Saturday, March 17, 2012

Terese Genecco!

I never worked a day in my life.  I’ve been very lucky.  I wake up every day and they pay me to write music.” ~ Russell Garcia at age 95


Happy St. Patrick's Day!

 Today I am writing about one of my favorite entertainers. She packs more excitement into a one hour performance than a five hour parade!
If you don't know her, you should! I first became familiar with Terese Genecco because of a show she was doing in San Francisco celebrating Frances Faye. 
 Being a huge Frances Faye fan definitely put Terese on my radar. She was getting quite the buzz in California. I couldn't wait for her to bring this show to New York. Eventually, she did.
The truth is the show was even greater than the hype eluded to...if that is even possible. I became in a moment a Terese Genecco fan. 
She was very smart to have a vehicle such as Francis Faye to bring her the recognition she deserves.
She didn't rest on those laurels. Three years ago, Scott Barbarino of the Iridium to do a series of shows the last Tuesday night of each month. 
That was a great move for all involved!









This Tuesday night, as Terese has done for the last three years, Terese will be doing two shows 8 and 10 PM. 
However, this Tuesday night will be a very special occasion. 
She will be celebrating the release of a long overdue new CD recorded Live at The Iridium. This is her second CD. 

I will be there and I cannot wait. As I said earlier, and I cannot say it enough, I am a fan! IF you don't know Terese, this blog is for you. IF you know Terese, you might find something new today! I hope you enjoy my celebration of Terese Genecco!
Lets go back to the beginning:
Terese's first, big, live concert memory is being at the Rochester War Memorial stadium in upstate NY with her older brother for a Beach Boys concert.  She was shocked that her parents let her go to a huge concert stadium in “the big city” with just her brother Steve as her “adult supervision.”  He actually took very good care of her and it was a wonderful experience.  She very clearly remembers batting hundreds of beach balls around throughout the crowd all night long while listening to the guys sing their beautiful four part harmonies in their Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops.  But the moment that stopped her dead in her tracks was when Brian Wilson sat down at a white grand piano in the middle of the stage, wearing all white, and he played and sang “In My Room.”  You could hear a pin drop.  The spot light was the only light in the room (except for a few lighters being waved in the crowd and an exit sign here and there) and Terese remembers thinking, “That’s what I want to do someday.”

I asked Terese how she manages her own expectations in this business. 
What does SHE do to see them through. Terese says she thinks she is supremely lucky because her expectations have never been very high!   
When she first started singing again (She took quite a hiatus following her college years in the Syracuse University musical theater department), She joined a cabaret competition in San Francisco just for the fun of it.   
Four months later, she won the
Kevin Dozier
whole thing.  Kevin Dozier, who had just won the award for Best Male Professional Artist was standing next to her comparing their rather unattractive trophies (Terese's for Best Debut Artist) when the producer announced the name of the overall winner of the entire competition, the “Entertainer Of The Year” and it was Terese. 
 It didn’t even register.  Kevin had to tell her, “YOU WON!” and push her towards the podium to accept the award.  She has taken one step at a time ever since then and has never expected anything to come to her without a bazillion hours of hard work and focus.  Her father taught her a long time ago that nobody gets anything they wish for but they sometimes DO get the things they work for…if they’re lucky!

During that hiatus mentioned above, Terese had a lucrative and successful career as a commercial insurance sales executive in California.  She worked as a lead producer/presenter on multi-million dollar deals in boardrooms of major corporations with CEOs and CFOs sometimes triple her age and experience. 

What she learned was that hard work, knowledge, expertise, creativity, talent and personality can get just about any deal done but the bottom line is that people like to buy from someone they LIKE.  Why would they give their hard-earned dollars to a jerk?  They don’t want to.  So for Terese, she learned that being good at her job and being a nice person was the perfect combination for success and it made HER feel good too. She also learned to walk away from deals that didn’t feel right.  No matter how much money an account was worth, if the people on the team she would have to work with in the years to follow weren’t a good fit for her, she walked away from the table and moved on to the people who were fun and easy to do business with.  She's still that way today. She won’t sing for inattentive or unappreciative audiences and she won’t have long-term relationships with people she doesn't like or can’t respect.  She tries to surround herself with people who have a similar work ethic and who treat their business associates and artists with a high degree of respect. 
Shaynee Rainbolt
Terese had an amazing musical education as a child.  She won't speak directly to the state of arts in education today because she is not a parent nor is she personally involved in a public or private school system.  From what she hears from friends and through the media, however, it’s heartbreaking that the funding and formal in-school training is all but gone.  She can’t imagine her school years devoid of art classes, chorus, concert band, orchestra, private music lessons, marching band, jazz band, field band, theory, and dance lessons… she took them all in addition to all of the sports she was allowed to play.  But she doesn't believe in doom and gloom.  So many people are chipping in and doing what they can to keep the arts healthy and vibrant and growing through new generations.  One musician she knows (Doug Beavers) started an after school program in Harlem to teach kids how to play instruments and make recordings.  He brought Shaynee Rainbolt in this year to teach voice to a select group of those kids.  There’s Michael Estwanik and the American SongbookProject and so many other great teachers and programs finding private funding to keep music and art and theater and film studies available for kids who have a desire and aptitude for artistic education at a pre-college level.  Raissa Katona Bennett said to Terese the other day, “What is the one thing that has survived throughout the history of
mankind?  The arts.” And she’s right.  Music and theater and visual arts and storytelling have been woven throughout the fabric of history and humanity and it will always be a part of our personal, spiritual, and social lives.  We are not in danger of losing it.  We ARE in danger of having fewer experts in the field.

Have you ever felt like you were born in the wrong era? What other period of time do you relate to and why?
 1962, Baby.  That swingin’ Rat Pack, Bobby Darin, Louis Prima, Frances Faye heyday in the lounges and supper clubs of Las Vegas.  I probably would have enjoyed the late 1920’s and early 1930s speakeasies in New York as well, when Frances Faye got her start along side of Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Bing Crosby and that gang.  I’m singing in a basement jazz club now, come to think of it, and booze isn’t that hard to find there!

Your thoughts on Carol Channing (All my blogs focus on Carol Channing’s Foundation For The Arts)  I’m campaigning for Carol Channing to receive the 2012 Kennedy Center Honor in 2012. If you agree that she should receive this honor, can you say why you think this should happen (See below on how YOU can help!) I grew up watching the great musical ladies of stage and screen and listening to Broadway show soundtrack albums on Sunday mornings with my Mom.  Hello, Dolly! was in constant rotation and Ms. Channing was one of my very early idols.  I never imagined growing up to “be like her” but I did want to grow up to maybe someday “work with her.”  I’m one degree of separation away from that goal via my friend Richard Skipper and through my new friend Eric Kunze (Broadway’s Miss Saigon, Les Miz) who was just on stage with Ms. Channing a few nights before her darling husband, Dr. Harry, passed away.  I heard it was a magical night for everyone on stage, in the audience, and behind the scenes.  I treasure our musical theater legends as well as the jazz greats who came before us to pave the way.  Last summer, as I sat across from the legendary Russell Garcia at his dining room table in Kerikeri, New Zealand and asked him endless questions about working with the greatest singers and musicians of the 20th Century, he laughed and asked me why I wanted to hear those old stories!  I reminded him that from 1930 to 1960, some of the greatest music the world has ever known was created right here in this country and that he was in the thick of it and a part of its creation.  How could I not ask him to share his experiences and insight with us?  He smiled… then thought back to those experiences and those people… and he said, “Yeah.  They were great.  Those were good times but we’re having fun making music now too.”
 
Most recent appearance

I sing all around NYC whenever possible but my regularly scheduled shows with my 8-piece “little big band” happen on the 3rd or last Tuesday of every month.  We’re very excited to be “the longest-running nightclub act on Broadway!”  There’s my marketing hat going on!

Next appearance
 The Iridium; 1650 Broadway @ 51st St, NYC  212.582.2121  www.theIridium.com
 It’s my 3 Year Anniversary of monthly performances at The Iridium AND my CD release concerts!  We recorded the shows live on October 12, 2011 and we’re putting out our 2nd CD that night!  I say “our” because I feel really connected to “my little big band.”  These are the top musicians in all of NYC, which means they’re some of the best musicians in the world!  A few of them come and go as they all have their own careers. 

What is your biggest success in Show Business?

It depends on your definition of success but to me, every milestone has been an amazing experience along the road TO success. I’m very happy to be “the longest-running nightclub act on Broadway” going in to my 4th year of performances at The Iridium in NYC but every moment that came before, leading up to this, has been instrumental in my development as an entertainer. I do have to add that there was one particular moment that gave me chills. I had been booked to play The Peppermill Hotel and Casino in Reno, Nevada a few years ago. I was still living in the San Francisco Bay Area at the time and I loved that drive up Highway 80 toward Lake Tahoe so I packed up the car and headed off on my own for the gig. I had put together a “little big band” entirely from the old pros that lived in Reno and had played for all the greats as they made their way through town in the heyday. We were to rehearse the next afternoon and then play two shows on Saturday night together. It was a gorgeous, sunny day and a beautiful drive up into the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I pulled into downtown Reno and made my way up the road to the casino. As I sat in the turn lane in front of the hotel waiting to turn left into the main entrance, I saw the huge Peppermill marquis in front of me with changing banners and flashing lights. Paul Anka was appearing in the “big room” that weekend and his face took up almost the entire billboard. The next thing I saw was MY press photo with my name and the announcement that I’d be appearing with my “little big band!” That was an awesome moment. It felt very much like I had gone back in time but also that I had somehow “arrived” and was about to make my mark. The band was great and so was the crowd. We had a blast that weekend. I went outside every couple of hours and looked at that giant neon billboard and giggled. I completely channeled Sammy Davis, Jr. at The Sahara that night!
 
What was your lowest low and how did you surpass that?
 It wasn’t that long ago, actually!  Every now and then, when the deadlines are looming and the sales and marketing and business responsibilities far outweigh the making of music, it’s hard to keep focused on the “fun” part of being an entertainer.  The stress can be overwhelming and there is always that nagging voice inside saying “No one cares.  Why do you even bother?”  When that happens, I talk to my fiancé about it and we try to come up with a game plan that helps me get through the next phase and back on course. 

What one change would you like to see in today’s industry?
 I would put an end to every single music-related competition on the planet.  Singing, dancing, and acting are not competitive sports!  These are talents that are to be nurtured and guided until the artist emerges, eventually fully formed, with a clear command of his or her instrument, body, or voice and can completely engage with an audience at a professional level.  Amateurs should be allowed the time and the space to practice and train and grow into artists but they should do so with the guidance of their mentors, coaches, and teachers – not on television in front of millions of “judges.”  What does my Uncle Vince know about vocal range, vibrato, registers, acting, and lyric interpretation?  Why does he get to decide if I go onto the next level of my career or not?  I don’t sit at home and judge what plumber gets to keep working as a plumber based on a television show that sets him up against other plumbers!  It’s ridiculous that an entire generation of entertainers is being trained to win competitions, not learn their craft as artists.

Do you consider what you wear on stage for your show a costume? Or is it just clothing to you?
A little bit of both.  I have to be comfortable on stage in order to really give my best performance.  If I look in the mirror before I go on and do a “thumbs up”, it’s going to be a good show.  If I’m tugging at a collar or pulling at something that doesn’t feel right, it’s going to be a distraction.

Are you happy at the point you are right now in your career?
 I’m happy at every point I have been in my career!  As long as I’m continuing to work and grow as an artist and entertainer and I keep getting work, I’m happy!

Do you feel you have achieved what you set out to do?
No, not yet.  There’s a long, long way to go!

What do you do to remain positive when life's hiccups get you down?
 I try to keep an eye on the bigger picture – I’m a singer.  I’m not curing cancer.  Although, studies show that music does have healing qualities, so you never know!  But reminding yourself daily about the really important things in life keeps it all in perspective.  I’m like a dog with a bone when I have a goal in front of me but I still try to remember that life is truly short and that none of us gets out alive.  Live every day to the fullest, go to bed tired, get some rest, get up and live the next day to the fullest, rinse, and repeat!

How on earth do you reach theatre-goers now that newspapers are obsolete and there are so many channels on TV you can’t pick the right ones to advertise on and with the web being so hit and miss.
 I think most of the people who come specifically to see and hear me sing are people who I have met somewhere else or who have seen me sing one or two songs at another event and want to see what I do with my band for an entire show.  I do a TON of social media marketing (Facebook, Twitter, email, websites, group marketing, etc.) and I make an effort to maintain contact with people who I have identified as allies and supporters who like to turn people on to my shows.  One fan brings a friend who becomes a fan who brings two friends to the next show and so on.  We have been building audience like this for three years and we’re still going strong.  I also think that advertising is a huge part of a marketing strategy.  Also, working with a publicist who has garnered respect with the media is often instrumental in getting the right critics to see your work at the right time.  Changing things up for every performance is also important to get audience to come back again and again.  Every show is a unique experience with that particular audience on that particular night with those particular musicians on stage with me.  I also think it helps to think outside the box when it comes to sales and marketing.  We have some really cool ideas for grabbing attention from the general public to bring awareness about my shows.

A genie pops out of the lamp, he grants you three wishes. What are those wishes?
 I’m going for musical wishes but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t first wish for world peace, an end to hunger and starvation, and end to global warming, ending the war on terror, the war on drugs, the for-profit prison system, cruelty to other species, and all that we humans do that is out of concert with nature and our best selves.  That said, here are my three “dream come true” moments!
1)   Spend a day in time hanging out with the Rat Pack AND Frances Faye and then all play a sold-out show together at The Sands that night.
 
2)   Spend a day riding motorcycles with Billy Joel and then play a sold-out show together at Yankee Stadium that night.
3) Spend a day riding horses with William Shatner and then sit on the porch at his ranch watching the sun go down, smoking cigars, and sipping an adult beverage.

How did you get into this business?
 I studied and trained to be a singer, dancer, actor but I blew out my knee and chose a different path until I found the Cabaret Competition in San Francisco.  I entered and won and haven’t stopped since.

What is your favorite song? And yes, you can only pick one!!!
 Billy Joel’s “New York State Of Mind”

What is the last stage show you saw.  Local or professional.  
 “Shatner’s World” on Broadway

What do you do to prepare for your performances?
 For my big shows, it’s several days of preparation from learning new songs, to putting a set list together, pulling and organizing charts for the band, coordinating with the club and the musicians, making sure my suit and shirts are clean and pressed, pack everything up, get to the sound check, get dressed, put on some make-up, have a glass of champagne and hit the stage swingin’!
 For other appearances, I’m generally just trying to finish everything else up that’s going on so I can get cleaned up, dressed, and at the venue on time to sing my songs!

When do you know it’s time for a Terese Genecco show?
 Honey, it’s ALWAYS time for a show!

Do you make a living at this or do you have a survival job?
 I make my living in show business now.  I have completely transitioned away from my former “day job” life as an insurance agent.  My business is my singing career and I have been 100% focused on that since I left California three years ago to begin my run of monthly shows at The Iridium in New York City.
 
What is your favorite compliment?
 “I saw your show last year and I thought you were very good then… but you’re SO much better now!”
 Seriously, that is my ALL time favorite compliment from a very lovely older lady in upstate NY this past September.
I agree Terese and I cannot wait to celebrate you Tuesday night LIVE AT THE IRIDIUM! I hope that ALL who read this will join me!

NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED.  FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY!
 
Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!

Tomorrow's blog will be...Liz Rubino!

Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!












  Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!











 
TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED DAY
Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com
                                
This Blog is dedicated to ALL ARTISTS: Past, present and future and the gifts they give to the world!








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