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Real Music - February 2013

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Real Music - February 2013
All You Need is Love

by Robert Feuer

Both of Bonnie Brook’s singing appearances at the Occidental Center for the Arts sold out, and she’s excited about another chance to pack that venue for her “ValentineBonnie Brooks - Real Music Feb 2013 - Sonoma County, CA Cabaret” on Sunday, Feb. 16. Romantic love will be the general theme, with her repertoire including a variety of ballads and upbeat songs, plus a couple of Bossa Nova tunes for a Latin feeling.

Led by pianist John Simon, who she describes during a recent interview at her Sebastopol home as “the anchor of me and my music as far as jazz goes,” the band also includes saxophonist Mel Martin, bassist Cliff Hugo and drummer Michael Brandeburg.

Brooks considers herself “passionate, free, open and expressive.” Between songs, she personalizes her connection with the audience with commentary on what the songs mean to her. “Some are up and some down. That’s the way life and love is,” she says.

Brooks, a mezzo-soprano, is also a trained classical operatic singer, having been a member of  the San Francisco Opera Chorus (for 12 years,) the Sonoma County Bach Choir, and the Santa Rosa Symphonic Chorus. She first heard classical music on the radio, finding it “beautiful,” she says. She joined the high school choir in her hometown of Atlanta, and majored in music at an Ohio college, which included a year studying voice at the Mozarteum Conservatory of Music in Austria. She has also performed in numerous musicals throughout Sonoma County, her home for the past 32 years.

Brooks refers to opera as “the Olympics of singing,” because of its difficulty. She finds it challenging, requiring more training, but adds, “I love it and do it well. You have to follow the music in classical, while in jazz you can change it up and pretty much do anything you want. I feel a lot less confined, a lot freer. That’s more of the type of person I am.”

Though she didn’t sing jazz or even listen to jazz vocalists when young, she says, “I ripened into it. Jazz singers get better with age. Older people can relate to the lyrics better.”

Since 2010, the Occidental Center for the Arts has provided an accessible venue for the performing and visual arts. Their mission is to enrich the community by providing diverse cultural experiences that inspire, educate, and entertain. “I think they’ve done a beautiful job,” Brooks says. “It used to be a gym, and is now very welcoming. Their support for musicians in the community is great.”

She’s also excited about her new CD, “You Are the Song in Me,” co-produced with Simon. Information about that, and the voice lessons she provides, is available at bonniebrooksvoice.com.

 “I feel grateful for the love that’s been in my life,” Brooks says. “When you’re feeling love, your heart is open, you’re vulnerable, and able to take in all the different emotions and give them out. I touch people and open their hearts. That’s the point of singing for me.”