Epiphany helps Silverdale woman find her true voice

"Standing on the stage for the first time ever to sing, Karen Shivers feared she might throw up. My legs were like rubber,'' recalls the Silverdale woman. I didn't think I was going to make it.'' Backed by a complete stranger on piano, Shivers managed to begin singing Blue Moon.'' She found herself in the wrong key. The accompaniment sounded much different than it did on her compact disc, and she became disoriented. "

“Standing on the stage for the first time ever to sing, Karen Shivers feared she might throw up. My legs were like rubber,” recalls the Silverdale woman. I didn’t think I was going to make it.” Backed by a complete stranger on piano, Shivers managed to begin singing Blue Moon.” She found herself in the wrong key. The accompaniment sounded much different than it did on her compact disc, and she became disoriented. I screwed up so bad … I knew I was terrible,” she said. But during the song, a woman had approached the stage at the Harbor Inn in Gig Harbor to get a closer look at Shivers. And when the song was over, the women and her three friends stood up and applauded. A year later, that woman told Shivers she had told her friends, She has a beautiful voice. If we don’t stand up for her, she’ll never sing another note.” That was all the encouragement that Shivers needed. A jazz singer for only two years now, the 50-year-old former Central Kitsap School Board member has released her debut compact disc, Send Shivers Up and Down Your Spine.” The CD features jazz standards by Dizzy Gillespie (Lover Man”) and Duke Ellington (Day Dream”), a classic George and Ira Gershwin tune (Someone to Watch Over Me”), and the original My One and Only Love.” Ballads like Good Morning Heartache” and You’ve Changed” and the swinger Willow Weep for Me” showcase Shivers’ sultry and soaring voice. Playing the piano and vibes is Bud Schultz, who backed her on her shaky stage debut. Twenty-two radio stations have broadcast tunes from the CD, Shivers said. It’s just a miracle – I’m just amazed … I believe that my voice touches people in some way,” she said. A CD release party is hosted for Shivers and the public at 7 tonight at Jazz Bones, 2803 6th Ave., Tacoma. The CD can be found on Amazon.com, Tower Records in Seattle, and Borders Books in Tacoma, Puyallup, Federal Way and Seattle. When Shivers started singing, many people compared her to Sarah Vaughan – even though she had been listening to Ella Fitzergald. The singer figures her voice maybe came through osmosis” – her parents played Vaughan, Fitzgerald, Miles Davis and Billie Holiday when she was growing up. Born in St. Louis, Shivers’ Air Force family moved often: Maryland, Houston, the Philippines, Lompoc, Calif. When her parents split up in 1965, Shivers moved to Los Angeles, where she attended high school. Shivers took piano lessons as a girl, but didn’t take them seriously. Influenced by the likes of singers Buffy Sainte-Marie and Marianne Faithfull, she played guitar and wrote folk songs as a teen, but never performed them in public. Instead, Shivers married at age 19, helped her husband in his medical career, and bore two sons. I’m a very practical person,” she said. I would never look at a career in music.” But Shivers was forced to look at into some kind of career when her marriage ended in 1987. A graduate of The Evergreen State College, she studied law for a year at the University of Puget Sound. She was also elected to the Central Kitsap School Board. Shivers then became executive director of New Hospice, a house health agency for the elderly. When the program went bankrupt, she managed the YWCA’s shelter for battered women. And that’s where her life epiphany occurred in July 1998. Shivers was challenging two abused women to focus not on the violence that had been inflicted on them, but on what they truly wanted from life. The women then threw the question back to Shivers: What do you want to do?” Her response: I do believe I want to sing.” The two women insisted Shivers sing that very moment, and she launched into Unforgetable” to shut them up.” She then called Bremerton bass player Cap DiMiero- someone she’d never met – and said she wanted to sing, but didn’t know where. He directed her to the Harbor Inn, where she dropped his name to get on stage for her shaky debut Shivers came back, performing almost every weekend for two years. Schultz, the pianist, helped pick songs that suited her voice. I have a jazz sound, with a little bit of blues tint to it,” Shivers said. Encouraged by producer Clyde Jenkins, Shivers entered Dave Lange’s Studio in Edgewood last August. Backed by eight musicians, Shivers recorded the vocals for the 16 songs on her debut CD in one 12-hour session. Shivers said she’s thrilled people are buying her CD, and is looking for venues to play in Kitsap. I just feel this is something I have to do.” “

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