Ever since my parents bought me my first album, Barbra Streisand – Live at the Forum, I wanted to be a singer and an actress. I wanted to be on Broadway! Oh yes, I had high aspirations. In fact, if you ask anyone who knew me growing up, they would tell you they fully expected to see me on stage one day. Was I good enough? Perhaps. Perhaps not. But one thing is certain; I was determined. I wanted it so badly.
I grew up in the small town of Painted Post in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State, the oldest of nine children, six girls and three boys. My father was a school principal, my mother a nurse, and they were my biggest fans. They supported my “dream big” attitude and encouraged me in so many ways to pursue a musical career.
SOMETIMES FATE HAS OTHER IDEAS
After graduating from Nazareth College in Rochester, NY, my plan was to head to the Big Apple. With my degree in Spanish Education, I was determined to teach to make ends meet while awaiting my big break. In my senior year, however, I was offered a lucrative job in sales and marketing. With my eight siblings still at home waiting in the wings to attend college, suddenly, pursuing my dream seemed selfish. So I took the job. By putting my music career on hold, I was able to send money home for several years to help defray college expenses. It wasn’t an enormous sacrifice; it was simply the right thing to do for the people I loved.
So for a long time, it seemed my dream was not meant to be. I pushed forward in my marketing career, got married, and moved to Buffalo, NY. Soon I had three beautiful children. I settled into a life different from what I had planned, rich with love, laughter, and family. Music remained a big part of my life. Singing was like breathing. Being in front of an audience was exhilarating. Intoxicating. Immensely satisfying. For a long while, doing weekend gigs in clubs and local venues was enough. Until one fateful day, after my third child was born, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. It threatened my life. But even worse, it threatened my ability to sing again. It was devastating…BUT GOD.
A SECOND CHANCE
I have always been a woman of faith, but nonetheless, I balked at a friend’s suggestion that I attend a healing service at a local church. I was doubtful that it would change my situation. But I decided it couldn’t hurt to say a few prayers and ask for God’s help. What happened that night was powerful, emotional, and at the risk of sounding overly dramatic, an out-of-body, life-altering experience.
One week after the prayer service, the visible lump on my throat disappeared. It was amazing, not only to me, but also to the team of doctors who had been caring for me. A gift…a second chance at life!
A COURSE CORRECTION
Even as a young singer, I was drawn to the old standards and to jazz cabaret. I loved the dimly lit supper club vibe, with its great wine and expensive scotch flowing. Picture NYC cabaret clubs like the Carlyle and the Oak Room…as a piano trio plays, a wistful singer—under a single spotlight—sings of love lost and found. The vision was so attractive to me. After my cancer scare, I decided that for whatever time I had left on this earth, I was going to sing. Colleen Williams, “jazz singer”, was born. I quit my high-paying marketing job. With uncommon resolve for my dream, I put my efforts into learning material and creating a marketing package that would lead to a new chapter in my musical journey. I was blessed to be introduced to world-class jazz piano player, Bobby Jones (Doc Severinsen), and to jazz saxophonist, Bobby Militello (Dave Brubeck), who in 1998, produced my first album, TORCHED.
As a guest vocalist, I have been featured with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra as well as, the Virginia Symphony in tribute shows to Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, George Gershwin, and The American Songbook. With The Bobby Jones Trio, I have performed countless concerts and club dates, and in 2003, Bobby Jones and I produced a second album, CW. I am enormously proud of all that we have accomplished, and of the respect we have garnered from both the musical community and our fans. Despite our accomplishments, my dream—though safely tucked into a small compartment in my heart—wanted to be loosed.
PUT YOUR BOAT IN THE WATER
In time, I received a little nudge from God, “Sometimes you need to put your boat in the water and start to paddle.” And another nudge, “Take a leap of faith and reach out to your friend Bishop Robert [Stearns].”
After much prayer, I asked Bishop Robert, the pastor of my local church in Buffalo, to put me in contact with his longtime friend, Boh Cooper. I wanted to have orchestrations written for a show I envisioned, and hoped his friend could help. At the time, I believed divinely that Boh Cooper was meant to work on this project. Bishop Robert was happy to introduce me, and Boh has since become my friend, too. One year after my first conversation with Boh, ON MY WAY TO NOW became a reality. And finally, my dream did, too.
ON MY WAY TO NOW
…is the culmination of my 25+ year career as a singer. It’s both a glance back and a look forward. It is part autobiographical, part storytelling. The music is interesting and diverse — you might even say eclectic; each song represents an important milestone of my personal journey.
…is about the artists and composers whose stories inspired me to “stay with it” without the promise of fame and fortune — musical influences like Harold Arlen, George Gershwin, Rogers and Hammerstein, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Barbra Streisand, Peggy Lee, Barry Manilow, Todd Rundgren, and Billy Joel just to name a few.
…is about my journey from a young girl with big dreams of Broadway, to cabaret jazz singer, to performing with symphony orchestras.
…is about believing that it is never too late to realize your dream.
This show is mine.
The band and I look forward to bringing ON MY WAY TO NOW to your city.