When I first started to gig as a jazz vocalist in NYC, set lists needed to be made ahead of time for the many talented, and busy, musicians who graced the stage with me. I was having trouble settling on tunes as I prefer to “feel” my way through the set on the day of – not ideal when you are meeting someone for the first time 3 minutes prior to performing. I needed a structure to keep me on task.

As a designer, I love carrying the thread of an idea throughout an entire spatial experience. There is nothing more satisfying than creating small, poetic moments within the larger intention. I thought I might be able to do this with my sets and the SongSonnet™ experiment was born.

Today, the SongSonnet™ is my go-to for creating incredibly personal and meaningful performances. It has led me to learn new tunes that I would otherwise have passed by and many of these are now favorites to perform!

I love dreaming up new stories to tell across a set of music and particularly enjoy when I am able to bring other stories to life. Whether you are throwing a private celebration, hosting a business-focused event, creating unique educational programming, or manifesting an artistic dream, I would love to be a part of telling your story!

Milestone Celebrations

One of the greatest joys in life is celebrating the most special people in the most special moments. Think a wedding anniversary, a 21st birthday, a baby shower, a wedding. And one of my greatest joys in life is telling the story of the special person(s) through song.

The gig: Dan and Addie’s 50th wedding anniversary

I would like to share the SongSonnet™ created for my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. Dan and Addie Farber were married June 21st, 1969. A mere few weeks before Woodstock would grab the world’s attention demonstrating collective love, Dan and Addie were declaring their own love quietly to each other in front of family and friends. I, for one, am grateful for this turn of events!

In preparation of celebrating their 50th, I peppered them with questions about their relationship to each other through song. They weren’t particularly subtle questions but I got the job done and had a list of tunes that they agreed were important in their relationship together or that had developed them as individuals. These are the four I chose to tell a bit of their sweet story:

The sonnet

Only You : composed by Buck Ram, made popular by The Platters in 1973. This was chosen as it is their “romantic song”. How adorable is that?!? I added on the jazz standard Where or When to give the tune a nostalgic and dreamy feel and called them out to dance at their anniversary party. Many tears were had.

Poinciana : composed by Nat Simon, with a version released by Ahmad Jamal in 1963. This song came rushing out of my mother’s mouth when I asked her favorite tune. I now know where I get my affinity for all things jazz. Not bad, ma.

Walkin’ After Midnight : composed by Alan Block and Donn Hecht, made popular by Patsy Cline in 1957. My father could not, for the life of him, pick a favorite and was in fact a bit angry with me that I had dared put him in that position. This tune is here by vocalist choice because of my father’s deep love of old country and folk and all things female led. He would now like me to inform you that he may veto this at any time…thanks, dad.

The Letter : composed by Wayne Carson, made popular by The Box Tops in 1967. Without a doubt, this was their “dancing song” – a contentious point as my father has refused to take my mother dancing ever since their courting days. (Is this true? I’m not convinced. But my mother seems to have more dance left in her than spent so…maybe?)

The band

The debut of this SongSonnet™ was on Monday, May 20th at The Bar Next Door in NYC. The band that evening was Cat Toren on keys and Michael Bates on bass. We delivered the set to everyone who came out…MINUS my parents. Known for attending almost every gig, they had ironically decided to sit this one out. They finally received a taste of the set on their anniversary celebration on June 22nd with all of their friends and family present and singing along.

Corporate Events

Who says the best way to get your message across is through reports and numbers?? Not this gal! Sometimes the key to lasting and impactful ideas spreading to your clients, customers, and staff is to package them up in a different manner. Or just have some fun with the people you hustle with day-in and day-out.

The gig: Woodstock’s 50th Anniversary

An example of the latter comes via a corporate gig we did to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. A few of the partners at this particular firm had actually been in attendance on that historic weekend and stories of their adventures were tacked up on the walls giving their employees a peek into days gone by. I had been asked to be a part of a multi-performer set and the similarities to the original call list were felt with each performer bringing their own personality and feel to the table. Given my roots of jazz and country, I found myself sitting firmly in between them with the following set list replicating the tunes played back in 1969.

The sonnet

Marrakesh Express : originally composed and performed by Crosby, Stills, and Nash. A challenging song that required all of my vocal range, this is a deceptively fast jaunt that tells the story of traveling Morocco by train and the sights and sounds they pass along the way. The quick cadence reflects the rhythm of the train and really allows you to accompany them on their journey as though you were living it, too.

To Love Somebody : originally composed by the BeeGees, Janis Joplin made a rendition of this tune at Woodstock a recognizable icon on its own. One of the ways I found to connect with Janis – without trying to emulate her (dangerous territory for sure) – was to study and learn her extra lyrics to communicate her sentiment and unique perspective into the performance.

Green River : originally composed and performed by Creedence Clearwater Revival, this is easily a favorite for its lazy, meandering story and simple, toe-tapping chord changes. CCR creates tunes that feel like the heartbeat of the country waking up after a summer nap – relaxed, honest, and ready to appreciate each moment in life, no matter how small.

The band

Valerie Farber on vocals, Michael Bates on bass, Jonathan Heagle on guitar, Jon Fox on keys, and Ken Brown on box drum.

Educational Programming

Regardless of the end goal, everyone learns better through a great story. Why not make it fun and interesting at the same time??

Most of the first SongSonnets™ I personally produced focus on various women in history, telling their perhaps not-often-told stories. One of my favorites was the Amelia Earhart SongSonnet™…

The sonnet

Blue Skies : composed by Irving Berlin, there is a verse of this tune that is not often played. The verse speaks to optimism in the face of challenge and I thought it was perfect to kick this particular set off as Amelia was constantly told she couldn’t do it. The tune goes on to speak about how the skies are clearing and things are looking up. We set the stage with this viewpoint from the skies.

Alone Together : composed by Arthur Schwartz, lyrics by Howard Dietz. I like to introduce this tune as a love song between Amelia and her plane, Electra. All accounts point to her deep love of flying and direct connection to her aircraft and the poet/romantic in me likes to think she was perfectly happy to be stranded on an island with the love of her life.

Never Will I Marry : composed by Frank Loesser and made popular by Cannonball Adderley and Nancy Wilson, this tune speaks to Amelia’s refusal to marry her publicist (George Putnam) without a prenup firmly in place. This document made clear that if either of them felt trapped or suffocated or held back professionally in the marriage, they would be free to walk away. I admire this move for both the desire to maintain individuality and forge a lasting partnership and wrote lyrics to a second verse that opens up the tune to the possibility of a partnership that allows freedom to exist as well.

Skylark : composed by Hoagy Charmichael with lyrics by Johnny Mercer. This tune is perfection on its own and within the context of Amelia’s life and disappearance, feels like a dirge. A nod to the mystery of her death, Joni Mitchell’s “Amelia” is tacked on to the end of the song with a haunting, lingering phrase.

The band

This debuted at Rockwood Music Hall back in 2016 with Valerie Farber on vocals, Jamie Reynolds on piano, Matt Aronoff on bass, and Nathan Ellman-Bell on drums. You can listen to the Amelia Earhart SongSonnet here.

Creative Collaborations

Collaboration with other artists to create a multidisciplinary piece is one of the greatest joys in life. I love the creative process and peeking into the world of someone else’s brain and soul. If you are interested in exploring a potential collaboration, please reach out to schedule time for chat!

I have collaborated with artists from painters to choreographers to DJ’s. One of my favorites was with the artist Thomas Wurst during a Slide Luck event in Seattle, WA.

The gig: Slideluck w/ Thomas Wurst

Thomas was asked to present slides of his recent encaustic photography works and to give a brief description of them as they played. Never one to follow rules, Thomas had in his mind a piece of music to accompany his art and asked me if I was up for the challenge. I said yes immediately.

The sonnet

Lost and Lookin’ : originally composed and performed by Sam Cooke. Thomas heard a longing in the lyrics and wanted them floating in the dark as the haunting images of his work went by on screen.

The band

I performed this live (acapella) at a Slideluck event back in 2010 in Seattle, WA with Thomas’ art behind me. You can hear the live collaboration here.