Thursday, July 30, 2009

Comedy and Music

Tonight I went to La Peña in Berkeley to see The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About an Hour, produced by Lisa Marie Rollins. I was expecting a stand up comic, but it was more of a one-man show, theatrical presentation, that also happened to be hilarious! W. Kamau tackled the sensitive topic of race in America, but with humor and insight that was fresh, thought provoking and, in the end, encouraging in his suggestion that we can – as a nation – move beyond the nominal precepts of race. W. Kamau touches on everything from President Barack Obama to black hair protocols to a discussion of what’s considered sexy in the USA. If you attend the show with a person of another race from your own, you get a 50% discount. Discount or not, this was a great performance and I highly recommend that you go see the show while it’s in town through August 3rd.

Once I returned home, I got to work on writing music. I declared early today that I will no longer allow days, weeks, years, to pass by without having taking any action towards completing my music project. I've decided that daily writing will at least get me on the path of being continually creative, so that's what I'm doing. Even if only for 5 minutes. I MUST WRITE or COMPOSE SOMETHING!!! Tonight, it's an instrumental piece. I spent about 15 minutes on it. But I did SOMETHING! I'm proud of myself, because, believe me, I'm hungry (for those who don't know, I typically eat dinner quite late), and tired from a full day of administrative tasks, household shopping, errand running, piano and vocal students and then the show I mentioned above. : >

It was a good day!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Garlic, anyone?

Last night, my sister, niece and nephew came to my gig at Marcello’s. The kids behaved wonderfully. Jeremiah was charming and energetic the whole night. I’m always amazed by his energy. He seemed to enjoy my performance, made 2 requests and even sang a song with me! Naomi slept the whole time, until finally at the end of the night, I dedicated a song to her. She drowsily responded to her brother’s prodding and listened, bleary eyed to the song. After which, she fell right back to sleep.

Today I went to the Gilroy Garlic Festival with my niece and nephew and my friend Amy . There was supposed to be a large group of us, however, things happen and it just ended up being us four. I had my mind focused on finally getting a chance to try the world famous garlic ice cream! Alas, between our late start (thanks to the waiting around for everyone to meet at my house, only to have 4 people cancel at the last minute), and the slooooow traffic on 101, we arrived too late to see Top Chef star Fabio Viviani , and missed the very item I went to the festival for: the garlic ice cream! Apparently, they planned poorly (my opinion, of course) and ran out of ice cream by 3pm on the last day. ARGH!! Despite the heat, high prices at the booths ($15 for face painting? Really? REALLY?), rather greasy food, and lack of garlic ice cream, we all managed to have a good time walking the grounds, people watching, observing a food demonstration (which smelled delicious…we didn’t get to taste though), and sipping on frozen, sugary drinks. The kids were energized the whole day, and somehow managed only 2 relatively major spats, neither of which required the earth-shattering, terrifyingly intense, “don’t make me stop this car”, Auntie stare-down from the rear view mirror, but rather a solid snap of the fingers and a terse “quiet” in a confident, if voice. It was a good day!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Radio Interview

Check out my interview!!

Radio Interview featuring Victoria Theodore on Friday 7/24/09 at 10:30am PST

Download the interview here if you missed it:
Women (and Legends) Who Really Rock!

My interview starts at approximately 20 minutes.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

SYTYCD took my breath away tonight

I should have been in bed 2 hours ago. But, as usual, I didn't stop working until late, and so, starving, I sat down with my near midnight meal to watch my favorite show, So You Think You Can Dance. The first part of the show wasn't captivating, and I'd finished my dinner in time to turn off the television at the mid point, to return at another time and watch the remainder. But feeling less than motivated to stand quickly, I sat for a few more minutes, which spiraled into the entire show. Tonight, a new choreographer made her debut on the show. Laurie Ann Gibson created a piece featuring Brandon and Jeanine. It was powerful, hard-hitting, passionate and exciting. Brandon and Jeanine danced the piece brilliantly. I was compelled to rewind and watch it again immediately (something I only do when the dance and choreography are exceptional).

After the performance, I was inspired by Mia Michael's (my absolute favorite choreographer) comments to Laurie Ann, saying that "she doesn't dance a step unless it is from her soul". Those words are all I need to hear to remember that I must demand nothing less from myself in my musical expression. Every note I play, every phrase I sing, every word I write, MUST come from my soul. It's so easy for me to allow myself to be "adequate" or "good". That part of me which resonates with Mia's statement won't stand for it. My soul yearns for full expression of excellence and I must heed it's call.

I thought Laurie Ann's piece was to be my favorite dance of the night. I was wrong.

The next piece was choregraphed by Tyce Diorio, consistently one of my favorite choreographers on the show. His work was performed by Ade and Melissa, a piece that conveyed the journey of a woman with breast cancer and the support she receives from her friend. The piece was mesmerizing and one of the best ever on the show. I was overwhelmed with emotion watching Ade and Melissa dance. Tyce's choreography perfectly evoked the pain, deblilitation, and heartbreak that co-exists with determination, strength and courage in the lives of cancer patients. The movement, beautifully set to Maxwell's stunning version of Kate Bush's song "This Woman's Work", was breathtaking.

Tyce's choreography transported me back to those moments in my niece's journey with cancer that had terrified and devastated me. Ade's power and conviction reminded me of the determination that those of us who love Naomi summoned within ourselves to offer her all of the love and support we could muster. Melissa's courage and vulnerable tenacity reminded me of the strength in Naomi's tiny 3 year old body as she fought for her life and SURVIVED. Thank you Tyce. Thank you Ade. Thank you Melissa. Thank you for so perfectly telling the story of those of us who have dealt with cancer either directly or through a loved one. Blessings to you all.

"I know you have a little life in you yet
I know you have a lot of strength left..."

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Omnibus Alumnus!

This has been a fun week of performing for and with old friends. I've already blogged about performing with fellow YMP alum Michael Cheadle on Wednesday night, and listening to Oberlin alum Robert Sims after that. On Friday night I performed in Danville at Marcello’s. My voice was not in great shape, and felt like I was still recovering from last week’s cold. So, I was more than pleased that so many people volunteered to sing with me on the open mic. Thanks to my friends Michael and Evie, and Ken and his friends for coming to hear me perform!

Saturday morning, I was able to sleep in because a few students cancelled (as will happen in the summer…), but even with the cancellations, I only slept about 6 hours, thanks to not sleeping well. So, again, tired. But I taught the students who did come and practiced for a few hours, which was great! I had a gig at the Oyster Reef with my friend Kymberly Jackson, and had a great time! We didn’t use a set list, and just had fun jamming on a variety of tunes. Guitarist Mark Daniels seems to know every R&B tune every written, and bassist Charleston Quinn and drummer Brian Braziel held down the bottom. Kymberly put on a great show, engaging the audience with her music and personality. We’re performing again on the 31st at Q’s in Oakland.

This morning, I accompanied my Skyline high school alum, Roosevelt Credit at Evergreen Baptist Church in Oakland. We performed pieces ranging from Dvorak and Margaret Bonds to Sandi Patti. While the piano was not in the best condition, the Pastor and congregation were very gracious and enjoyed our performance tremendously. The worship service was beautiful and I had a great time. What a pleasure to perform and spend time with all my alums this week!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

From the club to the house of opera

Last night I performed at Yoshi’s in Oakland for the first time. I performed at Yoshi's in San Francisco last year, but "Yoshi's" has always meant the Oakland location in my mind, so it was nice to be there. Singer/songwriter/producer Benjie Ross was the headliner in an evening presented by KBLX, featuring R&B and Jazz artists, including local bassist Arlington Houston, with whom I've performed before. There were a few audio issues, but overall the show was fun and successful. I didn't know the opening artist, but Arlington's band sounded great! Benjie's band did too, once the audio kinks were worked out! I had a chance to play with my OYC fellow alum, singer Michael Cheadle and his daughter, Mickala. Also in the band were singers Kimiko Joy, Mykah Montgomery, Nikki Grier, guitarist Cedricke Dennis , and drummer Michael McGee.

The day before the Yoshi's show, my friend Candace Johnson, an extraordinary soprano with whom I work, invited me to a dinner party hosted by my fellow Oberlin alum, Robert Sims. Unfortunately, the party conflicted with my Yoshi's gig and I was afraid I’d miss the party. But no! The Yoshi's gig ended in time for me to pack up my gear and whiz over to the party just as the music was to begin! The party was attended by a few fabulous singers and happy listeners, including Robert Sims, Rodrick Dixon, Alfreda Burke, Hope Briggs, Candace Johnson, and the incredible Jacqueline Hairston, who’s not only a wonderful pianist, but a superlative composer. The rules were that each singer would perform 1 or 2 pieces, starting with Robert. Many of the pieces were spirituals arranged and accompanied by Jacqueline. Beautiful music expressed through stunningly beautiful voices. I was in heaven! Candace and I performed Jacqueline’s work “On Consciousness Streams”, a 3 song cycle, with piano accompaniment that is certainly challenging. My sight-reading skills were put to the test (I hadn’t played the pieces since December and was rusty)! But I had such a great time! I love my job! Nights like that make me even more determined to figure out how to parcel my time so that I can practice not only Wonder music, but also keep my sight reading chops and my virtuoso music in shape. I’ll get there…

Monday, July 13, 2009

Gotta be here, gotta be there...

This was a busy weekend for me. Despite still recovering from yet another cold (what’s going on this year???), I performed for a group of children and youth in San Francisco on Friday. PB&JAMM is a program for children in the underserved community living mainly in the Tenderloin, 6th & Folsom Street areas and the Mission District in San Francisco. I was invited to speak and perform for the kids by singer/songwriter Carmen Gonzalez , host of blogtalkradio’s “Women (and Legends) who really rock”. The kids were really sweet and enjoyed my performance. I took some time off for myself Friday night (except for 2 hours to practice for my Saturday gigs).

Saturday morning, I taught students, and then drove to the South Bay to play for a wedding. A pianist friend of mine had an accident and ended up with a hairline fracture. Fortunately, she’ll be able to recover, but her doctor warned her not to play for 2 months! A week before the wedding, she called me to substitute for her. Turns out I was available, and gladly stepped in to her help out. The wedding was in Santa Clara, but the ceremony was outdoors in Los Gatos. So, after teaching, I had to drive to Los Gatos, set up my keyboard, microphone and amp, and then drive to Santa Clara to play the piano in a church. Once I arrived at the Los Gatos location, I noticed that the clouds above were gaining in density, implying rain. I was not at all comfortable with the idea of leaving my keyboard potentially exposed to rain, so I set up just the stands and my seat, certain that I’d be able to set up the electronics quickly upon my return.

The wedding was beautiful, filled with all the joys one hopes to observe from my seat as wedding pianist. The wedding party and guests all seemed quite pleased with my performance, and offered lovely feedback. As soon as I finished the recessional, I jumped in the car and drove to Los Gatos, hoping to arrive just enough ahead of the guests so I’d be playing as they entered. Suddenly, my windshield was splashed with a short spurt of, yep, rain! Uh-oh! I did a little sunshine dance behind the steering wheel, praying for the rain clouds to disperse. I arrived at the reception site to find the back gate (where I had set up) locked. Uh-oh! Luckily, one of the caters happened by and was able to open the gate so I could drag in my keyboard. The clouds, still heavy, seemed to be moving slightly. Keyboard still in case, I walked back to my car to find parking.

Parking was tight. There were apparently 3 other events being held in the area, and the lot was filled to capacity. Uh-oh. No worries! I did a little parking shimmy behind the wheel (I do dance a lot in my car), and drove around optimistic. And around. And … “excuse me, are you leaving?” No. And around. Still optimistic. And around. And…upon spotting a wedding guest “excuse me, could you please go inside and ask the caterer if there’s a reserved parking space for the pianist?” Of course, my keyboard is sitting outside, still in its case, not set up at all. The guest replied “sure, no problem”. Still optimistic. And…wait! There’s a couple. “Excuse me, are you walking to a car”. “Why yes”, they replied. “Right here”, which happened to be directly across from the entrance to the reception area. Perrrrrrfect! Big smile on my face…

So, I was able to jump out of my ideally-parked car (I have superb parking kharma!), and whisked my keyboard setup into place, beginning to play just as most guests were arriving. Everyone enjoyed the music, and as I played and sang, the sun came out, casting lovely light upon the afternoon. Ah…

I finished my performance, jumped back in the car and headed to my friend’s studio in Campbell for a quick minute, then off to my gig in Danville, arriving just in the nick of time to play and sing. I was starting to feel pretty lousy, thanks to my cold, but my friends Michael, Evie and Chris came out to hear me play, and their wonderful energy perked me up. I wasn’t in my best voice, but considering that I’d lost my voice completely on Tuesday, I can’t complain. I try not to anyway. But after finishing the gig, getting home and in the bed at 1:30am, when my alarm rang at 5am, I was having a hard time not complaining!

My niece Naomi had been selected to participate in Lance Armstrong’s LIVESTRONG CHALLENGE event in San Jose. Naomi was one of several childhood cancer survivors being taking around the event course in pedi-cabs, but we had to BE THERE at 6:30am. Ouch! These kids are the stars of the show. They have endured pain and faced mortality in ways that would give the toughest adults pause. Naomi requested that her big brother, 8 year old Jeremiah, and I, her Auntie, ride with her. We jumped and were chauffeured by our gracious pedi-cab rider, Rene. At the children’s request, Rene put on the speed and pedaled as fast as she could! It was a lovely day but after helping with the kids and a disabled family friend all day, but 9pm, I was spent!

Naomi, Jeremiah and Rene:

But alas, my alarm again sounded at an un-Godly hour: 5:45am. Why? Today, Monday, was Naomi’s bi-monthly oncology appointment. Everything went great, but we had to be at the hospital at 7:30am! Ouch! Today, it’s back to teaching and my “normal” schedule, but despite the fatigue, it was a good weekend!

Naomi with her Nurse Practitioner:

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Fireworks and Finales: Victoria Theodore July Performances

"I never dreamed you'd leave in summer
I thought you would go then come back home
I thought the cold would leave by summer
But my quiet nights will be spent alone"
– Stevie Wonder

Hello Friends!
Fireworks: I hope that you all enjoyed a lovely Fourth of July holiday. I spent the day trying (unsuccessfully) to stave off a cold. I'm feeling better now, but I'd lost my voice, which is not cool! I did spend the evening with family, enjoying a delicious meal prepared by my aunt and uncle.

Finales: One the way to the second stop in Stevie Wonder's recent short tour, we learned that Michael Jackson died. It was quite a shock to all of us musicians. I grew up listening to Michael Jackson, and like so many little girls, loved him! His music is so full of vitality, hope, love and joy, and his dancing inspired me and countless others to appreciate and embrace dance. I remember spending hours learning every move of the "Thriller" choreography! He was an incredible talent.

I've only watched about 45 minutes of the memorial that was broadcast on Tuesday, but what I've seen is beautiful. Especially moving for me was Stevie's performance of "Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer". That song is probably my favorite of his heartbreak songs, and I thought a perfect farewell to Michael, followed by the beautiful "They Won't Go". Stevie held nothing back in his performance, and brought tears to my eyes for the first time since learning of Michael's demise.

On a lighter note, I'm trying to figure out how I can fit dance classes into my already ridiculously busy schedule. Wish me luck!

Here's where you can find me performing (music, that is!):

JULY 2009

Sat, Jul 11
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

Wed, Jul 15
KBLX Presents Benjie Ross with special guests Nikki Thomas (KBLX Morning Show) and Arlington Houston Quartet with Valinda Love
Jazz / R&B
Yoshi's Oakland
510 Embarcadero West, Jack London Square Oakland, CA 94607 | 510.238.9200

Fri, Jul 17
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, Jul 18, 9pm-12:30
Kymberly Jackson
Jazz / R&B
Oyster Reef Seafood Restaurant
1000 Embarcadero Oakland, CA 94606 | 510.836.2519

Fri, Jul 24
10:30am (PST)
Radio Interview: Women (and Legends) Who Really Rock! with Carmen Milagro
"Women (and Legends) Who Really Rock! with Carmen Milagro" is a one-hour weekly LIVE Internet radio show, hosted by Carmen Milagro

Sat, Jul 25
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

Fri, Jul 31,
Kymberly Jackson
Q's Lounge
Jazz / R&B
Everett & Jones Barbeque • 126 Broadway Oakland, CA 94607 | 510.663.2350

Please check out my web site to see a full, up-to-date listing of when and where I'm performing. I'd love to see you at one of my performances. Please come say hello!

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!