Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"Women of Jazz" Celebrate the Holidays at Yoshi's San Francisco

Last night was the big show!

Tuesday December 13

Leading up to the show, I spent countless hours preparing the set list, arranging the traditional Christmas carols so that they'd be inventive and fresh, working on my vocal technique (I'm still a relatively new singer, so that's always on my mind) and memorizing lyrics.  I had a rehearsal with my band (Daniel Parenti on bass and Billy Johnson on drums) and guest artist, Kymberly Jackson on flute, on Monday December 12.  For this show I was only able to hold 1 rehearsal, but I made sure that the band had sheet music and mp3 demo of the tunes, and they clearly did their homework.  I tend to write music using complex chords and time changes (3/4 to 4/4, 5/4 to 8/8, etc.), so I knew the music wasn't necessarily easy, but the band pulled it off.  After rehearsal, I was a bit concerned about my lyric retention.  I was fumbling quite a bit, but maybe it was because I was thinking about so many other factors.  An unsigned artist, such as myself, has to rely on the kindness of family and friends, as there's no budget for staff to handle the other details.  C'est la vie!

Then it was Tuesday morning.  I actually slept solidly Monday, and woke up feeling refreshed.  After a long walk with the dogs, I did some yoga at home and followed that with several hours of slow, gentle, low stress vocal exercises and piano technique work.  I played through a few tunes, but didn't actually run the show.  It was either going to work or not at that point.  Too late to make any changes, and certainly too late to allow worry to take over.

Around 3pm, as I was packing my wardrobe to go, I noticed that an anti-theft device was left on my chosen dress!  Panic!  Sound check in San Francisco was to start at 4:30pm and I didn't have an alternative dress.  Thankfully, my dear sister rushed to the mall and was able to convince the clerk that someone had accidentally left the device on my dress.  With a HUGE sigh of relief, we all piled into the mini-van and headed to San Francisco.  I arrived just minutes before sound check was supposed to start.

Unfortunately, the piano bench had been broken and originally a drum throne had been placed for me to sit on.  Um, yuck!  We pianists are very particular about the height at which we sit to play, and since I'm rather tiny, the throne was not going to work.  Thanks to Yoshi's sound man Eric for finding another bench and adjusting it to the perfect height.  Another huge sigh of relief.  Sound check went well, everyone hearing each other perfectly.

After a light dinner (I can never eat too much before a show...especially if I have to sing), Destiny Muhammed and her trio took to the stage.  Unfortunately, though I could watch her performance backstage on the television, there was no sound, so I couldn't hear a thing.  During her show, I began my stage prep: make up - I've become a semi-pro thanks to my years of doing my own make up for Stevie's shows, hair, placing my hair flower (my favorite hair accessory), choosing the right jewelry, and warming up my voice.  Finally, the time arrived, and I headed to the stage.  People had been asking me all day "are you nervous", "are you scared"?  I have an usual response, which is "I don't get nervous".  I do get excited, but whenever I go onstage, a sense of calm takes me over.  It's a good thing, especially given my job, but I honestly can't explain it.

My name was announced, applause and cheering rose up, and I entered the stage.  I saw so many beautiful faces, family, friends, peers, fans, all manner of people of different ages, races, backgrounds.  It was everything I could have hoped for!  I sat at the piano and invited Destiny Muhammed to join me onstage for the first tune.

I had been a bit worried about the banter between songs. I enjoy concerts where the artist speaks to the audience, sharing their thought process, the motivation for writing a song, making a joke, telling a story, etc., so I just relaxed and let myself enjoy the conversation with the crowd.

My set list was as follows:

1 Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring (with Destiny Muhammed as guest artist)
2 What Child Is This
3 Away in a Manger
4 Original composition
5 Original composition
6 Silent Night (with Kymberly Jackson as guest artist)
7 Original composition
8 Original composition
9 Deck The Halls

Everyone seemed to love my original compositions, and I'm looking forward to doing more writing so that I can release a product in 2012.  I loved having the guest artists perform with me as well.  I've been an accompanist all of my life, so I truly enjoy creating a musical environment for other musicians and working with them in creating a beautiful experience for ourselves and an audience.  Destiny and Kymberly both rocked the house!

After the last piece, I left the stage, and crossed my fingers that I'd get a response asking for an encore.  I was not disappointed.  The crowd went wild, so I quickly changed into another outfit (a really sexy lilac strapless cocktail dress) and sauntered back onto the stage to sing "Santa Baby", which went over very well!

I left the stage with a lovely feeling of accomplishment, relief, joy and gratitude.  I did my best to offer a great show, and everyone seemed to enjoy my performance.

I managed to remember to thank several people before leaving the stage, but I can never thank everyone enough for the support, tough love (when I get distracted by - I must admit - Facebook, email and busy work), encouragement, cleaning house, running errands, making meals, shopping for food, wardrobe and whatever else.  Rodney, mom, Nina, kids, Amy, Sundra, Brad, Maisha, Debra, William, Carla, dad, Brieana, DeWayne, Cecil, Jan, Siana, Jasmine, Sabrina, Clinton, Linda, Randy, Eric, Roz, Tony, Teri, my coaches Raz, Janice, Mr. Bell, Reggie, my hair guru, Joi, my entire family and all of my beautiful friends and fabulous students: what would I do without you???  I love you all and thank you from the bottom of my heart.  If I left out a name, please forgive me, and know that I love you!

Thank you to my band: Daniel Parenti and Billy Johnson!  I loved the way everything worked out!

Thank you to Destiny Muhammed and her lovely trio, Myron and Elliot, and to Kymberly Jackson for sharing the stage.  It was a magical night.

Thank you again to Stephanie Dalton / Urban Music Presents for booking the gig, to Yoshi's for approving the gig, to Keith, Eric and Valentine for making me sound good, and all of the Yoshi's staff for taking care of us.

Until the next time...

Happy holidays everyone!

Blessings & Music,


Thursday, December 01, 2011

Victoria Theodore: December Performances

Winter has come too soon...

"Goodnight my angel, now it's time to dream
And dream how wonderful your life will be
Someday your child may cry, and if you sing this lullaby
Then in your heart there will always be a part of me
Someday we'll all be gone
But lullabies go on and on
They never die
That's how you and I will be...."

-  Billy Joel, "Lullaby"

My dear friends,

 It's with a sad heart that I inform you of the passing of my dear pet, Aki Shima.  Aki died on November 27, while I was out of town.  He provided me with 15 years of love, protection, dedication and fun.  I wrote a short obituary for Aki:

RIP Aki Shima

And his memorial:

Aki Memorial

Musically, everything is going well.  I just performing on the Ellen DeGeneres Show with Stevie Wonder and did a series of radio promotions in Los Angeles.  Here's a link to the Ellen Show:

Stevie Wonder on Ellen 2011

I have a few upcoming shows and, since it's nearly that time of year, I need to remind you of my Christmas CD, Victoria Theodore Christmas!

You can download the CD at any of these online purveyors:

Or, you can purchase a physical CD at my Christmas performance at Yoshi's San Francisco on December 13 (my first time at Yoshi's not being a supporting musician)!  I don't have many actual CDs left, so don't miss out!  I'm performing at Yoshi's on the second night of a series:

Tuesday December 13

Monday December 12

$12 adv / $16 door 

I'll be inviting a few special guests to join me onstage for my performance.  All of the shows are sure to get you into the holiday spirit!  Come to both nights and demonstrate your support for local music!  What a lovely way to start the holidays!

I'm also performing at Marcello's this coming Saturday night.  This will be my last show of the year at Marcello's.  Remember, there's a drum set there and a PA, so bring your instruments, sing, play or just enjoy the show!  I hope to see you there!

Sat, December 3
7pm - 10pm
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 | map

Sun, Dec 11
Plymouth United Church of Christ
424 Monte Vista Ave. Oakland, CA 94611 | 510.654.5300

Tue, Dec 13
Urban Music Presents
Women of Jazz Celebrate the Holidays at Yoshi's San Francisco
Destiny Muhammed, Harp-- Victoria Theodore, Piano
1330 Fillmore Street San Francisco, CA 94115 | 415.655.5600 | map
$12 adv / $16 door

Sat, Dec 17
Stevie Wonder
House Full of Toys
Nokia Theatre L.A. Live
777 Chick Hearn Court Los Angeles, CA 90015 | 213.763.6000 | map

Sat, Dec 31
Stevie Wonder
New Year's Eve Concert
The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
3708 Las Vegas Boulevard South Las Vegas, NV 89109 | 702.698.7000 | map

Coming journey to Brazil...Minha viagem ao Brasil!

Until next time, I wish you all a most beautiful holiday season!  This will be my first holiday season without Aki in 15 years, but I'm blessed to have my other dogs and my beloved friends and family all around me.  Good night, my angel-dog...

Remembering Aki

Aki was the most beautiful dog I'd ever seen.  But more than his physical beauty, his inner beauty stole my heart.  This page is my memorial to my beloved angel-dog, Aki Shima.

Approximately 10 years ago, I created a flash movie as a method of teaching myself to program using Flash.  Aki was my subject, and below is a link to the finished product.  When I first met Aki, in November 1996, he immediately stole my heart.  Ever since watching the Westminster Dog Championships earlier that year, I had been wanting a dog.  At first, I thought that I wanted a Basenji, but Lance, the man I was dating at the time, told me about another breed that he'd found in an online search: the Shiba Inu.

Here's Lance's recollection of acquiring Aki:

"Seems like yesterday, we were set to go to the dog show in Philadelphia, when on that Friday night we opened the mail - and you saw a photo of him - everything changed.   Just a few miles from Canada in Chateaugay, that very cold morning.....he soon warmed things up, entering that room, just weeks old, romping and roaring like a lion, quickly fixed on you - was drawn to you, and he was yours.   Bond formed.  Your guardian in so many ways.   You were his destiny...  As I am fortunate to have witnessed your two first meeting, include and share my sentiments and simple reflection that he was your guardian, truly entered your world like a lion, and not surprisingly has seemingly left like a lamb..."

As a young pup, Aki was small, but his demeanor truly was regal and confident, like I'd image a lion to be.  He was very energetic, as puppies are, and playful.  I worked hard to make sure he was well behaved and for the most part, he obeyed me.  I remember one time, however, he decided that he did not want to listen to me and nipped at me, as if he were warning me about a bite.  I was stunned!  How could this little creature that I loved so much, took care of, walked twice, sometimes three times, per day, turn on me like this?  I was outraged and expressed my anger by briefly yelling at him and then refusing him eye contact for the rest of the day.  He couldn't take it!  He followed me all over the apartment, staring at me, whining, trying to touch me.  But I was firm: no eye contact, no speaking, no touching.  After 24 hours of the cold shoulder, I finally looked at him.  He never defied me again...not in 15 years.  I think we had an understanding.  It was amazing.

Aki lived with me in New York City for the first few years of his life, and then came with me to California.  He adapted well to being part of a pack, and got along very well with both other animals and people (even children).

My most precious memory of Aki is the way he greeted me when I came home.  As a working musician, my hours are often insane, and despite my late night arrivals, Aki would scream at the top of his lungs, causing me to rush into the house and grab him to quiet him.  I suppose I could have (should have) trained him out of that habit, but my ego loved that kind of bolstering.  My doggy missed his mommy!

In the last 2 years of his life, I had a couple of scares.  The veterinarian believes that he might have had a brain tumor, as he experienced 2 seizures (that I know of) and suffered occasional disorientation.  He was on daily medication for a year, which seemed to control the seizures, and he suffered from severe arthritis.  I last walked him on November 25, the day after Thanksgiving, and he was walking decently well with the rest of the pack.  There were no impending signs of his demise, but I knew it was coming.

Enjoy my decade old flash movie. I hope you get a small sense of how great this little dog was.  He truly blessed my life.  Thank you, Aki.  I love you forever...

Aki's Memorial