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Pianist happy to pay homage to ‘Purple Rain’

By From page B1 | July 04, 2014

FAIRFIELD — Victoria Theodore’s first concert experience was seeing Prince.

Next weekend, the Bay Area native will stop in Vallejo for a show celebrating the 30th anniversary of Prince’s “Purple Rain.”

“It’s incredible to get to perform music that was so seminal to me,” she said.

The gig is even more meaningful for her with Dr. Fink, Prince’s original keyboardist, slated to be part of the celebration.

Her favorite “Purple Rain” tune is the title track. It’s passionate, moving and encapsulates the feeling of angst, she said.

Theodore knew music was in her future when she saw Andre Watts perform. She left the show knowing she wanted to do the same thing, she said.

“My mother tells me I had a toy piano when I was 2 and I played it all the time,” she said. “I don’t remember it. But I remember going to my grandparent’s (house) to play on their piano.”

In her teen years, she studied piano and voice in the University of California, Berkeley’s Young Musicians Program and sang with the Oakland Youth Chorus.

Theodore earned bachelor’s degrees in music and classical piano performance from Oberlin College. She earned her master’s in classical piano performance from Stanford University.

In 2007, she was hired to play with Stevie Wonder. The first show with him was in Santa Barbara, six days after she was hired.

She faced the daunting task head on.

“I don’t get scared, I get excited,” she said of being under pressure.

Her biggest challenge was staying focused while playing with such a legend. Getting into the performance and then going into fan mode could have had disastrous results, she said.

Theodore played with Wonder until she was hired last year to be part of The Posse, the house musicians for “The Arsenio Hall Show.”

The show was cancelled in May, providing her with free time to work on a record.

She’s got 11 songs and one that’s a work in progress. She plans to launch it on PledgeMusic, an online music platform that facilitates musicians reaching out to their fan base to pre-sell, market and distribute music projects. The fact that it’s run by musicians sold her, she said.

Theodore is enjoying the freedom of not having a steady gig.

“I’ve always been a support person,” she said. “I am accustomed to doing what I need to do to give that person what they need. I give 150 percent of my effort. When you keep expanding to that level, it doesn’t leave you any energy to work on your own project.”

While 2013 was a pretty exciting year for Theodore as it began with performances at two presidential inauguration events, 2014 is on track to beat it, she said.

Working on “The Arsenio Hall Show” gave her the chance to meet Prince, Earth Wind and Fire and Gloria Estefan.

“There were so many amazing musicians (on the show). Many of them performed with us and we were able to create incredible music,” she said.

Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.

  • 30th Anniversary of Purple Rain: A Prince Tribute
  • 8 p.m. July 12
  • Empress Theatre, 330 Virginia St., Vallejo
  • 552-2400
  • www.empresstheatre.org
  • ww.vtmusicworks.com
Amy Maginnis-Honey

Amy Maginnis-Honey

Amy Maginnis-Honey joined the staff of the Daily Republic in 1980. She’ll tell you she was only 3 at the time. Over the past three decades she’s done a variety of jobs in the newsroom. Today, she covers arts and entertainment and writes for the Living and news pages.
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