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POSTPONED: Taimane Gardner is Coming to Durango

NOTE TO READERS:  Since posting the following article about Taimane Gardner, Covid-19 has shut down our world.  Music in the Mountains has decided to postpone its 2020 summer festival, so Taimane will not be appearing this summer.  Hopefully, her concert will be delayed by no more than a year, but we don’t know yet when it might be rescheduled.  For the time being, I’d suggest clicking on the YouTube links below to hear some of her music.  I will update when I know more.  Meanwhile, keep your social distance and stay safe. 

 

Taimane Gardner, one of the world’s premier ukulele players, is coming to Durango, Colorado, this summer as part of the annual Music in the Mountains festival.  She will appear at the Chocolate Indulgence event at Cascade Village on Wednesday, July 15, 2020.

I first saw Taimane perform in New York City at a nightclub in the Village.  I’d never heard of her and would not have gone to the club had I not been assured by Denise Leslie, the ukulele maven of

Photo of Taimane Gardner
Ukulele virtuoso Taimane Gardner

the Four Corners region, that this was a not-to-be-missed performance.  I’d learned that Taimane was from Hawaii, so I was expecting the beachcomber and swaying hula music you hear at a luau.  Then this beautiful waif appeared on stage with her tiny ukulele and enigmatic smile, and when she started playing I was dazzled by three things:  (1) I didn’t know an ukulele could make those sounds, (2) I’d never seen anyone play a string instrument that fast, and (3) this young woman could play everything from Bach to Led Zeppelin.  She is a virtuoso with a repertoire that encompasses the surf sounds of the sixties, and classic rock and roll, and flamenco, and hardcore, strait-laced classical, and she can morph from one genre to the next in mid-flight.

Taimane has long, nimble fingers that move across the fretboard with a precision and grace you normally see in world-class pianists—and if she hit a single wrong note, I didn’t hear it.  She began playing the ukulele at five and was discovered by Don Ho at thirteen, when he invited her to join his variety show at the Waikiki Beachcomber.  In her teens, she studied with renowned ukulelist Jake Shimabukuro, whom most of us would not know, but in Hawaii he would be like studying guitar with Jimi Hendrix.  Now in her early thirties, Taimane has performed around the world and has become not only a master of the instrument but a captivating performer as well.

On stage, she doesn’t stay anchored to the floor the way many instrumentalists do.  She dances and roams with restless energy, sometimes prancing, sometimes gracefully bowing and carving up space to an inner rhythm that seems to flow from her music but at a different tempo, her face lit by a secret smile I could not interpret.  I didn’t know if she was smiling at the joy of performing—capturing the ecstasy of her moments on stage—or if she was smiling at her connection with a captivated audience, or if her smile derived from the sheer pleasure of weaving such lyrical tales from the instrument in her hands.  Perhaps it’s all three.

Here are some YouTube clips showing Taimane in performance.  These clips showcase her virtuosity as well as the range of her repertoire:  from Bach’s Toccata to Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven, to Chris Isaak’s Wicked Games (performed in a beautiful Hawaiian setting), to a medley of surfing classic tunes, to Beethoven’s Für Elise like you’ve never heard it, to her standout performance at TEDx in Maui.  These clips will introduce you to one of the finest instrumentalists you’ll ever hear, but there’s nothing like seeing her in person.  Music in the Mountain’s Chocolate Indulgence this summer will be a don’t-miss event.  The chocolate will be provided by sponsor Animas Chocolate Company.  What could be better?  Delectable chocolates, cocktails, and Taimane Gardner.  You’ll be dazzled.

 

Bach’s Toccata like you’ve never heard it:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JX13LwnZss

Led Zeppelin meets Beethoven:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJ-_ZO9AlMo

Performing Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game in a beautiful Hawaiian setting:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqvSY3Hnij4.

Playing a medley of surf tunes:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jgmo-ljwLfY

Performing Für Elise:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPjIYtGaJKA

From TEDx Maui:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yDM2hp78L4

 

Photo credits:  Photos of Taimane Gardner courtesy of Music in the Mountains.  Used. with permission.

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Review of Seizing Success by Dr. Mary Key

Mary Key’s Seizing Success is a rare volume on leadership for women that combines the right foundations for success with research-based, practical tips on how to develop the attitudes, confidence, and skills necessary to become a transformational leader.

The book opens with chapters on the bedrock fundamentals of self-development:  self-confidence, self-understanding, and resilience, what the author calls the “intra-personal foundations for leadership.”  In these and subsequent chapters on assertiveness, influencing skills, and transformational leadership, she delves into what we know about these topics based on thorough research in the field and how to apply those lessons to overcome stereotyping and restrictive internal dialogue.  She uses the concept of reframing to teach how readers to overcome barriers, whether they are externally or internally imposed, and how to seize success by thinking about yourself and your world differently.

She notes that women face conflicting expectations, some of which are gender biases from their work and home environments and some of which are self-imposed.  Women, she notes, tend to be less self-confident than men and more prone to thoughtful reflection, which can lead to self-doubt and inaction.  I appreciated her focus on taking responsibility for your success and not blaming others, which generally does no good.  I also appreciated her summaries of key points at the end of each chapter and lists of practical tips and strategies for implementing the lessons learned in this slim volume.

Of course, her lessons on transformational leadership apply equally to men, but this book is written for and will be of greatest value to women who feel themselves constrained by doubts and subject to gender biases and constraints that hinder them from achieving all they are capable of achieving.  I highly recommend Seizing Success for anyone wishing to be more effective in life and in the workplace.

 

Photo of Mary KeyDr. Mary Key is an international consultant, author, speaker and executive coach. She is the founder of the Key Women’s Leadership Forums: http://keyassociatesinc.com/womens-forum/. The purpose of the women’s forum is to bring together executive women to focus on pressing issues, leveraging their influence and aligning their careers with what is purposeful for them. Key received her Ph.D. from the University of Virginia and her BS from the University of Massachusetts. She was selected to be part of the International Women’s Federation (IWF), Society of International Business Fellows (SIBF), Leadership Florida, Athena Society and the CEO Council. She lives in Tampa Bay with her husband, Lewis, and their three cats.

 

Photos courtesy of Mary Key and used with permission.

 

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At the Lake with Victoria Vox

Photo of Victoria Vox above Electra Lake
Victoria Vox in performance at Electra Lake

Victoria Vox?  I’d never heard of her until Denise Leslie, director of the annual Rocky Mountain UkeFest, asked if I would host a small party at Electra Lake where Victoria would perform.  We have a house at Electra that overlooks the lake, is nestled in tall Ponderosa Pines, and has a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains.    In June, we’d had to evacuate Electra because of the 416 fire, which burned more than 50,000 acres of forest north of Durango and west of Electra Lake.  But firefighters kept the blaze from spreading to Electra and by mid-July the dense smoke, which had smothered the valley in June, had dissipated.  On the evening of the party, the air was clear and the moonglow shimmered across the lake.  It was a perfect evening for a party on the lake.

Victoria Vox is a modern minstrel.  In medieval times minstrels were poets or musicians who traveled from town to town reciting poetry or singing while accompanying themselves, usually on a stringed instrument.  That definition fits Vox perfectly.  She studied songwriting at the Berklee College of Music and has been a professional traveling and recording musician for more than a decade.  Her stringed instrument of choice is the ukulele, and she has mastered it.  In her hands, the instrument sounds as good as a well-played guitar—with all the nuance and color that give her playing character.  It’s the right instrument for her voice, which is sweet and lyrical but not operatic.  She ranges between baritone and tenor and is pitch perfect.

As I listened to her performing at the lake I thought she sounded like a county fair singer, and I mean that as a high compliment.  She is down to Earth and approachable, the girl next door who sang so beautifully in choir.  She’s the kind of singer you can listen to for hours, tapping your feet or slapping your knees, drinking an ice cold lemonade or beer, the sun warming your back, while on the fairway people are eating cotton candy and in the exhibition hall on the other side of the fairgrounds people are admiring the 4H-kid-raised pigs and steers.  I could also imagine her singing in a coffee house or a pub with good acoustics where you wish people were quieter so you could just enjoy the sound of her voice.  But with tunes so danceable, you wind up on your feet, feeling the rhythm in your bones, and spend the night in carefree kinetic joy.

Photo of Victoria Vox playing the mouth-trumpet
Victoria Vox playing her mouth-trumpet

What makes her solo act work so well is that the accompaniments are simple.  Just her 4-string ukulele, sometimes with some reverb, which allows listeners to focus on her voice and the lyrics to her songs.  Her sound is not overproduced the way some singers’ acts are.  Even in her albums, it’s the clarity of her voice that carries her music, not an orchestra of instrumental and vocal extras masking the lead singer or a recording volume so loud and music so professionally mixed that you can’t listen the songs for the wall of noise.

Vox bills herself as a pop singer, but her songs are also reminiscent of folk, blues, and especially country.  If you’re interested in listening to her albums, start with When the Night Unravels, which features some of her most memorable tracks:  “Supermoon,” “Call a Truce,” “You’re No Island,” “Looking for a Man,” “Two Bridges,” and “Use the Brakes.”  This album is pure Vox.  A change of pace album is Boombox Séance, which features “Strangers in the Dark,” a fascinating fusion that reminded me of disco and trance; “Denial,” another fusion track that sounds like goth fashion set to music or a hip vampire film with dancing demons; “Living with a Ghost,” a haunting melody of sweet sadness; and “Here Comes the Rain Again,” the one odd-ball track in that it was written by Annie Lennox and Dave Stuart, not Victoria.  This tune is popular fare in amateur ukulele jams around the country, and Vox performs it exceptionally well.

The easiest way to become acquainted with Victoria Vox’s music is to search for her on YouTube, where she has strong presence.  She sometimes performs with her husband, Jack Maher, in a duo they call Jack & the Vox.  They do a very good version of Dire Straits’ “Sultans of Swing” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3atBdtWi8cf.  Beyond some outstanding ukulele playing, this video is memorable for two things:  they perform the song in a laundromat, and their accompaniment includes Victoria Vox playing a mouth-trumpet, which is not something you see every day.  Vox has perfected mimicking the sound of a trumpet with her mouth.  She demonstrates this unique talent in a video clip at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yr-GvNmeQ5Q.  To play a convincing mouth trumpet, the musician has to have perfect pitch control, and Victoria does.

A final video clip I’d recommend is Victoria Vox being interviewed on KSUT along with fellow ukulele players Daniel Ward and Jason Arimoto (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_E_FOBWjSXQ).  The three performers were in Durango for July’s Rocky Mountain UkeFest.  Early in the interview the three performed Jason Arimoto’s composition “O Ka Aina,” a beautiful song Ward and Vox had learned just before the interview began.  At the end of the interview, the impromptu trio performs Victoria’s “C’est Noyé,” her original composition which won first place in the International Acoustic Music Awards and is featured on her album Chameleon.

Photo of Victoria Vox playing in front of a pine tree and a lake
Victoria’s sweet sounds in a beautiful natural setting

Vox once challenged herself to spend one year (52 weeks) writing one new song each week (which she did).  Another time she undertook the 52-week challenge of learning one new song every week that was written by someone else.  That project is posted week-by-week on YouTube and led to her album Under the Covers, which includes “Benny and the Jets” (Elton John), a song that features her mouth-trumpet; “Blackbird” (Lennon and McCartney); “I’m on Fire” (Springsteen); “Why” (Annie Lennox); “Hallelujah” (Leonard Cohen); “Summertime” (Gershwin), another track with her mouth-trumpet; and “One Little Song” (Gillian Welch).  Another change of pace album for her, Under the Covers showcases her sweet, lyrical voice and instrumental phrasings in a collection of familiar songs.  What it doesn’t showcase is her talent as a songwriter, and for that you need to listen to her other albums.  Better yet, go to her website and find out where she’s touring, and catch her live.

On that evening at Electra Lake, our small audience sat for hours in the twilight as Victoria Vox made girl-next-door magic with her voice and fingers.  Moonlight shimmered on the lake, the tall trees stood silent above us, and the mountains lay in lumbering repose across the water.  The night couldn’t have been more perfect.

 

Photo credits:  All photos by Debra A. Parmenter.