Take Five With Laura Ainsworth
I was born in Los Angeles but came to Dallas as a tot when my dad, jazz sax/clarinetist Billy Ainsworth, relocated to become a part of the growing commercial recording industry. Came up in the music biz (details to follow!). Graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a B.S. in Radio-TV-Film. Worked on staff and also as a freelance writer for jingle/broadcast services company TM Productions, where I met my husband-to- be, Pat Reeder. Together we write a syndicated topical humor service for radio stations called The Comedy Wire and also provide material for a produced, three- times-a-day radio show, The Huckabee Report. For most of that time, I've been writing and performing my own song parodies that have been heard on radio morning shows worldwide, performing in musical theater and clubs, and creating jazz musical revues and a show called Keep Young and Beautiful, about the obsession with youth and beauty that consumes our shallow little lives.
Until now, most of my work as a singer has gone out into the ether, but my debut CD, Keep It To Yourself, changes that!
Pat and I live between Dallas and Ft. Worth, with 16 very musical parrots.
Teachers and/or influences?
First would be my dad Billy Ainsworth, of course, not as a teacher but in introducing me to the world of classic big band jazz. (He started at age 17 in the sax section of the Tommy Dorsey band and through the years played with Freddy Martin, "Tex" Beneke and numerous others.) My earliest musical memories are of beloved albums by Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Mel Torme and Nat "King" Cole. Later, when my dad was in the Jerry Gray Orchestra at the Dallas Fairmont Venetian Room, I actually got to see him accompany some of these legends live, on "comp night" for band members' families! This was in an age when most kids were listening to rock and pop.
Of course, the aforementioned Miss Fitz and Peggy Lee were hugely influential, as well as Keely Smith, Lena Horne, Rosemary Clooney, Doris Day and Dinah Shore. (Another major influence, the young Judy Garland, will be discussed under "My Sound.") I've recently started appreciating Annette Hanshaw, in part because of her sense of humor, and Ruth Etting. More modern influences include Sade, Anita Baker, Anne Hampton Callaway (great singer known best for her TV theme for The Nanny), Mary Cleere Haran (how tragic that she passed away recently), and Maureen McGovern, whom I consider to be right up there at the top of the singer pyramid.
My dad did have one bias that admittedly held me back during my early years of singing. He was so afraid of me "overtraining" and ending up sounding too "legit" that he discouraged me from studying voice in my teens. My loss! It would've been better just to find the right teacher.
That said, as far as I'm concerned, the best voice teacher in the world for me is the one I finally found: Dr. Sam Germany, director of the music department at Cedar Valley College in Lancaster, Texas. I discovered him while appearing in a show he was directing at Family Music Theatre in Lancaster. His understanding of the female voice in all its incarnations is absolutely stunning. How does a man "get" that?
I'm also grateful to Betty Buckley for some insights that helped me with the recording of Keep It To Yourself. Overall, though, I've learned through experience that a teacher's own celebrity status and personal credits have little to do with his or her ability to teach voice in a productive way. Enough said.
I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
I knew by age six, when my sister and I used to go with our mom to see daddy at the recording studio. (We'd meet him there at the end of the day and then all go to dinner at the now-defunct Casa Dominguez in downtown Dallas.) I essentially grew up in a recording studio. Seeing the singers at work, even if it was just singing radio station call letters, was fascinating to me. Of course, there were always other things I wanted to be as a child, but music was the constant.