Sandra Marlowe is the featured singer for the first concert

Published in the October 3 – 16, 2018 issue of Gilroy Life

Photo courtesy South Valley Symphony
Sandra Marlowe will perform hits from the silver screen with the South Valley Symphony Oct. 13.

Get ready for “A Night at the Oscars” Oct. 13 at Gavilan College Theater. The divine diva Sandra Marlowe returns to South Valley for a performance featuring music from the movies — and more. The singer known throughout the Bay Area for her smooth jazz voice, will be the featured soloist at the South Valley Symphony’s opening concert.

Now a resident of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Marlowe will make a homecoming trip this month to perform with the SVS orchestra music from popular tunes from the swing era as well as songs featured in film.

“I am delighted and honored to be singing with the South Valley Symphony, which is an iconic organization that I know from the many years I lived in Gilroy and worked in Morgan Hill,” she said in a telephone interview. “They had invited me about a year ago to be part of their season this year, and at the time I didn’t know I would be in the process of relocation. I did commit to the show and I’m so delighted to be coming back.”

The “Night at the Oscars” concert opens the symphony’s 45th season. Marlowe encourages people attending to dress up om Academy Award-style fashion dresses or tuxedos to get into the spirit of attending the show honoring Hollywood’s yesteryears.

“I think it would be great,” she said. “I have been out roaming the wilds of Idaho where I live now looking for an appropriate outfit. But I have a great pair of shoes.”

Planned for performance are “The Star-Spangled Banner” (a SVS tradition of opening every season with a patriotic flair), “West Side Story” Medley (in honor of Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday year), famed composer John Williams’ “Adventures on Earth” from “E.T.”, Glazunov’s “The Seasons: Autumn,” “A Tribute to Walt Disney,” Elmer Bernstein’s rousing theme from the western “The Magnificent Seven,” and Richard Strauss’s waltz made famous in the Stanley Kubrick film “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

“The symphony had a composer who added some strings to three of the swing arrangements … so it will pull in musicians from the symphony to do the big band thing,” Marlowe said. “It’s a new deal for the symphony to be exploring some exciting possibilities and including swing and jazz as part of the big picture of American music.”

Until she moved recently to Idaho, Marlowe lived in Gilroy for 22 years and taught in the community at the Music Academy. She also privately instructed music at Morgan Hill’s St. John the Divine Episcopal to junior high and high school students as well as young professional singers.

Born into a family of singers, musicians and poets on the rural plains of North Dakota, Marlowe’s solo career began at the tender age of six with a shy, but righteous rendition of “Do, Lord!” before an old-time, revival meeting congregation. A keen ear and a kernel of talent led to years of study, both academic and private, in voice, piano, opera, acting, drama, dance, composition and musicianship.

While a student at De Anza College and San Jose State University, she performed with San Jose Community Opera Theatre. Marlowe credits much of her interpretative and performing style to five years of intense study with legendary vocal coach Judy Davis, whose A-list of former students included Frank Sinatra, Barbara Streisand, and Janice Joplin.

Marlowe has embraced a lifelong love for big band and swing music. She has appeared at festivals on both East and West coasts with the Los Angeles-based “Avalon Cats” swing band. Marlowe has also been a featured singer with South Bay Swing Band, a 17-piece traditional big band working California’s Bay Area and Central Coast. She recorded a CD titled “Uptown Stomp” with them.

Creative curiosity has led Marlowe to explore the realm of jazz, improvisation, arranging and composition with studies at the California Jazz Conservatory in Berkeley.  She has taken master classes with renowned vocalists/educators Kitty Margolis, Rhiannon, Bobbe Norris, Laurie Antonioli and Theo Bleckmann and celebrated producer/arranger Frank Martin.

Marlowe released her debut jazz CD “True Blue” in July 2012, co-producing with acclaimed pianist Larry Dunlap who crafted sumptuous arrangements and directed Bay Area A-list musicians on the CD to complement a songstress whose adventurous life embodies the art of reinvention, while her songs honor the integrity and deep legacy of the Great American songbook. Marlowe appeared at San Jose Jazz Summer Festival in August 2012 in a release concert.

“I moved on to doing professional (singing) work probably a little later than most people because I was working full time at the same time,” she said. “I was working in aerospace as a day job. Singers usually have to have a day job.”

She enjoys exploring improvisation because it opens up opportunities to discover interesting new directions where the music might move the performer.

“When you sing classically, you’re pretty much singing whatever is on the page,” she said. “And as you develop more improvisational skills, you’re working in a structure but you’re exploring creatively outside of what is written — and I love that.”

She encourages families who have never attended a symphonic concert to attend the South Valley Symphony’s opening season concert because it is a fun introduction to hear live music they’ll be familiar with from the film industry.

“I just think it’s going to be fun. I think people have an image when they hear orchestra and symphony — those words — that it’s going to be stuffy or something they’re not going to understand,” Marlowe said.

“Surprisingly, when I’ve done gigs and there happens to be young people at the venue which are family friendly, the kids are usually fascinated because they’re hearing things and their brains and their ears are taking this in as something new,” she said. “It’s not just the rap or the hip-hop that they’re hearing all the time as a backdrop to their lives. Any time that you hand them something like that, young people are usually pretty fascinated.”

SVS music director and conductor Anthony Quartuccio is excited to create an amazing experience for the audience with Marlowe’s solo performance at the October concert.

“She just brings so much star quality to the stage,” he said. “I’ve just got to say, people are going to be truly entertained by her impressive singing voice and fun way of interacting with the audience and the musicians. Sandra is truly a treat I encourage people who enjoy good music to experience.”

Marlowe looks forward to returning to the South Valley and joining up with her friends here, many who are buying tickets for the concert, she said.

“The South Valley Symphony is a wonderful organization and the fact they’ve been around for 45 years is quite a testament to survival and really trying to promote arts in the community,” she said. “I’m really honored that they invited me to do this show.”