GINA LENEÉ - the LONG story...
It's a great gift to be blessed with musical talent, but even more important than the talent is what one does with it. Some people are oblivious to it, never awakening to its presence. Others squander it with little or no aspiration beyond the obvious. Then there are those who recognize it, tap into it, and use their gifts to make the world a better place, harnessing their talent to help others. Pianist Gina Leneé is one such musician. As her career, both performing and recording, has blossomed, she has used her success as a force for good, in the support of many causes, including donating proceeds to further these causes which are near and dear to heart. Hers is the noblest of aspirations, or as she eloquently puts it "…I've always had the desire for my music to be more than entertainment or background ambiance. I look for opportunities to make a difference using my music."
Gina's story begins in the small town of Madera, California. Hers was a household filled with music, as her father was a musician, he and her mother sang, and her brother (four years older than Gina) was taking piano lessons. Gina was drawn to the piano at only four years old, sitting down at the keys and taking to it with incredible ease. Playing songs by ear came to her like swimming does to a fish. Of course, her parents had her taking formal lessons, but it was soon apparent that learning to read music (which, to this day, she composes without writing down notation and also does not read music either) and committing the classics to memory was not in her future. Gina's flair for playing songs heard on the radio kept growing, but she also began to play from her heart, music which was birthed inside of her as she experienced life. However, there was more to it than that. As Gina explains "As a child, I was…shy and speech was difficult for me. When I met my piano, my new 'best friend,' the music just came. It was the language I could speak, giving meaning to what was in my heart and mind."
While music had been a passion for Gina as well as a source of solace, it wasn't until later in her life that her focus turned to actually recording her music, and even then, it was more serendipitous than overtly planned. "When I was expecting my daughters, I played the piano every day, and wrote a special song for each of them. Several years later I decided to record those songs, along with a few others I had written. I really had only planned on doing one recording, something I could give to them as a keepsake. Once family and friends knew I was going to record a CD, I was surprised and excited to hear that they also wanted a copy. A very dear friend of mine, Jeff Hall, owned a local recording studio [and] He accepted my very limited budget to spend on recording and added a whole lot of compassion and charitable goodwill to help out a single mom, and helped put together my first CD. A sweet friend did the graphic design as a gift, and that's how my first CD From the Heart became the beginning of a music career I only dreamed about."
Now, seven albums into her career (her most recent, Red Diamonds, produced by legendary guitarist and founder of Windham Hill Records, Will Ackerman and Tom Eaton at Imaginary Road Studios), Gina's success hasn't not changed her humility one bit "I'm still humbled every time someone tells me they like my music. I'm still blown away that someone will buy my CD or pay to attend one of my concerts. It's a big deal to me and I'm so appreciative."
With her daughters grown up, Gina plans to turn her 1935 art deco fixer-upper into a house venue that she hopes will bring artists of all kinds to share their passion; music, visual and performing arts. Asked what else, besides music, brings her pleasure, Gina responds "I savor the simple things in life, like a cup of great coffee or watching the sky change color at sunset. I also love stand-up comedy and listening to the blues."
However, Gina's music is undoubtedly her raison d'etre. "I know just how fortunate I am to be able to focus on my music full time. I am also very involved with our community and I love when I can combine my music along with raising awareness and funds for organizations that deserve a voice. It's important for my music to extend beyond entertainment. I appreciate opportunities to work with other musicians who also want to make an impact, from inspiring young people to pursue their musical dreams, to spreading a message of unity through the international language of music." Clearly, Gina Leneé is one of those special musicians who use their musical gifts to make the world a better place. Put more simply, she gets it.