Photo credit: Tony Gaines
Theresa Grayson has had a love affair with music for as far back as she can remember.
An accomplished saxophonist, she was nominated by Black Women in Jazz as ‘Best Up and Coming New Artist’ in 2014 and has received ‘Best Album’ and ‘Best Saxophonist’ nominations by the same
group for 2015.
With the debut of her first CD, “It’s All About You,” released in 2010 and second CD, “Live2Love” in 2013, Grayson has proven her versatility as a vocalist, songwriter and musician and captivated audiences with her sultry, smooth and melodic sounds.
Her years of preparation under the tutelage of some of the best music instructors in Texas, among them the legendary Shirley Joiner, Chuck Nolan, Dr. Woody Witt and Dr. Rod Cannon, set the stage for a girl raised on the south side of Houston to soon make a name for herself on a national scale.
For Grayson, it all began at the age of 4, when her mother enrolled her in piano lessons. She soon expanded her musical talents to include the range of woodwind instruments and guitar, before being introduced to the saxophone at age 8.
“I just fell in love with the saxophone and thought it was the best instrument on the planet and began to really study the instrument and other artists who were playing it,” said Grayson.
Grayson began playing the saxophone in church and other venues and incorporated a gospel flavor into her performances as she developed her own unique sound.
The Tyler Texas-born native has been inspired by the musical genius of Kirk Whalum, Marion Meadows, Ronnie Laws, Kyle Turner, and her mentor, Dean Jones.
“To work with other saxophone players that are so prominent and so accomplished and to get their respect is amazing,” said Grayson.
She also has drawn inspiration from jazz legends Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Stan Getz and Grover Washington, Jr. to name a few.
In continual pursuit of musical knowledge and education, Grayson earned a degree in music performance and jazz studies and went on to earn master’s degrees with a concentration in music education and leadership.
As a music teacher and professional musician, Grayson is living the best of both worlds, but admits that her journey has not been without challenges.
“It has been a rocky road, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” said Grayson.
“The greatest challenge was just acceptance, because I knew that God had given me a gift, it was just a matter of developing it and marketing it. But also just a rocky road of being accepted as an African American female saxophone player,” says Grayson.
In a male-dominated industry, Grayson had to produce and continually fine-tune her skills.
Grayson rose to the challenge and honed her musical skills, going back to school, obtaining her jazz studies degree and taking musical theory classes.
Today, when she takes to the stage her primary focus is to inspire and empower the audience. Not only does she perform Jazz, she also incorporates calypso, classical, gospel, rhythm and blues, latin and pop musical selections into her performances.
“My music is a reflection of my heart. The melodies I play are the steps of my own experiences. My desire is to touch a special place in the listener’s heart and create a warm feeling of peace and happiness. I want the listener to leave smiling, knowing that this was more than a concert, it was a life experience.” says Grayson.
Grayson encourages others to follow their dreams, and calls faith and perseverance essential to success.
“My message to any woman out there striving to accomplish her goals – you have to have a strong amount of faith and be steadfast and persevere through the challenges, and you will make it,” says Grayson.
Along with the longstanding support of her parents, she credits manager Hakim Bey for having the greatest impact on her life and with orchestrating a pivotal turn in her career.
“When we met a few years ago, he saw me on stage performing and said ‘Why are you here?’ And from that point we developed a relationship that has been amazing,” says Grayson.
“He has been my greatest supporter and I wouldn’t be where I am right now in my career without him. I feel like I have made some astounding accomplishments, but I am not quite where I want to be, but we are seeking to get there – and we are going to get there,” said Grayson.
With plans to expand her reach to a national audience, Grayson is excited about the future and focused on the upcoming
release of her Holiday CD “My Favorite Things.”
She also has completed work on another CD project, called “World Blue” set for release in 2015, shares Grayson, who will be accompanied on the CD by several special guest artists.
The CD also will feature a rendition of “We Are The World” in celebration of the iconic song’s 30th anniversary,” shares Grayson in a special sneak peek look at her upcoming project.
The talented artist also provides an inside look at the creative process of producing a CD.
“When I am writing, producing or practicing, I am thinking about how I want to express this note or this feeling to my audience,” says Grayson.
“You have to spend some one-on-one time with your music and your thoughts. There have been times when God has awakened me up from a dream with a thought or something that I want to convey on a CD,” shares Grayson.
Terence Fisher has produced each of her projects. Her sophomore CD “Live2Love”, under the L2L Record Label, has met with rave reviews and was less personal inspiration and more a cover compilation of chart-topping songs, such as “Sarah Smile”, “It Never Rains in Southern California” and “Smooth Operator”.
On the last leg of her Live2Love Tour, Grayson recently performed as headliner for Organo Gold’s International Convention in St. Louis, Mo. before returning to Texas to treat fans to a free concert in Sugar Land Town Square. She also recently performed at Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church Pastor’s Appreciation on Oct. 25.
For more information on future projects and performances of this rising star, visit www.theresagrayson.com.