’ve had several friends stop by the restaurants where I’m performing, including on one night in Burlingame, my yoga buddies Karen, Janet, Jenny, Jamie and his friend Michelle; my friend Alan brought his friends Noelle and Guy. On a different night in Danville, my yoga buddies LaShara & Jaime brought 2 of their friends, and my music colleagues and friends Angela, Sandra, and Sandy and her friend Lisa came to my gig. Lisa even built up the courage to sing a couple of songs with me. I do enjoy accompanying, so in my gig promotions, I encourage people to come perform with me at my gig in Danvile. It’s fun and gets the clients involved in my performance in a more intimate way. Performing as a background artist is quite isolating at times.

I had lunch with one of my mentors a few weeks ago. Bill Bell has been a steady and supportive presence in my musical life, and it was a pleasure to sit and catch up with him over lunch. Mr. Bell (I still can’t bring myself to call him by his first name) is and has always been a great inspiration for me. He’s an accomplished musician, instructor, composer, and conductor and has always graciously shared his insights, both musical and otherwise, with any number of Bay Area musicians, both aspiring and professional.

Those are some of my recent musical adventures. I will try to be better about writing…

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Why I Love My Job!!

Hello friends,

Here is video from Stevie's DVD (amazing what you can find on YouTube!). We're performing Chic Corea's "Spain" in these videos. I'm at the start on this clip:
Spain, Part I

And my solo is on this clip at 0:48:
Spain, Part II

I love playing with the people in this band, and Stevie of course! Everyone is so incredibly talented!

These videos probably won't be on Youtube for long, so go buy the DVD! ; >

Buy the DVD

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Sister Sunday

This weekend, I had a couple of fun performances. On Friday, my friend Fred Ross, needed a keyboard sub on his gig at Harry Denton’s Starlight Room, and by a miracle I was actually available. So, I headed over to the city, wary of parking and loading restrictions, lugging along my keyboard and sound equipment. Of course, as is usually the case, I got an excellent parking space, and one of the maintenance employees of the Sir Frances Drake hotel, happened to be outside and assisted me in unloading and transporting my equipment to the elevator…AND he refused to allow me to tip him! The night was off to a good start, indeed! Once set up, with my keyboard at an angle to the piano, the other instrumentalists (Bill Hampton, guitar; Deszon Claiborne, drums; and Joe Thomas, bass), played an instrumental set, mostly of songs that I didn’t know…but that never matters! My ear is good enough that I can literally “catch” any song. Besides, it’s fun to be spontaneous when playing (I definitely learned to appreciate spontaneity from playing with Stevie…the band NEVER knows where he’s going! Lol). Fred decided to take advantage of my knowledge of the Wonder catalog, so we did several of Stevie’s songs. I sang 2 songs “Come Back as a Flower” (from “The Secret Life of Plants”), and “American Boy”. I had a great time, and the crowd was enthusiastic.

Thanks to Kevin, for coming to the Starlight Room, and to Anthony, Leslie, Taylor, and Jim and his friend, for coming to hear me at Marcello’s Restaurant in Danville, CA. Last night was my first appearance at Marcello’s and I had a great time!

So, it’s now Sunday, and I actually only have plans to hang out with my (adult) sisters! My second youngest sister, Shionda, had a birthday last month, and I haven’t seen her yet to celebrate. My sister Nina is driving up to spend the day with us. It’s a beautiful day, and I’m looking forward to some quality down time with my sisters. Baby sis isn’t coming, but she’s still a bit young to participate in an official Girl’s Day Out! Happy Sunday everyone!!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Spring is in the air!

Spring is here!! And although we've had a bounty of rain, and we spoiled Californians are more than ready for warm, dry weather, it would do the environment good to have some steady April showers. In the meantime, until the rains fall once more, I hear that we're going to be asked to ration water yet again. So, avoid the temptation of excessive water usage by getting out of the house and coming to a show! I've got a few restaurant gigs this month, so make it a Saturday night out! Bring the kids! ; >

APRIL 2009

Sat, Apr 4
8:30pm - 11:30pm
Marcello's Restaurant & Piano Bar
515 San Ramon Valley Boulevard Danville, CA 94526 | 925.838.8144

Sat, Apr 11
6:30pm - 9:30pm
The Broadway Grill
1400 Broadway Burlingame, CA 94010 | 650.343.9333

Fri, Apr 17
7:30pm Angela Dean-Baham
Allen Temple Classical
8501 International Boulevard Oakland, CA 94621 | 510.569.9418

Sat, Apr 18
8:30pm - 11:30pm
Marcello's Restaurant & Piano Bar
515 San Ramon Valley Boulevard Danville, CA 94526 | 925.838.8144

Sun, Apr 19
Danville Congregational Church
989 San Ramon Valley Blvd. Danville, CA 94526 | 925.837.6944