Saturday, November 16, 2013

Interview With Ronnie Fabre

Chuck Stewart: When did you start singing?

Ronnie Fabre: I started singing when I was 13, when my parents gave me a guitar. I started taking lessons,
and by the time I was 15 had my first paying gigs. My dad drove me to the Troubador in Hollywood every Monday night for Hoot Night, and I was hooked. no one ever asked me how old i was..!!! 

Chuck Stewart: I first heard you in Las Vegas in a production show we were both in.  Your singing sounded amazing EVERY night, yet quite effortless.  Do you or have you ever done breathing exercises and do they help?

Ronnie Fabre: Breathing for singing is a very relaxed process for me. I was a scuba diver for many years as a teen, and I think that, and trying to sing without a mic. helped a lot.  I think breathing for singing should be a personal choice, and i never had to practice breathing technique, as it came naturally for my needs as a singer.

Chuck Stewart: Who were some of your influences, as you were growing up?  Also, have you studied voice?

Ronnie Fabre: My first influences were mainly folk artists, like: Joan Beaz, Joni Mitchell, Linda Rondstadt, grahm nash, JD Souther, Glen Frey, Niel young, James Taylor. Most of them I saw all the time at the Troubador.  Richie Havens even talked to me when I asked his advice whether I should go on tour as a singer to Vietnam with the USO. He was a big influence on me and such a powerhouse talent. I met some greats when I was just a kid. Then it was Aretha, Patti Labelle,Chaka Kahn, et al. Then I went in Legends In Concert as Ethel Merman, then morphed into Judy Garland.  My first voice lesson was with Seth Riggs when I was 43. Wow! It changed my muscled up way of singing!  I felt I had found true vocal freedom. I was with Seth for 12 years.  It was difficult at first, but i was very glad I did it.  My mom made her debut singing at Carnagie Hall when she was 18 years old. Mom never gave me singing tips, I had to do it all on my own, but I am very happy to have done what I did, and would change nothing.

Chuck Stewart: Do you practice singing every day?  How much time do you put in?

Ronnie Fabre: I do practice every day, vocalise with students, learning new songs, etc. I teach beginning guitar, and ukelele, and learning new songs is a must. I am having so much fun on uke.  I just love it, and so do my students. a really fun, happy, beautiful instrument!!!  So yes, I practice every day, and it's very important to sing every day. Bob hopes' wife Delores, recorded a cd when she was 86, and it was wounderful.  You snooze, you lose...really true!!

Chuck Stewart: Do you play piano and if so, would you say that has contributed to your awesome musicianship?  

Ronnie Fabre: i  can play the vocalises, on piano, but the guitar and uke are my instruments.  And yes, it's great to accompany yourself. It makes your time better, and you can have it just the way you like it!!

Chuck Stewart: Where have you worked and with whom?

Ronnie Fabre: I started working in Orange County (California) at various clubs, and then married my first husband Ed "too tall" Grell . He  became Bill Medley's drummer, and I sang backup, among other gigs, from 1971, till about 1976. We worked in Vegas starting in around 71', and had many gigs here. I worked in many bands, including many big bands: Nelson Riddle, Guy Lombardo and the Royal Ranadians, many R&B  bands, including The Checkmates, the Lon Bronson all star band, the first 14 pc funk  horn band here in Vegas, and lots of others.  I started in "Legends in Concert", in 1989, as Ethel Merman, and also do Judy Garland.  I still work as a "legend",  occasionally, and have a jazz band, and a second line dixieland band, and in it, I play a tricked out washboard, and sing.  I've never had so much fun!  I just love music, no matter what the venue.  My husband, Steve Golden, is a very accomplished sax player, plays 10 instruments, and has 2 degrees in music from Berklee College of Music in Boston.  We have a great time making music together.

Chuck Stewart: Where are you performing now? 

Ronnie Fabre: I do casuals, still do "legends", occasionally, and have got to work with some of the great Vegas legends, like Joe Darro, a beyond belief piano player and singer, my husband Steve Golden, and if I went on this would never end...

Chuck Stewart: Aren't you also a painter?

Ronnie Fabre: I am a stone carver and bronze caster.  You never want to see me paint, besides my house...I  won first prize  and second, in the Las Vegas Native American Competition for the Las Vegas Art Museum.  My life size bronze, "Moon Shaman" is my favorite piece of artwork, as I had to travel to Saskatoon Canada to do it,then my teacher Bill Epp, the Prof. at the University of Saskatoon, drove it all the way down here for me! What an honor it was!

Chuck Stewart: Do you have an album out currently?   Where can people buy your music?

Ronnie Fabre: I have always given out my cd, to my students, and the people who have liked my music.  I will be on a new compilation cd, with a video, coming out in late December.  It's about many musicians who have been in Vegas for a long while. It should be interesting. I will be singing Billy Strayhorn's "Lush LIfe", my favorite song of all.

Chuck Stewart:  I have had several of my students learn that song.  It is truly a learning experience, mastering it.
Thank you so much for doing this interview. Is there anything you would like to add, regarding being a singer?

Ronnie Fabre: It has been a wonderful life, one I would not have traded for anything, although Marine Biology was at the top of my list in the beginning. Seeing the look on the faces of the GI's in Vietnam changed my life forever.  Today is Veterans Day, and a day near and dear to my heart.  When as a 17 year old kid, still in high school, I took a chance to go to a war zone, and that forever changed my life as a person.
Wow!!  I sang with the Safaris' of "Wipeout", and Surfer Joe fame, from my hometown in Glendora Calif.!  I have been so blessed to be so very lucky, in my chosen field, to be a real singer, to have known so many greats, to have been a part of "old Vegas", and a part of "new Vegas", as the song goes,"Everything Must Change". Goodnight for now, and thanks for asking....!!!!  Love, Ronnie.

 It is an honor and a privilege to have you share these things.   Thank you!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Interview With Kelly Conelly

I recently interviewed Kelly Conelly Eisenhour.  I knew her in Las Vegas and was so impressed, her being able to sing R&B and jazz unbelievably well.  She is a consummate professional, as you will discover as you read.

An Interview With Kelly Conelly Eisenhour

It's October 30th, 2013, almost Halloween.

Chuck Stewart:  Do you do anything special for Halloween?

Kelly Conelly Eisenhour: No, nothing more than the usual handing out candy and getting my daughter ready for trick or treating. She is 12 now and wanting to go with her big group of friends and not mom anymore. Haha so I'm relegated to pass out candy. But it's fun and it always reminds me of my own childhood and the great memories of the excitement of Halloween.

Chuck Stewart: When did you start singing?

Kelly Conelly Eisenhour: I started singing at a young age. I would say about 8 years old when I first started piano lessons (that I continued until age 18) I discovered that I could sing and had a little more control over my voice than my friends. I remember in 2nd grade doing a full play where we made a "road" out of a long piece from a spool of poster paper my teacher had, and we made little stops along the way where we sang specific songs (pop songs of the day). I sang a lot of the songs and I was hooked! I also had a father who was a jazz aficionado and listened to jazz in our home hours and hours a day, so I grew up listening to jazz. Quite an education.

Chuck Stewart: I first heard you in Las Vegas, where we met.  Where did you perform there?  Weren't you singing with a group prior to that?  Who was that?

Kelly Conelly Eisenhour: Yes, I started singing professionally in jazz clubs at 19 in my hometown of Tucson. I remember learning a couple of jazz standards and then going to an audition for a piano bar gig. The pianist used different singers each night of the weekend. It was a Tuesday, and I did the audition singing the two standards I knew. He said great! You start on Friday. Have about 30 songs ready to go with a list of your keys. I was panicked! I ended up learning about 25 songs in 3 days (you can only do that when you are young) and made it through the first gig okay! I continued to sing Friday nights for about a year. I was also going to school and in the jazz choir at the University of Arizona. The director of that group was a well respected pianist, and I worked with him on occasion. He allowed me to be featured quite often in jazz choir and gave me fake books so I was able to learn lots of jazz standards. I was very much a jazz "snob" at the time, and was immersed in jazz, not wanting to listen to or sing anything else. I opened up a little more to other music later on, but am glad that I did this "immersion" of jazz in the beginning. It was great for my creativity and musicality in all music genres I would sing later.

Chuck Stewart: You sing R&B as well as anyone I've heard.  How did you get so good at that?

Kelly Conelly Eisenhour: I can only attribute it to my jazz background. When I started singing pop or top 40 music at about 22 (mostly because I could make more money!) I was able to sing that style immediately but also made it my own. I loved many singers who were iconic, such as Aretha and Chaka Khan, and listened to them. They interested me because they also had a jazz background. Later, when I sang back up with Gladys Knight and had to "prove" myself with the all African-American band in those first rehearsals, they later told me that what was different about me is that I didn't sound like I was white TRYING to sound black, that I had a very authentic sound that came from the heart. That was a great compliment. I just had that soulful style in me, and I'm not sure how it got there. I grew up in a very middle class mostly white area in Tucson, Arizona. But again, I had an extensive jazz "education" so I can only attribute it to that (or something more mystical was going on!)

Chuck Stewart: Do you practice singing every day?  How much time do you put in?

Kelly Conelly Eisenhour: Currently I'm doing much more teaching than singing, and so I'm not as active in my practice either. I tended to practice over the years more out of necessity (learning tunes, working songs to "fit" in my voice meaning getting comfortable with a song, practice for shows or concerts) and didn't really have a more structured daily practice. Knowing what I know now, I wish I had a really good vocal teacher when I was young to guide me in that. I never had a solid voice teacher who really knew what they were doing (particularly with contemporary music) and it wasn't until I was in my 30's that I took a couple lessons from a teacher that turned my head around. As I have gained more knowledge in this area over the years since, I am determined to help young singers understand what I didn't. That it is so important to have knowledge of how the voice works and to be training to keep your voice from taking a left and creating limitations at the least and real damage at the most.

Chuck Stewart: I have heard you sing several styles of music and they are all quite phenomenal.  How did you learn to do that or was it from listening to many singers and being able to capture a style, so to speak?

Kelly Conelly Eisenhour: Again, I would say that it is from my jazz background that I'm able to do that. Jazz music requires you to be your own singer and not an imitation of others, so you have to really think outside of the box. It also gives you more control and musicality. Singing as a studio session singer for many years also helped me to have more control and be a vocal "technician," doing what was required for that session quickly. I would say the hardest style I had to master was country. That was so out of my norm. It was a great experience to learn how to do it because I've been able to use the experience to help others learn styles that they may be unfamiliar with. What I discovered is that if you get the "feel" of the music, or the overall style begins to seep into your bones (through much listening), you begin to be able to imitate it without having to think of every nuance and ornament. Those just come out naturally because you have the overall "feel" right. So, to answer your question, I really try to understand the music first. What is that style trying to "say?" What is it's authenticity? And then really studying or listening until I "get" it.

Chuck Stewart: What have you been doing with music in the last few years?

Kelly Conelly Eisenhour: As you know, I moved to the Seattle area after I finished my masters degree in jazz studies, performance and composition, and took a job at Green River Community College in Auburn, Wa. I began my position in 2008 and so am in my 6th year as Choral Director and Music Instructor. I have received tenure and absolutely love my job. I direct two choirs, Concert Choir and Jazz Voices, and teach music theory, music appreciation, piano class, and others, depending on the quarter. Jazz Voices is my "baby." I hire a professional rhythm section to play for them and they do some pretty difficult music and grow immensely musically. I also like to write for them. I get a lot of satisfaction out of my work with the students. In my personal career, my last album came out in 2007 and went to number 14 on the national jazz charts. It was very well received by the jazz community and that gave me a lot of satisfaction as well. We all want to feel like we are contributing and what we do is valid. I was able to get that through this album. I have been singing periodically in Seattle jazz clubs, with a highlight of winning the Seattle-Kobe Vocal Jazz Competition and getting a trip to Kobe, Japan to sing there in 2010. I also sang with the award winning vocal group Groove For Thought for a year (you may have seen them on the second season of NBC's "The Sing Off" before I joined the group). Though the pace of that group was a little more than I was ready to do on a permanent basis, I learned a lot about group singing that I apply to my teaching. It's great to be on the other side as the singer in a group rather than the director, and I learned a lot about what my student singers need as I direct my groups. I am interested in recording another album soon, but I admit that I am a little less involved with my personal singing and am more involved with my students. I also am very active in my daughter's life, and there is only so much time! So for now I am content to do more teaching and parenting, and will do things with my singing as they come along. I've had a long career of singing already and am content with that.

Chuck Stewart: You went to Berklee School of Music?  Did I get that right?  What was that like?

Kelly Conelly Eisenhour: Yes, I got my undergrad degree from Berklee back in 1986. Berklee was an amazing experience that I treasure. I went there after being disillusioned with the music program at the University of Arizona. Back then there was not much for a jazz singer to be able to study! Berklee was the right place for me and I really appreciated all that it had to offer and took advantage of it in a big way. It is so expensive today though, that I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to others. If you want to go there, really weigh out what it will cost particularly if you have to take out student loans, and what you will get in return for that investment. But it is a fantastic school and experience if you can afford to go (it was much more affordable back then!).

Chuck Stewart: Do you have an album out currently?   Where can people buy your music?

Kelly Conelly Eisenhour: I have two albums, Kelly Eisenhour, Now You Know, and Kelly Eisenhour Seek and Find, featuring Bob Mintzer. Both are available on iTunes, Amazon, CDBaby, and other similar sites. There are also other albums that I'm featured on that are not my own. Albums by the group Q'd Up, the BYU faculty jazz band. Also, Steve Lindeman's Day After Yesterday. This one just won the first round of the Grammy award voting for best large ensemble album and best vocal arrangement and performance of the song I sang and co-wrote "Maravillas, Take Me To Wonderland Right Away." Not sure if it will go much farther but that was exciting.

Chuck Stewart:  Thank you so much for doing this interview. Is there anything you would like to add, regarding being a singer?

Kelly Conelly Eisenhour: I think that what students of singing should know is that it is important to study your instrument and study music just as instrumentalists do. There are many singers out there who give singers a bad name among instrumentalists because they don't take their craft seriously. Yes, we have the advantage of being able to get up and running and sing by ear in the way instrumentalists can't do. But to really be a professional and be respected amongst your peers, put time into developing your craft, including how to read music. All singers should be able to at least play the piano, not necessarily to perform as a pianist, but to have musical knowledge.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

My Interview With Linda Eder

There is a famous singer, Linda Eder, who has allowed me to interview her.  She is a star of Broadway (Jekyl and Hyde and Camille Claudel).  She has several CDs out.  Enjoy!!!!

An Interview With LInda Eder

It's October 29th, 2013, almost Halloween.

Chuck Stewart:  Do you do anything special for Halloween?

Linda Eder:  I have on different years done big Halloween parties but not too often.  I tend to go all out with the decorations and it takes me weeks to put up and take down.  It’s a lot of work…   But I have always like Halloween because I love costumes.

Chuck Stewart: When did you start singing?

Linda Eder:  From the time I could open my mouth, but I was very shy about singing in front of anyone.

Chuck Stewart: Before continuing, I have to say that I don't know of any other singer, anywhere, or from any era, who has the command of technique, style and artistry, which you possess.  Your rendition of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" is pure unmitigated aesthetics.  Your tone quality is unmatched, in my opinion. Your breath control and lung capacity are both amazing.  Do you or have you ever done breathing exercises?

Linda Eder: Not actually breathing exercises, but I was a long distance runner from the age of 7.  I think it helped me build my lungs and breath control.

Chuck Stewart: You perhaps wouldn't believe how many young singers have attempted your songs from Jekyll and Hyde.  Could you talk about your background in acting and if you had classes or teachers along the way?

Linda Eder:  I had no acting lessons before J&H.  My critics will tell you that that fact is obvious.  My fans will tell you that I am a natural born actor.  After Jekyll I did a musical called Camille Claudel and I studied with a private acting coach for about a year prior to the show.

Chuck Stewart: Do you practice singing every day?  How much time do you put in?

Linda Eder:  No, and I should.   All singers can take a tip from Tony Bennett.  The older you get the more important it is to keep singing regularily.  Fortunately I have always worked steadily all year long so I don’t usually go too long without singing.

Chuck Stewart: I have heard you sing several styles of music and they are all quite phenomenal.  How did you learn to do that or was it from listening to many singers and being able to capture a style, so to speak?

Linda Eder:  I listened to records and the radio just l like everyone else, but you have to be innately a musician to be able to understand music and musical styles.  The best tip is to try to stay true to yourself.

Chuck Stewart: "Man of La Mancha" is very powerful, indeed, the way you sing it.  Your upper register is both controlled and gorgeous.  I heard you (in person) in Boston, with the Boston Pops and Arturo Sandoval on a 4th of July a while back.  You sounded as phenomenal in person as you do on recordings.  You don't show any stage fright.  Did you have to overcome any stage fright, and if so, how?

Linda Eder: Terrible stage fright.   As I mentioned I could not sing in front of anyone for a very long time.   It was only because I wanted it so badly that I pushed myself threw the “horror” of possibly embarrassing myself in front of an audience.

Chuck Stewart: Have you ever had to deal with any struggles or challenges in the music business and if so, could you mention one or two?

Linda Eder: No matter what you choose to do in life there will be struggles.   That’s a given.   It’s how you handle both the ups and the downs that makes all the difference.  I’ve had my share of disappointment, but it is what makes the successes that much sweeter.

Chuck Stewart: Do you have an album out currently?  Could you tell us about it?  Where can people buy your music?

Linda Eder:  Yes, I just released my 2nd Christmas CD called CHRISTMAS WHERE YOU ARE.   I did my first Christmas Cd 13 years ago and always thought I wouldn’t do another but the fans have been asking for one for several years so I held a contest on my social sites for people to help pick half of the material.  I’ve recorded many CDs over the years for several different Record Labels.  I finally took the plunge and became my own record company.   I funded this CD myself and for this first season the only way to buy the CD is through my website or at my concerts from now to the end of the year where I am doing CD signings after every show.
I was nervous for the fans reaction to the new Cd but am happy and relieved to report that the reviews have been great!  There is a lot more pressure when you act as your own label.

Chuck Stewart:  Thank you so much for doing this interview.  It is an honor and a privilege to have you share these things.  I look forward to hearing you for years to come.