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Perpetual Change — Vicki D’Salle

| Nov 17, 2008
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Vicki D’Salle is the type of artist who can expand her musical horizon without going too far afield from her chosen genre’. As a musician, she’s developed a repertoire based around a jazzy piano style, which also includes healthy doses of boogie and more melodic playing. Her set contains everything from standards to original material.

She works solo, and with other artists. My Heart’s In New Orleans is her first CD release, which came out a few years ago. She was originally featured here back in 2005, and was gracious enough to submit to this update interview. Vicki D’Salle is definitely someone who personifies the term “working musician.” What follows is a brief conversation with Vicki about her career and her thoughts on the transgendered experience.

Vicki D’SalleTGForum: Our last interview was September of 2005. Are you still working with a trio? I know you still perform solo, so how often do you work with a small group?

Vicki: My work is divided into solo work, duets with two different female vocalists, duets with either upright bass or drums, a trio with piano, upright bass and drums, and two quartets. One is the trio plus tenor sax, and another with electric guitar, electric bass, drums, and myself.

TGF: You live in Cincinnati, right?

Vicki: Yes, I’m living in greater Cincinnati, on the border of Kentucky and Indiana.

TGF: I saw from your web site that you do a lot of gigs in Kentucky as well. Have you been traveling more?

Vicki: A little bit more. In the states, between Atlanta, St. Louis, Memphis, and Washington D.C., and also in Europe.

TGF: Speaking of traveling, you did mention Europe in our last interview. When did you perform there last, and in what countries?

Vicki: I was in Paris this past March, performing with a group I work with on an annual basis. We recorded an album at that time, and I’ll be heading back there in October to play a two day festival in Normandy.

TGF: Given the increased airport security and just the hassle of air travel in general, how difficult do you think such a trip would be now for a transgender performer?

Vicki: All the work I do overseas in boy mode. I hear many accounts of hassle-free traveling for transgender folks, though.

TGF: In our last interview, and in the one posted on your site, you talk about singing in your natural voice. What kind of vocal exercises/rehearsal do you do to keep it sounding as feminine as it does?

Vicki: I don’t know that my voice sounds particularly feminine. I think it sits in the middle, like a higher register male voice or a lower register female voice. I don’t do any exercises, I just get in a certain mind set with pronunciations, phrasing and approach. A feminine voice is more lilting than a male voice.

TGF: The vocal tunes from your CD My Heart’s In New Orleans, are If It Don’t Fit, TV Mama, Stormy Weather, Shave ‘Em Dry, and Let The Good Times Roll. This makes the CD 5 tunes instrumental and 5 tunes vocal. I’m assuming that you perform all these tunes live, but how many other vocals do you do at a gig?

Vicki D’SalleVicki: No matter what I’m doing, I mix up vocals and instrumentals. Some performances are all instrumental. It just depends on the nature of the situation.

TGF: If you had a choice between doing an all vocal, or an all instrumental album, which would it be and why?

Vicki: I wouldn’t do all one or the other. For me, a mix of the two is the kind of recording I like to make.

TGF: Musically (stylistically) have you changed any?

Vicki: I’m getting a bit better at playing stride piano, which is a little bit like ragtime in the left hand. I still shift gears from gig to gig while staying true to a stylistic way of playing that I’ve developed. I might play a little blues joint, then play at the art museum, then play at concerts overseas, then play for a small group of senior citizens. It’s all different and I love it all…playing in these different situations lets me exercise certain approaches and repertoires I’ve developed through the years.

TGF: Any plans for another CD?

Vicki: I’ve been making CDs all along as my male self, but alas, no Vicki release since My Heart’s In New Orleans.

TGF: Future plans in general?

Vicki: I just plan to continue to work hard and seize opportunities, and through that, everything seems to happen on its own.

TGF: In the other interview, you make it clear that you have no desire to transition. This brings up some interesting thoughts. Do you feel there is sometimes too much pressure for people within the community, from people withing the community, to do so?

Vicki: I personally don’t see or have felt pressure to transition within the TG community. It’s very flattering if someone assumes you’re full-time or you’re transitioning, but transitioning is a very personal decision that has everything to do with your natural feelings. One can’t be badgered into making such steps. I have a very close friend who earlier this year told me of her plans to transition. I always felt that she and I were sitting in the same place with our approach to being transgendered, viewing it as a bit of an art form, to make this aspect of our personalities an attractive image. Hearing this news from her really made me stop and check myself. Was I myself living a lie, and not being honest with myself about my identity and who I really was? After several days of contemplation, I realized I am where I am meant to be, and not in fact living a lie. Life is interesting, though. Who knows what the future might bring? What if the circumstances of my life change and I find myself leaning more in a female direction? At that point, I’ll go with whatever my heart tells me and what nature dictates.

TGF: When you look at the transgender community as a whole, what do you see, what are your impressions?

Vicki: I see the whole gamut, from those of us who are well-adjusted, those who are blossoming, those who are struggling. The TG world is a complex world.

TGF: If you had just one thing to say to the trans community, what would it be?

Vicki: Do your thing!

TGF: Any advice to the musicians out there?

Vicki: Love what you do, and believe in the spirituality of music.

TGF: Any final thoughts?

Vicki: Nothing I can think of right now, but thanks for thinking of me!

To order Vicki’s CD and to find out more about her, please go to her website.

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Category: Music, Transgender Fun & Entertainment

Pam Degroff

About the Author ()

Pamela DeGroff been writing for TGForum since the start of 1999. Her humor column, The Pamela Principle, ran until 2005. She started the Perpetual Change music column in May of 1999, and in 2008, Angela Gardner came up with the idea for the Transvocalizers column and put Pam to work on that. Pamela was a regular contributor to Transgender Community News until that magazine's demise. While part of a support group in Nashville called The Tennessee Vals she began writing for their newsletter, and also wrote for several local GLBT alternative newspapers in Tennessee. Pamela is currently a staff reporter for a small town daily paper in Indiana, and is also a working musician.

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