Valerie has always been a musician, writer and interested in the creative arts. She grew up working in the family businesses (wholesale meat and real estate) and learned bookkeeping at a young age. As a young musician, she played the trumpet, piano, clarinet, the flute, then the viola and French horn. She fell in love with the electric guitar becoming her main instrument from then on. Valerie always played in bands and taught guitar lessons to earn money for all of the equipment and instruments she wanted.
In high school, she studied with a world renowned guitarist Linc Chamberland and chose to go to a local college (Sarah Lawrence) so she could continue her private studies with Linc in Connecticut. At Sarah Lawrence she studied Music and Psychology and later went on to George Washington University where she concentrated on Political Science and Music, and ultimately went to NYU and the Institute for Audio Research to study digital music recording and audio engineering.
Back in New York she played with many musicians, learned about the recording scene and had her first experience playing in a wedding band. She was evolving as a funk guitarist and songwriter finding herself most at home with “soul” scene. She hung out in recording studios where deep disco records were being made and learned about making records. She started her own home recording studio and began finding “her sound.”
Meanwhile, the wedding band became an outlet for creating interesting arrangements and trying them out on live crowds. They upgraded the ensemble a little bit at a time, and tried to outdo themselves at each performance. She found that with a little effort and a great concept, they were able to substantially upgrade the quality of what was available for music for private parties. Starlight earned a reputation for outstanding live music and began to develop her signature style that successfully became Starlight Orchestras and the Starlight Experience.
Over the years she started a family, expanded the company and produced additional “Starlight” bands. The company was successful in creating their “brand” and duplicating their ensemble style.
During this time she got very interested in healing, the mind-body-spirit connection and the inner journey. That became a passion as much as music. She studied holistic psychotherapy and devoted herself to metaphysical pursuits. On the side, she began composing and producing music for yoga, massage, meditation and deep relaxation. This became the basis for a new interest in using music as transformational tool for healing and upliftment. Eventually, these projects fused with the more upbeat music that she was doing at Starlight and came together as a varied catalogue of music for the full spectrum of life.
While already in the niche of music for ultra-luxe events, Starlight was invited to perform around the country performing at major galas and high profile parties. They developed a performance style that was an alternative to headline entertainment and began customizing repertoire for each client. The performances were fresh and current, featuring a charisma that continues to impress audiences everywhere.
Valerie’s affinity for Sedona, Arizona has been a big part of her artistic and personal evolution. She continues to spend a good deal of time there enjoying all that the red rocks have to offer. While she resides in the New York’s Hudson Valley, she takes every opportunity to travel and explore. She loves to spend time with her family and friends, spend time in nature, and connect with like-minded people.
Can you describe your main role and focus at Starlight?
I am eternally grateful that I have been able to make music my life’s work through owning and running Starlight. As CEO and Co-founder of Starlight, I have many roles. I handpick everyone involved and I oversee the amazing team that creates what we do. I train our producers and leaders. With our creative staff, I conceptualize the sounds and looks that make up our ensembles. I work with the “art of energy flow” to produce amazing performances. Basically, I create the Starlight community. I speak with our clients and guide them through the “Starlight Experience.” I also play guitar, sing and sometimes I perform with the band.
What do you think you have mastered in your field? What else do you want to master?
Starlight amazes me, how we continue to get better and better, even after 20 years in this industry. I believe I have mastered the ability to use music and performance to create an impactful experience for a wide range of people. I am certainly good at attracting the most amazing performers and producers. I have mastered the concept of creating exciting and fresh performances.
As a musician, there is always more to master. I can study and practice guitar for the rest of my life, and still feel there is more room to grow. On another note, I have just started windsurfing and I am totally inspired by it. I would like to develop that ability as well.
What exactly is your field?
Interesting question. Music, of course, for both private events as well as original music. Recording and live performance. And “Wellness.” I have studied mind/body/spirit psychotherapy and have other metaphysical pursuits. Music as a tool for upliftment, you might even say “music as medicine.” I believe that music and sound is considered one of the “healing arts.” I find great value in incorporating these subtle modalities into the world of music and live events. I believe it helps me get in tune with audiences, tap into the group energy and make the choices that excite and inspire people! These two areas felt separate in the past, but I have come to realize how connected all of my works is and how each aspect enriches the other.
What is your career highlight so far?
I’ve had so many fantastic experiences so far, but I guess my favorite was when Jimmy Buffet hired us to play for his wife’s 60th birthday party. A week before the event, he told me that a bunch of his friends wanted to sit in and do a song for Jane and my band would be the “house band” to back them up. It was a big thrill to share the stage with Jimmy and his friends, mostly because this was a personal night for them to relax, party and be loose, even funny. It as a gathering of friends and we were there to entertain them. Billy Joel, James Taylor, Jon Bon Jovi all sat in with us and did their tributes to Jimmy and Jane. Jimmy played with us as well. After that, we performed for the rest of the night, entertaining this crowd of superstars. Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas were there, as Jimmy had first seen Starlight perform at their wedding. It was quite a big honor.
My other highlight was doing my CD Release Show in Sedona for the the “Healing Music” CD. I had an all-star roster of amazing musicians who flew in from everywhere. After all the thousands of shows I’ve done, this was the first time I performed my original music and featured myself as the artist. I invited Tao Porchon-Lynch to present her poetry, I had Jesse Kalu (bamboo flutes), Anthony Mazella (acoustic guitar) Tony Aiello (reeds), Tom Rossi (percussion/guitar/kora), Claire Finlay (bass), Russell Graham (keyboard), Marty Biratella (tabla) and David Thomas (drums). I even had a didgeridoo player to recreate the sounds from “Shalmana’s Song.” It was a life changing experience.
What do you aspire to in your career?
I love what I do and I want to do more of it. I am so uplifted by creating amazing experiences for parties and live events. It is a total thrill to see such joyousness on the dance floor, to create a platform for people to celebrate with abandon and be so delighted by what we create. I take this art-form very seriously and put incredible energy into making each event spectacular. So, I aspire to do more of this and continue developing and growing.
I also aspire to perform my original music and move people. I aspire to attract audiences who are drawn to my music. I aspire to continue collaborating with so many of the outstanding musicians, producers, performers out there and to continue finding those magical moments. I aspire to continue blending music with wellness and positive healing, and find new mediums to express this. I aspire to create a music festival type medium that combines these different performing and healing arts.