Here is my newest music video for my arrangement of “Carol of the Bells”, from my new Christmas album Winter Symphony. I hope that if you enjoy it, you will share it on Facebook and any other social media to get the word out. Thank you!
I feel like I have so much I’ve been wanting to share with you all, but I haven’t been able to.
That is until today.
MY MUSIC IS NOW A FAMILY EFFORT
For those who don’t know very much about me, I am a pianist, violinist, and composer and I have 3 albums released of my own compositions and arrangements. I was classically trained from the time I was 5 years old, graduated from BYU-I (piano pedigogy), I’ve performed with symphonies, soloed on concertos, and competed in piano competitions.
However, about 10 years ago I discovered that I could compose and my music career hasn’t been the same since. It was then that I felt like I truly finally found my place in music.
In that space of time, I have been composing, independently releasing my own albums, and working extremely hard in my music career. I have been lucky enough to have won and been nominated for multiple awards, been featured in movie soundtracks, TV shows, and commercials.
Tens of thousands of music lovers have created Pandora and Spotify radio stations for my music. I have sold out on physical albums, and my digital downloaders have grown tremendously. I have put out two official music videos and my Youtube channel has over a half million views. I have walked red carpets, performed for thousands of people, and met so many absolutely wonderful friends.
During these last 10 years as my career as taken off, you may or may not know that I also have given birth to three beautiful children, and have had the biggest cheerleader in my husband when it comes to my music.
The biggest news is that we’ve DECIDED TO MAKE MY MUSIC CAREER THE MAIN FOCUS.
Any of you parents out there can appreciate how hard it is to be a parent, how much time and effort it takes and the exhaustion it brings you. But it is also one of the most rewarding, joyful, and loving things you will ever experience.
Since having our 3rd baby in March of this year, I have definitely felt so blessed and felt so much joy – but at the same time I felt the stress of trying to juggle everything – and have often felt like giving up on my music would be the only option. Between the exhausting days and nights, I have only had a few rare short moments to practice the piano, and definitely no feelings of inspiration to write or compose.
This has been a long time in coming, but as of a few days ago, my husband gave his 2 week notice at his job at Microsoft; a job that he has worked endless hours at, requires his master’s degree and experience – and he is giving it up so that he can provide me with more time and flexibility to work on my music. He believes in my talents that much!
And so it is a BIG deal that we are taking this step. It is not something we take lightly, and we have prayed about this and there are just so many little things that have happened to lead us to this point – and we know it is the right thing. It will enable both my husband and I to spend more time together with our children, and as a family. We will set our own schedules, he will take on more parenting responsibilities, I will take on more music, and be able to have the time and means to put out more music, and at a faster pace than in the past. And Will will also be working closely with me in my career on finance, marketing, promotions, videography, and more.
I feel SO SO SO happy and lucky that Will has faith in me and my music and that it is important enough that we will put all of our efforts into it!
With this decision, we will also be selling our home here in the Seattle area and moving to the WA peninsula near the beach – so that we can live in a place where I feel I will receive the most daily inspiration to write new music. It will be a bit more remote, but our children will enjoy the wide open spaces and the feel of a small town near the ocean. We hope to have all of this in place by Spring 2015.
We are beyond thrilled to take this leap of faith and see where it takes us. I will keep you all updated along the journey as we work towards this next step in my music career and in our family!
NEW CHRISTMAS ALBUM COMING FALL 2015
It is with with great excitement that I announce that I am starting work on a CHRISTMAS ALBUM, that I hope to have finished and released by late Fall of 2015 – just in time for the holidays next year.
Many of you have been asking for a Christmas album from me for the last few years, and my heart just wasn’t in it. BUT NOW IT IS! I am SO ready to write Christmas music this year! I’m excited to work once again with the amazingly talented Glen Gabriel on this project. To have an album finished within only 1 year will be a first for me (the last album took 4 years), but again, that is the goal with my family’s new focus – to allow me more time for music. So wish me luck and send me lots of creative vibes as I work on receiving ideas and inspiration for this special music!
IN OTHER NEWS…
I have one other album project I will be working on in between projects – the music will be very epic and cinematic, much like Illumination but hopefully even better. More live instrumentation, more collaborations, and more music videos.
Thanks for all of your continued love and support! I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing with my music without you guys – so thank you from the bottom of my heart.
This is the first of a series of blog posts that I will be writing – with the stories and details behind each of the songs from my new album Illumination.
ETUDE FOR THE DREAMER is track 1 on my new album. This song took me about a year to finish – reason being, I don’t often write songs in one sitting. I will start something, let it peculate for a while, and then come back to it. I’ve found this the most effective way to compose for me, because a) my skills improve over time, b) I find new inspiration, and c) the piece develops more maturely than it would otherwise.
I knew when I started composing this piece that I wanted it to be the opening track to the new album. With this in mind, it helped me develop a theme that would grab a listener’s attention from the get-go. With the way I created the opening sequence of the song, you hear a minored keyed pattern being repeated- which I really wanted to make someone feel anxious or excited for what was to come.
You can hear the opening sequence here:
When I was writing this piece, my family and I were living in a home that was out in a wooded area with lots of evergreen trees. In my mind, I saw a foggy mist over a forest of trees and someone walking through that mist, perhaps lost in the surroundings. This is also where I got the idea that this piece was sort of a dream-piece in nature, hence the title.
Not only was I mentally/visually inside of a deep forest when writing this piece, but technically speaking I was very much wanting this piece to be a show piece. I can say that it is one of the hardest pieces to play on my entire album, and possibly one of the hardest pieces of music I’ve ever composed. When recording in the studio I have the luxury of starting over if I make a mistake, but in a live performance this is not so. I have had to really practice this piece a LOT in order to perform it live – and I have yet to have a perfect performance of it in a live setting.
With wanting to really showcase my classical training and ability in this piece, I drew my inspiration from one of Classical music’s greatest composers: Frederic Chopin. He was the king of writing pieces that were skill-strengthening and yet so creative, fresh, and beautiful. He wrote 27 Etudes in his lifetime. If you aren’t familiar with what an “etude” is, it is a piece composed to concentrate on a specific skill; an exercise, basically. Each of Chopin’s etudes concentrate on perfecting finger or technical ability on the keyboard.
The piece that particularly inspired me was the Etude No. 12 in C Minor, Op.25, which you can hear a marvelous recording of this by pianist Maurizio Pollini here…
(Purchase here from Amazon)
I had learned that Etude shortly after graduating from college (thought I did not play it quite that fast). Lots of arpeggios, and though it might sound like both hands are playing the same thing but just in different octaves – not so! Each hand is playing different notes, thus making it all the more difficult to learn yet fun to play. I remember the first time ever hearing this etude – was while I was in school and in the music building playing with another one of my pianist friends. He had been studying the etude with his professor and performed it for me while my jaw then dropped to the floor in utter awe of both the song and his skills. I knew I had to learn it 🙂 Funny how many of the songs we long to learn are simply from witnessing a friend play them in front of us.
Back to Etude For the Dreamer, after the opening sequence I then added a very technical section – which I like to refer to as the criss-cross section because both hands are playing thirds from each other and crossing up, down and around on the keyboard. You can hear it here:
Following this section, I then incorporated some of the same technical runs/arpeggios that Chopin used in his Etude No.12:
The nervous buildup of the piece keeps going until we get to a section where you finally reach a climax. All of the pressure of the piece has built and built until you reach this place where all lets loose, themes are combined and it is a very grandiose place of the song. I combined both the Chopin-esque arpeggios into my right hand while doing a contemporary arpeggiated left hand. One big collision.
After this big collision happens, I bring it back down and back to 2012 in terms of styling. I almost ended the song here, and sent it to several musician friends asking if it sounded like the song should indeed end like this. Almost unfinished. Some said it actually sound good ending there, but after letting the song sit for a while and going back to listen to it – I realized it was not the ending. So I returned to the beginning sequence (now in a new key) and played that section again but this time building it up to the Chopin arpeggios shortly after the start and then ending it that way in a true “Classical” ending.
You can hear here:
I was so in love with the solo piano version of this piece, that it took me some time to figure out how to orchestrate this for my album. The solo version of this song is so very Classical, yet when you hear how the orchestrated version on the album ended up – it sounds COMPLETELY different. Much more modern and edgy that is for sure.
Etude was actually one of the very last songs I orchestrated on this album, simply because it DID take me so long to be inspired with the orchestration. Actually that’s not entirely true. I had orchestrated it several months before others, but at the time did not feel it was going in the right direction. So I pushed it aside for a while. It wasn’t until I sent the song to Glen Gabriel for the beats where I felt the song finally came together, and it ended up being one of the last 2 that we finished. Glen put the amazing drums and beats to the song, and then also added some additional string sections during the “climax” section. This is why I enjoy collaborating with him so much – he really adds things to my music that sometimes I either would have never thought of, or sometimes they’re just extensions of my own ideas but better.
As I was preparing for the concerts that I recently put on, I had a really cool moment while practicing with my backup tracks and thinking “These are so cool!”. I never really got to hear them alone without my piano with them, and it was a neat realization to hear them just all by themselves. Short clip here:
In the end, Etude For the Dreamer has turned out to be one of my favorite pieces on the entire album. LOTS of hard work went into composing this piece and also orchestrating it, so I won’t lie – everytime I hear the song I get a very satisfied smile on my face. 🙂
For advanced pianists out there who want to learn the piece, this is the FIRST piece of sheet music that I’m adding to the Illumination collection. It’s up on my website as of today – which you can download for only $3.95. I’ve also posted the solo piano version of the song as a free MP3 download from soundcloud – which might be helpful to have to learn the piece so that you can here is sans orchestra.
Get the sheet music here: http://jenniferthomasmusic.com/store/productdetail.php?product=174
I’ll be continuing to add new sheet music from Illumination as I finish them, and in the order of the tracks on the album. I plan to write one of these “Diary of a Song” posts with each song so that you can learn the story behind each of them. The next song up will be track 2, “After the Storm”. There is really a beautiful story behind this one and I’ll be really excited to share it with you all soon. Thanks for all your support for my music – it means the world!
BUY THE ALBUM:
In an effort to get my digital rankings up on Amazon and iTunes (which report to Billboard), please purchase my album from either of these marketplaces. Of course you are certainly more than welcome to buy my album from me directly if you are wanting an autograph, but otherwise let’s help my music make it’s way up in the online charts!! 🙂
The past 6 weeks have been super busy for me.
I had a photo shoot, a music video shoot, a cd release concert, a house concert, finished a new song, and hosted company for 10 days during most of that. That doesn’t even include the errands, the meetings, the babysitters (for my kiddos), the late nights, the lack of sleep, the stressing over whether I look good factor, and more.
Oh, and I forgot to mention that the house concert was 3 states away, which was a long roadtrip – but very fun.
I’m back in Seattle now. I do have lots coming up still, but I feel like the super busy part is overwith.
Before I share pictures and details about the lat 6 weeks, I thought I would share some good news first.
My new album, “Illumination”, has been receiving some pretty cool reviews. Haven’t heard one negative thing yet *wipes sweat off of forehead*.
Piano Heaven in the UK selected my album as an “award winner” for their site. Stephen Cairns wrote a really lovely review of my album – which you can read here. “Every so often, a CD comes along that blows the listener away with its creativity and quality of music. This is one such CD…The CD is brimming with quality from the very first track to the very last – all seventy-three minutes worth. An outstanding album, and one which I have no hesitation giving my highest recommendation.”
Pandora finally accepted my newest album. In case you missed that whole drama, even though my first two albums have been rotation on Pandora for several years, my newest album was rejected. Pandora was flooded with hundreds of emails from my fans requesting that they add Illumination to their collection, but it was still refused. However, thanks to more fan efforts and the persistence of my promotion company, Evolution, Pandora changed their minds. As an independent artist who appreciates stations like Pandora who support my art and actually pay me for it – this was the best news all year!
This December I’ll be performing with the Evergreen Youth Philharmonic – one of the top youth orchestras on Seattle’s eastside. We will be performing some of the work from Illumination. I’m very excited about this opportunity! I’ve performed with symphonies before but only in the genre of Classical music. Never before have I performed my own original work with a live orchestra. Pinch me please.
I’ve also received some fantastic reviews from Kathy Parsons of MailyPiano.com, Michael Debbage of MainlyPiano.com, David B Davis of Music Notes, RJ Lannan of the Zone Reporter 9who gave me 5 stars, and he rarely gives 5 stars!), and also many local Seattle newspapers.
I was also nominated (2nd year in a row) for the 2012 Hollywood Music in Media Awards for “Best Contemporary Orchestral/Instrumental”, and “Best Film Score for Short/Documentary”. The awards will be November 15th in downtown Hollywood. I’m looking forward to walking the red carpet again and seeing many of my fellow composers/performers.
Illumination also debuted #19 on the top 100 albums on The Zone (New Age Music Reporter) for July. I’m curiously waiting to see how it did for August.
And last but not least, Illumination has been receiving airplay on radio stations across the world. My biggest radio achievements thus far is Music Choice/Soundscapes, and Hearts of Space. I’m currently still waiting to hear about XM/Sirius Satellite. Evolution is also trying to get some of my classical pieces on Classical FM San Francisco and Classical FM Seattle. If you happen to live in either of these cities, it would be great if you would contact these stations and request me.
All right! Now onto the re-cap portion of this blog post…
Moonlight Video Shoot
For the past several months, Swedish singer Viktoria Tocca and I have been working together on a collaboration. For those who don’t know who Viktoria Tocca is, she is a very talented songstress who won my category in the HMMA’s last year for her rendition of “Dark Waltz“. She also has a heavy background in musical theater, where she played the part of Christine in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera for 2 years straight in Denmark. Viktoria and I met after the HMMA’s and became very good friends, and decided to collaborate together on a few projects.
As we are both classical crossover artists, we knew we wanted to do something of that nature. One night while practicing the piano, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata in particular, I realized how great this piece would be. I talked to Viktoria about it and she was on board.
So I wrote an arrangement based on themes from the Sonata (though the piano part is quite different). Viktoria’s vocal part actually follows the original melody of the piece. We are both so excited about this piece since this really hadn’t ever been done before (adding vocals to Moonlight Sonata). At least no version we had ever heard. Viktoria wrote the lyrics and recorded her parts in Stockhohm, while I recorded the piano part and some of the violin parts here in Seattle.
While I normally orchestrate most all of my own music, I asked Glen Gabriel (also from Sweden) to orchestrate Moonlight. For those of you who have heard my new album, you’ll recognize Glen from there – as he did a lot of the beats/effects and some of the additional orchestration on the album.
While we have not yet released the song, you can hear it here if you like.
We obviously also decided to film a music video for this while Viktoria would be in the US this summer…
While it is only expected of two blonde female classical crossover musicians to do some sort of flowy-dress fairy-in-the-woods type of video, we decided to do something very juxtaposed to all of that. Director Moses Olson and cinematographer Ali Mohsenian came up with a concept that matched the dark feel of the music. The thing that we both liked about the idea was a) It’s unexpected, and b) while you hear this classical oriented music with Viktoria’s smooth soaring voice – it just glides over the top of the action oriented video.
I have to give them props for coming up with something that would equally feature us both. Being that Viktoria is a singer and I’m a pianist, it is difficult to show the audience that this is not just a “Viktoria Tocca” video, or a “Jennifer Thomas” video – especially with both of us being female leads and having it be an equal collaboration between both of us as artists.
I won’t give the full details of the plot, but it involves a bank heist (Viktoria is the robber), a hideout in a fancy mansion, a good looking man (who played the part of Viktoria’s boyfriend in the video), and me as a cop who ends up on the trail of her. There is also a part of the storyline where you will see that Viktoria and I knew each other before the heist, and that comes into play as well.
We are finishing up the performance shots of me on the piano this Saturday (the 15th), and then we are hoping to have the video edited and ready for release either late October or early November.
The talented Demone Gore and Gretchen Black (seasoned actors) so kind to give me pointers on acting for the city rooftop scene. Gretchen and I were supposed to look like we were discussing the crime, but we were actually discussing what food we were going to eat after the video shoot, and what groceries we needed. 🙂
The talented Rick Walters (actor/filmmaker), as our getaway driver….
Demone and I in the bank’s parking garage as we find clues. This was actually a parking garage of an apartment building in downtown Seattle.
One of the getaway scenes with Viktoria and her actor-boyfriend, Chris Hynes – in the boiler room with a bag of $500,000 worth of fake money.
Those shots above are actually stills from the video, but here are some more behind the scenes pics…
Chris Hynes – the actor who played Viktoria’s boyfriend in the video.
Me wearing a faux bullet-proof jacket and trying to figure out how in the world do I wear this thigh holster-thingie??
Our beautiful hair/makeup artist, Noelle Jensen, doing Viktoria’s hair for one of her performance scenes.
Both Viktoria and I in makeup for our first scenes. The other fabulous makeup artist is Jonelle Cornwell.
I also have some behind-the-scenes video footage, but after spending over an hour editing it into a video, my program crashed and sorry, but not starting over now. Maybe later after we film my piano performance shots for the video, I’ll finally put something together.
Photo Shoot with Viktoria Tocca & Jennifer Thomas
Viktoria thought since we were doing some collaborations together, it would be a good idea to get some photographs taken together for promotional purposes. And, well, because let’s face it- it’s just FUN to do photo shoots and why not?
Viktoria is actually working on a new album (to be released 2013), and some of the themes/concepts for the music have to do with water (earth, water, fire, etc I guess? I don’t want to say too much). We thought it would be really cool to do some photos actually IN the water. Also because, originally, our concept for “Moonlight” was going to involve beach scenes (our original music video idea was that we would be sirens and would lure a poor sailor to his death in the video).
So water has always been something fun we wanted to work with. We searched a lot of google images and Pinterest boards looking for inspiration. We eventually came across these photos that were taken from the show America’s Next Top Model…
We actually found the episode where they shot these photo shoots and watched how they did it. It looked very cold, and very complicated to be honest! Ha! And neither Viktoria or I wanted to destroy any of our beautiful dresses by wearing them in the water.
So we came up with an idea to wear white swim suits in the water and then drape flowy material around us to make it appear as though it were dresses flowing out. I’m not sure they ended up looking as flowy as we had originally wanted, but nevertheless, the photos turned out beautiful.
Here is a preview of one of the photos from that shoot…
I won’t say it was easy getting into a bathing suit to be photographed, and given my usual modest attire, it took an act of bravery to do the pool shots. However, I’m just grateful that we had classy bathing suits with material to cover us! I’m not going to share any more of the proofs – as we’ll keep them pretty under-wraps until we need them for promo purposes.
Oh, and our fabulous photographer was Ross James – a fashion photographer from Seattle. He did a fabulous job!
Along with the brave pool shots that we did, we also did some photographs of us in similar black dresses next to some very cool rock structures. Here is a preview of one of those photos…
I personally think the ones of us in our black dresses will be great promo shots for our “Moonlight” song.
Illumination CD Release Concert
As well as the video and photo shoot, I also was busy preparing for my big CD release concert during all of this.
This was no small task.
It took me roughly four years to complete Illumination, and I really felt like celebrating. While my husband would have been more content with me just doing a small piano-store sized concert, I wanted to hold it somewhere where I could use my full orchestral backup tracks and have it sound amazing.
So I ended up having the concert at the Kirkland Performance Center in Kirkland, WA.
The venue had fabulous acoustics, as well as the ability for surround sound.
Prior to the concert, as if I wasn’t already busy enough working with my projects with Viktoria, I also ended up in the ER a few times for stomach pains and eventually having surgery to have my gallbladder taken out.
It was rough after the surgery – and I was feeling very anxious about not being prepared for my big concert. I was THIS close to cancelling the concert. I lost 2 weeks of preparation time due to having to stay in bed and recover. Practicing my piano was hard to do because I just felt weak, and my mind was very fuzzy due to just being tired and also the painkillers.
Eventually though, I started feeling better and was back to practicing. Thankfully as the next couple of weeks went by I felt like I could do the concert – with the help of some sheet music. There was no way I had enough time to memorize all 13 of the songs for my concert. I would say I was close to having them all memorized, but not completely.
Here is me the night of my release concert on the red carpet…(photos by Kathy Boll)
My soloists with me on the red carpet – Kristen Yose, Kelley Marie Johnson, me, Viktoria Tocca, and Stephanie Yose
With my handsome husband, Will.
This is my cute (and shy) 4 year old, Preston, coming up on stage to surprise me with flowers after the concert.
And here is a little video snippet of him with the flowers. SO stinkin’ cute!!
You can also catch some of the footage from my concert on my YouTube Channel here.
Here is “Requiem For a Dream”…
I am still editing video footage from the concert, so I will continue to post more on YouTube in the coming weeks.
I have to say though, that my concert was so much fun! I had some nervousness beforehand like I always do, but everyone there was so incredibly supportive and enthusiastic and it made it a lot easier on me as a performer. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat for certain.
Here are a few more behind the scenes photos from the concert…
Preston in the dressing room with me – he was so excited to come to my concert 🙂
My hairdo that I paid to have done – that only lasted a whole 2 hours. I ended up taking it down right before the concert and just throwing it into a side pony.
Why yes that is my name on the marquee! 🙂
My hubby and I at the Cheesecake Factory after my concert – with Viktoria, my brother, and a few other friends as well.
The day after my concert, Viktoria left to head back to LA for another few days, while I recovered! ha!
The following weekend, my little family and I headed down to Utah for my house concert at Michele McLaughlin’s Cozy Corner House Concert Series. I was really excited because the show had completely sold out, and she even overbooked it. I was wondering how we were possibly going to fit all those people in her living room!
I apologize – these aren’t the best photos because they were taken from mobile phones, but here you are…
With my dear friend Dixie and her husband – after the concert. Dixie is the one whom I dedicated “After the Storm” to on my album.
With Jared and Tamara…
With Dwight Tanner, my cellist for the concert…
With singer and friend Lori Cunningham
With pianist and friend Michele McLaughlin…
Performing “Secrets” with Dwight…
And now for some goofies…
Out to eat after the concert…
You can watch the concert on YouTube here:
Along with my concert in UT, my husband also ran the Wasatch 100 mile Endurance Race. Yes 100 miles. Here we are at the mile 53 aid station…
So anyway, now I’m back in Seattle and enjoying a nice little break from things. That is, I do have to film my piano performance scenes for the Moonlight video this weekend, and also prepare transcriptions for an entire orchestra for the December symphony concert, and also film a music video for “Illumination”, oh and head to LA in November for the HMMA’s….but other than that….I’m just playing with my kiddos 🙂