When multi-talented pianist and keyboardist Victoria Theodore isn’t busy touring the world with legendary artists such as Beyonce or Stevie Wonder, you will most likely find her in the studio, directing or teaching. If you have the pleasure to listen to her album, Grateful, you will hear the soulful and authentic sound of someone who was born to do this. Keep reading to learn about where it all began and what she’s working on in 2017.
Interview and Photography by: Amina Touray
Artist: Victoria Theodore @victoriatheodoremusic
Stylist: Jes Lopez @_jeslopez
Makeup: Niehla @niehlao
Amina Touray: Please share your story with us and what is your earliest musical memory?
Victoria Theodore: My mother says I started piano at age 2, when I had a toy piano, and played with it more than any other toy. My earliest musical memory is standing at my grandparents piano, trying to figure out how to play the theme song from whatever TV show I’d just watched.
AT: You’re incredibly talented as a singer/pianist/keyboardist and artist. I’ve noticed that when you play the piano it’s like you become one with it. What are the feelings and thoughts that goes through your mind when you’re about to go on stage and how do you prepare for that moment ?
VT: When I’m about to perform, I focus on giving to my audience. I want the audience to have a memorable experience of beauty, emotion, inspiration and joy. I generally meditate, say a prayer of thanks, smile and then head to the stage, excited!
AT: You performed with Stevie Wonder for nearly 7 years. Tell us how that experience has been
for you ?
VT: Performing with Stevie Wonder was a dream come true. I grew up with his music, like so many people, and it became the soundtrack of my life. It is an honor to play such iconic songs with their creator. I loved every moment.
AT: What was the best thing about touring together with Stevie ?
VT: With Stevie, I never knew what he would do in a performance. Every show was different. That spontaneity, which was scary at first, became a thrill that I continue to love. Just being in the moment is beautiful.
AT: You’re classically trained and have a Bachelor degree in music, Bachelor of arts degree in classical piano and Master of Arts degree in classical piano. Who was your biggest musical inspiration growing up ?
VT: I have a Bachelor of Arts in Piano Performance and Computer Music, a Bachelor of Music in Music History, both from Oberlin College / Conservatory of Music, and a Master of Arts in Piano Performance from Stanford University. My biggest musical influences were Stevie Wonder, Andre Watts, Sting and Earth Wind & Fire. I’ve always loved pretty much all styles of music, but those artists in particular captured my ear and heart. Also, I had several incredible music teachers, many of whom I stay in contact with to this day. My teachers always held me to
the highest standards, and encouraged me in all that I did. Now I pass on that philosophy to my students.
AT: You recently got off tour with Beyonce. How was it like to work and tour with her ?
VT: The Formation World Tour was amazing! It was an all stadium tour, so the crowds were massive. We performed on stage next to the monolith: an innovative, high-tech structure that stood 7 stories high, and displayed images and rotated. It felt like being on another planet! I am so grateful that I was given the opportunity to be part of such a phenomenal artistic event.
AT: What learning experiences did you take with you from touring with her ?
VT: Beyoncé an exceptionally talented artist, and her work ethic is legendary. Observing her vision, focus, tenacity and graciousness was inspiring. We all worked a little harder, treated each other a little kinder, and pushed ourselves to higher levels of artistic excellence thanks to her example.
AT: When you first auditioned to be Beyonce’s keyboardist; you first didn’t know that it was her that you auditioned for. What was your reaction when you found out?
VT: I’ve been a Beyoncé fan since her first recordings, so I was super excited at the possibility of working for her.
AT: What can we expect from your debut album “Grateful”. What made you pick the name? And where can it be
VT: Grateful is a compilation of original songs that tell stories about life’s challenge and triumph. I have so much to be grateful for: incredible co-writers, an amazing co-producer, phenomenal musical peers from Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, Stevie Wonder’s band, the Arsenio Hall Posse 2.0 band, my longtime trio, who all joined me to record my music, a successful fundraising campaign that allowed me to record live musicians and compensate
them decently. “Grateful” just made sense as the title. “Grateful” is available online at Bandcamp, iTunes, Amazon, etc. I have some physical copies of the album, but I only sell those at House Concerts.
AT: What do you do when you’re off tour? describe a “normal” day in your life?
VT: Most days I try to wake up early enough to work out and get in at least 2-3 hours of practice. My boyfriend and I love going to jam sessions. Sometimes, it’s just the two of us at his studio. He’s an amazing musician, and we have lots of fun creating music!
AT: What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned?
VT: Kindness, consistency, tenacity and professionalism are more important than raw talent. I work really hard, but I also choose to treat everyone with kindness, and never play the “DIVA” role. The business is too small, and no one likes to work with flaky, rude, entitled, unprofessional people.
AT: What advice can you give to anyone that has a dream of being successful in their career ?
Whether it is as a pianist, an actor, a chef, designer, you name it. What should they keep in mind
when working towards their goal ?
VT: In order to succeed, you must be willing to fail. You must be able to hear “no”, and rethink your strategy (and maybe your goal) until you get a “yes”. Don’t give up, work hard, study the marketplace, find a way to distinguish yourself.
AT: What are some other unexpected things about you that we should know?
VT: I’m a hobbyist polyglot, chef and dancer. I love languages, food and dancing, and practice all 3 as much as I can…just for fun!
AT: What are you currently working on?
VT: I’m working on new music, teaching, music directing for musical theater, producing clients, performing on Noches Con Platanito on Estrella TV. I’ve got more house concerts coming up, and can hopefully put together another tour of my own music. I’ll also be doing more music directing for musical theater later in the year.