The many benefits of living in the Conejo Valley include the numerous talented musicians that deliver top quality performances, treating locals to A-list music without ever having to leave town. Jazz vocalists Bonnie Bowden, Lola Haag and Daniela Spagnola—a few of the area’s favorite performers—share a little about their love of Jazz. Be sure to catch their upcoming performances this summer.
“Professional singing has been my lifetime passion,” says Bonnie Bowden, who started singing at age 3.
“I have sung all my life,” she says, naming greats Doris Day, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Jackie Wilson, Brenda Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, Gene Pitney and Sarah Vaughn with inspiring her love of music.
While none of her family members sang or played instruments, music played a big part in Bonnie’s childhood.
“My parents loved music. The radio was on all day every day,” she recalls. “When I was 3 years old, my parents discovered I was memorizing every song I heard and singing along with Pop, Rock ‘n Roll, Broadway, Classical and Jazz. I would gladly put on an impromptu show for anyone who would listen… anywhere… anytime… whether it be in our living room for my parents’ friends, or in a department store or in a restaurant for complete strangers,” laughs Bonnie, who regularly sings in the Conejo Valley, with two upcoming performances scheduled for next month:
- Friday, August 11, 7 p.m. in Westlake Village (WLV.org/index.aspx?NID=228)
- Sunday, August 27, at Gardens of the World (GardensoftheWorld.info).
Bonnie describes her love of singing by quoting one of her idols, Ella Fitzgerald: “The only thing better than singing is… more singing!” Bonnie adds, “When I’m singing, I go to another world. I’m up in the clouds and it feels too marvelous for words.”
Bonnie is especially proud of her debut performance of Doris Day’s hits at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert earlier this year. Arranged and composed by the late Jonathan Charles, the movie hits were adapted to big band orchestra charts especially for Bonnie.
“He made it possible for my debut to portray Doris,” says Bonnie. “Little did I know those arrangements would be Jonathan’s last work. He passed suddenly in December 2016. I will be eternally grateful to Jonathan, his wife Maureen and his best friend Ken Gruberman for their kindness and generosity.”
Bonnie believes anything is possible, as Walt Disney said: “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” She tells aspiring musicians that success is found in passion.
“To be a survivor in this crazy business of music, one must love performing above all else.”
“I always sang. It gave me joy, emotional release and escape,” says Lola Haag, who sang everything from church hymns to the great WWII era classics, from Elvis’ rockabilly to Dean Martin’s crooning and Barbra Streisand’s soaring soprano.
“No singer, male or female, was safe from me belting along with them. I was especially interested in lyrics and their meaning, as much as I am today. I just loved to sing and I loved language, so I wanted to be an English teacher,” says Lola.
While her public singing career began in church, singing “Oh Holy Night” on Christmas Eve at age 14, Lola decided to become a wife and mom, earning a Master’s degree in Science and becoming a licensed psychotherapist before returning to the stage as an adult.
“I was still itching to perform,” she recalls, and she began acting in theater productions, from Anna in “The King & I” to Mama Rose in “Gypsy” and dozens more. “But I longed to step out from behind the characters I played and perform as myself in Jazz,” she says.
Today, Lola holds the title “Best Jazz Vocalist in Ventura County” by the Ventura County Music Awards for the past two years and was recently nominated for a third year as “Best Jazz Vocalist” and “Best Female Entertainer” for 2017.
Her seven bestselling Jazz albums have received worldwide acclaim and are played in more than 75 countries!
Lola & The Back-Beats perform regularly, entertaining crowds with her unique blend of Blues, Jazz, Contemporary and timeless classics, “reminiscent of the classy days of the nightclubs of a bygone era,” says the Los Angeles Times.
Catch Lola next month at Bogie’s on Tuesday, August 8, 7:30 p.m. and online at LolaHaag.com.
Growing up in a family of musicians, Daniela Spagnolo learned to love music at a young age.
“There was always music in my house—musicians coming over to rehearse and Italian music on the radio,” says Daniela, whose father sang and played guitar as part of “The Strolling Troubadors.” “I fell in love with beautiful melodies!”
When she was 7, her parents bought a piano and Daniela discovered a passion that would lead into her college years.
“As soon as my fingers touched the keys, I was taken into a world that I knew I never wanted to leave,” recalls Daniela. “I began taking piano lessons, and that continued into college where I got in as a piano major, then switched to voice.”
Daniela also credits her high school teachers at East High School in Rochester, New York, with helping shape her musical career.
“I’ve been extremely lucky in having been educated and mentored by some of the most brilliant and loving people I have ever met,” she says, recalling her music teacher, Ed Fleming, “a father figure and friend” who taught her “not to settle for mediocrity.” Her drama teacher, Marty May, piano teacher Caroline Norwood and bass player/trombonist Lester Bass all played big parts in Daniela’s life. Seeing Ella Fitzgerald’s performance at the Newport Jazz Festival inspired Daniela’s love of Jazz.
“I had never heard Jazz that way before; the way she expressed it. She was vulnerable, humble, joyful and sang with her entire being,” remembers Daniela. “She gave everything away! After seeing and hearing her, I began to pursue Jazz and have never stopped.”
Enjoying the freedom that comes with being a musician, Daniela performs Jazz throughout the Conejo Valley, recently performing at Bogie’s in Westlake Village. Proud of her “Daniela Sings” CD, considered for a Grammy for best vocal album, she humbly identifies with Albert Einstein: “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”
She advises others interested in pursuing a musical career to be true to themselves.
“Believe in yourself, you are one of a kind!” she encourages, adding, “Trust that your authenticity has incredible value!”
Find Daniela’s upcoming performances at Daniela-Sings.com.