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Photo: S.van Kerkhoff, 2002.
music, composing, directing, teaching, New Zealand (U.S.A).
I was born in Brooklyn, New York, of Italian background. My father's family was from Naples and the Island of Ischia, and my mother's family was from the hills around Naples.
I started singing at the age of four in my maternal grandparents' pizza house. I sang in both Italian and English, for nickels (5 cents) and dimes (10 cents). When I was 16, our family left New York for California, where I met Russell. He wrote my arrangements for a night club act - two shows a night.
My professional name was Jeanne Valentine and I sang standards with in-house bands, which were usually a trio of piano, bass and drums in those days. I was a natural coloratura, with a voice of three octaves, but mostly focused on using my lower (alto) register.
Gradually, I got into recording for publishers and doing radio shows. This was mostly because, after my marriage to Russell, who had two young children, I didn't enjoy being on the road and away from our family. I still do lots of singing, I just don't get paid with money. I am paid with what I call perqs' (perquisites) that make you feel good inside; for example, the loving look or sudden hug of a child.
Russell and I shared an interest in philosophy and spiritual studies. Our daughter's ballet teacher gave Russell a Bahá'í book (Baha'u'llah and the New Era). He became intrigued and went to a fireside to show the Bahá´ís where they were wrong. He came home at 3 a.m. I had arrived home at 2 a.m. and wondered, "What kind of a religion is this?" I changed my night off so I could go to the next fireside with him. We both studied the Faith for the next nine months. It took a while for us to "empty our cups".
We had studied many religions, philosophies, semantics and mystical paths, and although we had found truth everywhere, Bahá´í had it all rolled into one. We became Bahá'ís in 1955. A week later, we started our weekly firesides, which became an accepted place for people to bring their friends. An average evening would attract around 60 to 90 guests. Our largest fireside of 200 was when we had Hand of the Cause, William Sears, speaking.
...more to come....
Some of Russ and Gina's CDs
Arts Dialogue, Dintel 20, NL 7333 MC, Apeldoorn, The Netherlands