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