“I believe that music can affect, enhance, stimulate and inspire our state of being: our days, our lives, our thoughts and feelings, our physical well-being, and even our Special Events.” – Valerie Romanoff
Valerie Romanoff, Co-Founder, CEO and executive producer of Starlight Orchestra, is the driving force behind the company. Whether Her talent and drive have allowed her to not only direct and manage the Orchestra, but also compose original music, collaborate with singer and songwriters across the country. Valerie’s passion lies in creating unique and memorable experiences using music. She plays lead guitar and loves to travel the world. Through her record company, Valrock Music, Valerie has composed and produced four successful CD’s. These include music composed and produced for meditation and yoga and are currently played on satellite and radio’s all around the country. We asked Valerie a few questions about her start in music, her beginnings with the orchestra, and what she has planned for the rest of 2014. Enjoy!
Entertwine: How long have you been into music and the music industry?
Valerie Romanoff: I have always been a musician, a writer and into the creative arts. My earliest memory is sitting at my grandmother’s piano picking out melodies to songs I knew. It was one of those driving currents that become an identity before you even “think” it.
When I was about 8 years old, I remember exploring in my friend’s attic and finding her father’s old bugle. I picked it up and found that I could blow a nice tone on it. After that I totally wanted to play the trumpet in school, but the band director said (famous last words) “trumpet isn’t for girls.” Throughout the following years I played the trumpet (well!), the clarinet, the flute, piano, then the viola and French horn. I fell in love with the electric guitar and it became my main instrument from then on. When the Jackson 5 came out with “ABC”, my friends and I started our first band, although we could barely play the riffs. During middle school and high school I formed a few bands, playing a lot of rock as well as some fusion and jazz. However, I found another passion in the mid 70’s; funk and soul. It turned out that I had a natural affinity for those types of rhythms, and the groove became the most important thing to me. I hung out in recording studios where deep disco records were being made, and I learned a ton about recording. Prince had just come out with his first album and I was inspired to learn to play all of the instruments myself, as he did. I then started my own home recording studio and began experimenting with “my sound.”
One day I was offered a gig with a band that played at weddings. As it seemed most wedding bands were thrown together and pretty mediocre, this group was doing something special, and I immediately became a part of it. Their main thrust was jazz standards and the danceable songs by the Bee Gees and Barry Manilow. R&B, funk and disco were just hitting the main stream, and over the next few years I brought a ton of that exciting new music into the band. I also found that I had a real talent for curating musical repertoire for different scenarios, and was able to tap into the energy of the crowd to determine what the next moment should be. This in itself became a study, a passion, and a life’s work!
We had a ball developing performances that would surprise and impress our clients, and over the next decade we took this medium to a very high level. We created our own niche of providing music for upscale events with budgets to support our production format. We were hired by many music industry professionals, celebrities, and sports teams and Starlight became a very successful top tier live music company in New York. We became known for “setting the bar” for higher caliber performances. at private events, Early in 2000 we decided to shoot for even larger events, and we developed a national following, flying to all the major cities for charity galas, political and corporate events as well as social functions.
ET: When did you assume the role of co-founder and CEO of Starlight Orchestra?
VR: While I cofounded Starlight Orchestras in 1990, I took over running the company on my own by 2003. In retrospect, I always saw my role as not only a provider of music, but as a creator of experiences. I have a very strong inner circle of creative directors and producers that collaborate on innovative ideas for live presentation. Starlight has become a community of talented individuals who put their efforts toward uplifting our audiences.
ET: In one or two sentences, how would you describe Starlight Orchestra to those who might not be unfamiliar to this type of group?
VR: There is really nothing like Starlight. It is a concept and a cast; it is an experiment in how good something can be in a most unlikely venue. Not only is our ensemble so great (great band, great singers, great performers, great repertoire), but the real strength lies in our ability to create the playlist IN MOTION while the event is underway by tapping into the energy of the crowd and working with the timeline of the event. We call this “the Art of Energy Flow.”
Having (or being) a great band is not enough to make an outstanding party, you must know how to create the next moment, and segue way seamlessly from moment to moment based on the vibe or mood you want to create. It is completely geared toward creating experiences and inspiring audiences. Thus the skillset needed is multi-faceted. That’s why I really mean that there is nothing like Starlight. We train as a group, we study and we share our ideas. It is a very specific art form, and we devote our lives to it.
ET: On the side, it seems as if you love to play music in your free time – but you have also composed AND produced 4 records as well. Can you tell us about one or two of these works?
VR: I have come to believe that music is the soul of life; it underscores, motivates and transforms us throughout our journey. I feel that parties are microcosms of life; there are several “states of being” that can be accessed or strengthened with the use of music. My original music projects run the gamut of styles, and I realized that our work at Starlight is really the same thing. It is all about inspiration and personal journey. It is about being uplifted and aided.
Besides music, my other passion has always been the inner journey, personal uplifting and enlightenment. It was only the past few years that I realized these two endeavors are completely connected, and everything I have been doing has come together so perfectly. I sat down one day in my recording studio and said a little prayer, and I asked to be an open channel to whatever music would come through me. I was expecting to write some funky riff and do a bluesy kind of thing, and start an album that would the basis for a new funk band project. How totally surprised I was when this very ethereal, peaceful, chill, soundscape started coming from my keyboard. Of course I went with it, as I know that everything we create is really a divine gift. The piece just flowed, and it was pretty and lush and even had some Middle Eastern sounding elements.
The next day I sat down again and I had the feeling that I was composing music to help people relax, go inward and connect with their inner selves on a deeper level. From there on, the next 7 tracks unfolded, and I composed “Healing Music For Massage, Meditation and Transformation.” I wanted to create music to not only help the “patient” relax on the table, but also to assist the therapists in tuning in to their own inner guidance.
It turned out that many people wound up using that album for Yoga as well as for deep relaxation. My dear friend of many years Tao Porchon-Lynch (a 96 year old Yoga master) began using my CD in her classes, and enjoyed putting the rhythm of Yoga to the rhythm of my music. I asked her to come to Sedona, Arizona and be part of the C.D. Release Show. I asked her to read her poetry on top of my music. She came, and it went so well, that she later asked me to compose music to underscore her own poetry, which would be part of a new book she was writing. That turned out to be fantastic project! I recorded Tao’s voice in my studio, composed music to her words, and then later mixed and mastered it at my friend Alex Salzman’s studio.
The following year, I took some choice phrases from all of Tao’s recordings, mixed them to be a “hook,” put music to it , and created a new “song” by me and Tao. It was called, “Om Shanti Shalom- May Peace Be Unto You,” I brought in producer Simon Vegas to help me come up with some new rhythmic elements.
I released an EP that had 4 different versions of the song; Right now that recording, as well as four cuts from the Healing music CD, is being played daily on Sirius XM Spa Channel! That’s pretty cool. Tom Rossi has been another collaborating friend, and we have recorded some great sounds together. Tony Aiello is my longtime friend and reeds player, he has been part of all of my projects from day 1. Collaborating with friends and making music together is one of the highest experiences.
The funny thing is that just the other day I sat down to compose something, and that funky bluesy song finally came to me. I am thinking that my next project might finally really be that new funk band!
ET: What can you tell us about your record company, Valrock Music?
VR: I created Valrock as a home for my own musical projects, and a way to talk about the Still, Chill, Thrill concept of using music as a transformational tool. Whether I’m creating the meditation music or creating romantic programs for wedding ceremonies, or even, grooving out with the upbeat dance music I infuse all of my projects with. There is always an intention to uplift, and an energy of joy and love.
ET: Is this a company that you’d be looking to sign anyone to?
VR: Not at the moment, although I do love creating musical community and bringing people together. It would be wonderful to expand that into the world of Valrock as I have done with Starlight.
ET: When you aren’t around music (which I am sure is rare), what do you do in your free time?
VR: I love to cook and entertain for family and friends, and often host holidays for over 20 people. I love being in Sedona, Arizona and go there as much as possible to recharge and recalibrate. I love paddle boarding and sailing, and am just now learning to windsurf. I love traveling and exploring other cultures. I love to create inviting moods and atmospheres in my home and garden. I love being in nature, I love the water, I love mountains and beaches and gardens and I love watching the sky in motion. I also love painting, and look forward to finding more time to developing that art form. I love being with my family and dear friends.
ET: This might be a very difficult or vague question (not sure which one), but what does music mean to you?
VR: Music is the dance of life, music is an ethereal thread that we glide upon from moment to moment. I believe music is a divine gift; musical sounds are heard in nature, are expressions of color and beauty and space. Sound and music move the molecules within us and around us, and thereby truly TRANSFORM us: our bodies, mind and spirit. Music is a wonder of our universe. I feel truly blessed to have my life be about music, and to create and share music as my life’s work. Thanks for that!!! Amen!
ET: What do you hope listeners gain from your music, whether it be from the orchestra or your own creations?
VR: My chiropractor friend Mark Filippi posted something that helped me define my musical world. He wrote, “Both of Valerie’s CD’s have been getting steady ‘air play’ here at Soma Space in Larchmont for months now. The best part of this “Vitamin V” stuff is that the songs are like an energetic xylophone that I can use to help clients get STILL, enjoy a CHILL, or find a THRILL vibe while we work on the table. I smile when I think of people finally tossing out that tired new-age stuff and letting Val’s tracks dance on their nerves. So whether you’re jet lagged, henpecked or just another poor sap stuck commuting to and from NYC, play this stuff & get a positive push!”
I loved how he coined the “Still, Chill, Thrill” phrase.
My passion is uplifting people through music. With my different projects, I hit that from the three different angles; listeners can dance and release and go wild with the up-tempo dance music we do (the “thrill” element). They can enjoy those “chill” grooves that we use to create ambiance and atmosphere.
Or they can use the meditation music to “Still” their minds and relax or find an inner connection. I find it really interesting that I chose a career where my job is to please as many people as possible at the same time!!! To try to find out what they like and present it to them. While I do that with Starlight (in the private event industry), it is the complete opposite with original music. You write as an expression of your creative impulse. You hope that people are drawn to it, but that is not what motivates you to create in the first place. You create because you are drawn to. I enjoy being a part of both worlds, both extremes of the music industry.
ET: What is next for you in 2014?
VR: Since the beginning of this year I have a renewed fascination with playing the guitar, and for bringing forth new music. I have been having an incredible time traveling with some touring bands, and making some great funk music, (Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band, for one, Li’Nard Jackson, ),“ learning from amazing musicians, and continuing to find “my sound.” I just wrote and recorded a new original song called “Focus on the Funk,” that really captures the essence of the music I am feeling, , and can’t wait to producing more music like this. I am going to be involved with the Sedona Yoga Festival in 2015, and I am very excited to bring some new music, as well as collaborate with Tao on music for some of her workshops. I am also beginning to develop a music festival that embodies the concepts I have been talking about… upliftment, music as a tool, a new form of collaborative entertainment, spreading love. I am experimenting with some interesting ideas, and it’s an amazing journey to see where it all leads. I have been involved in some of the musical projects of my dear friend Debra Barsha, who is an amazingly talented composer, writer and performer. I look forward to more of our collaboration with her and I also have a new “Healing Music” CD that is almost finished and I will release it sometime next year. Interestingly, I am part of a close group of women musicians that are all, in our own unique ways consciously using music for transformation; be it empowerment, inspiration, spreading the message of love. We are just starting to formulate a platform to share and talk about this work that we do. It is a very exciting undertaking, and I look forward to sharing more about it as it unfolds.. And lastly Starlight is in a new and exciting phase of growth and development, and I have the pleasure of working with my amazing team to produce performances for some incredible events. All these projects are filled with a vibrancy that makes every day an incredible and wondrous journey.