Interview with Leanne Weatherly

Leanne Weatherly
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Where did you grow up?
Hollister, CA....a small agricultural town. I lived on my uncles Ag. farm.

How early did you start singing?
I started singing in the 4th grade. I think I was about 9 years old. I was learning piano and flute too, but I enjoyed singing the most.

Do you play any instruments?
Piano and flute and a little trombone....although I know the fingerings and some technique to almost all of the instruments because I have to teach them to beginning band kids....except guitar. I cannot play the guitar. I took lessons once...that ended fast!

Was anyone in your youth an inspiration to you?
All of my music teachers. My parents have also been supportive, although, they would rather see me focus on my "real job." I have also been a big fan of Shania Twain. She is a very strong woman, a good songwriter and a powerful performer....although I'm sure it helps to be married to a big producer.

What drew you towards jazz?
I don't know. I love all genres of music...yes even country. But jazz is fun. It's similar to musical theater, which I did a lot of when I was younger. In jazz you are free to do just about anything you want vocally. You get to express the music in your own way on the fly. Jazz is all about "improvisation."

Describe your first performances.
My very first performance was in front of family members who just talked over me. One day they heard me belt out Happy Birthday. They stopped talking and looked at me as if I were crazy...I was very shy when I was little. I then did musical theater in high school and college. I also sang in a few choirs. My first gig was a street festival in my home town. I was 18 years old an knew nothing about sound equipement. I went out there with my mom, an 80's home stereo system, and no microphone. I had no band, so I had to use karaoke tapes. There were some kids doing a matial arts show and the Master let me use his small P.A. for a microphone. I got a lot of people listening....but it's embarrasing when I look back on that now. A few months later I started getting paid to sing at people's weddings and funerals....the funerals were to hardest gigs.

Do you have any musical training?
I've had lots of piano lessons, flute lessons and I am still getting vocal coaching. I also have a degree in Music (B.A. in performance)

What is your most memorable experience with music?
I loved singing the Carmina Burana with the San Jose State choir and the now non-existant San Jose Symphony. That was very fun! There were numerous San Jose State Choralier and opera workshop experiences as well. I also enjoyed singing in the church band and singing the national anthem a few times for the Sharks Hockey team.

Are you a member of any associations?
Yes, the West Coast Songwriters Association and the CMEA (California Music Educators Association)

What is it like to teach music to young people?
It's very challenging. It's almost absurd to think that my job is to get a bunch of hormonal 11, 12 and 13 year olds to perform music at a high level. I love it though. Especially when we do concerts and festivals and the kids play amazing well...even the high risk kids that can't stand still to save their lives, will often perform well. I love to see their excitement when they do well.

What inspires you with your songwriting?
I don't know...I just feel the need to express myself in music.

What mixture of originals / covers do you perform?
Mostly jazz, old R&B standards and my five big original songs. I'm working on writing three more originals this summer. I am very excited about them.

What is your favorite venue?
I love Santana Row. It's a great place for jazz!

Tell us about the musicians you perform with.
I have a great new band. Most are trained musicians. It's a young enthusiastic group who read charts really well. I also sing with the Musican's Warehouse Big Band, a great keyboard player named Tom Tomasello and I have a duo act with a guitar player named Pat Smith.

Where is the farthest you have traveled for a gig?
I have gone to L.A. two times and will be making my third trip next week! I am also hoping that the band will be able to play in the South By Southwest Conference in Austin Texas next March.