Perspectives of a Writer and Musician

Issues related to writing, publishing and playing jazz music: One man's muse.
by Al Stevens

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Location: Florida, United States

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Music and ventriloquism

It's been over two weeks since I posted here. Part of that time I'm getting over eye surgery and can't read or type for any length of time. That is going well, and I thank those of you who expressed concern.

The rest of that time I'm busy writing arrangements for a small dance band I've booked for New Year's Eve.

Music is a big part of my life. I remember fondly the dance bands in which I played piano and trumpet in high school. That was in the 1950s, and we played for sock hops, proms, PTA dances, church socials, community picnics, and so on. That was before DJs. Times were better then.

Remember the band in the movie, Picnic? That was the kind of band I played in as a teenager. Purple jackets, out-of-tune upright pianos, drummers who couldn't read music, a leader who could only wave a baton, which is how he got to be leader, those old stock arrangements, and on and on.

Whenever I hear Moonglow today, all I can think of is Kim Novak coming down those concrete stairs. Sigh. But, I digress...

My New Year's Eve gig this year needs to recapture that time. The patrons are from that era and before. Of course, they can't afford a 17-piece big band, so I'm trying to recreate the sound with six instrumentalists and a chick singer.

When I write an arrangement, I also record it, playing all the instruments myself. This allows me to hear whether I got the notes right. That might sound tedious, but it's really a lot of fun. Here's an example:

Click the Play button...

But, you ask, what does that have to do with ventriloquism?

Nothing at all.

But the gig is being held in a Holiday Inn Express. Really.

So, to get back on topic, I am proud to announce that I have been chosen to present a workshop at the 2007 Convention at VentHaven. My workshop is about how to use music as an integral part of a ventriloquist act.

Music has been closely associated with ventriloquism for as long as I can remember. Winch was a talented musician, and he and Jerry sang quite often on their TV shows. Danny O'Day had a beautiful falsetto voice with vocal phrasing that brings to mind jazz singers of the day. Shari Lewis used music as does Willie Tyler.

Bill DeMar plays the banjo. I bet you didn't know that.

Pete Michaels does Pavarotti and Sonny and Cher. Stephen Knowles does Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson.

Many ventriloquists who are not also musicians do not know how to employ music in their shows, and if they do, they don't know how to acquire and include professional accompaniments for their shows. Many don't know how to use entrance, interlude, exit and background music. Or where to get suitable audio clips for such purposes.

My workshop addresses those questions and answers questions about the legal side of a musical show—copyrights, royalties, performance licenses, and so on.

Of course, I'll use some of my own figures to demonstrate how I and other ventriloquists use my own compositions and recordings during our shows.

If there is a music-related subject you'd like me to address, please let me know.


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