Odilia Rivera Santos
A couple of years ago, I invited everyone I knew to Crudo, a tiny bar in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, to see my friend and secret mentor, Rhonda Denét, sing. Her smooth powerful delicate voice wowed everyone and I felt as proud as if she were my sister -- in a way, she is my sister.
I had joined a singer/songwriter group for support and to overcome my lack of enthusiasm about singing in public, but it was the wrong setting to accomplish these goals. As a whole, the group seemed to be overly competitive and the members acted as if they were auditioning for a coveted role in a musical instead of being people united for the purpose of artistic exchange and encouragement. This negative vibe only made me more uncomfortable about “exposing” myself in public.
However, the spirit of endless optimism that resides in me made me think something good would happen anyways.
I was disengaged and ready to go home, but I sang.
After I sang, the woman to my right said the tone of my voice was beautiful. She seemed comfortable, secure and very relaxed – like one of those people who do less comparing with others and more comparing with their former selves.
This was and is Ms. Denét.
When did you figure out that you wanted to be a singer?
When I was 14.
The idea had been floating around my mind since I found my voice at 9 but it all hit home when I did my first starting role as Evillene in my high school production of "The Wiz".
What kind of work have you done to support yourself while pursuing your singing career?
I have been blessed to support myself by working behind the scenes (on the administrative side) in theater, so I've continued to be surrounded by a creative environment.
How do you feel shifting from your day "work mode" to your singing diva mode?
It used to be a maze run when I worked during the day then have to shift into performance mode, now that I'm a full-time artist and less than part-time administrative employee it's a breeze.
What has been the most exciting thing about performing?
The most exciting thing is that people are inspired by what satisfies my soul and the work I do to keep performing. Fans tell me frequently that they are encouraged to realize their own dreams because I continue to grow in mine and share my story.
What has been the most frustrating thing about performing?
Hmm, I guess the most frustrating thing USED TO BE not having enough resources...time, finances, band members. That has all changed for me recently...now that I've met some fabulous musicians that I grow with, and that I have more time to dedicate to my craft, the financial aspect is coming together much better (or I'm finding ways to do things with alternatives to traditional currency, like bartering).
How do you handle self-promotion? Is this difficult for you to do?
I'm learning with each opportunity that comes my way. I used to so dislike the idea of pushing my projects on other people. I've discovered ways to invite people into the experience of my work by sharing "insider" information and that when it's approached that way it feels better. I believe the whole process of self-promotion is tied into my spiritual journey as well and finding a balance with what's real to me.
Do you still work 'regular' jobs or are you singing fulltime?
I converted to full-time singing in May but I still do administrative work part-time. Part of being an artist is realizing and working multiple income streams...so there are several simmering and a few boiling right now.
What kind of schedule do you keep to maintain your sanity and productivity as an artist?
Ask me in a few months, after 20 years of the 9-5 world, it's definitely an adjustment to my way of thinking -- I'm finding what works for me.
What did you accomplish recently that made you very excited about your artistic career?
I'm really proud of bringing a weekly residence to life. I was offered an opportunity by a Brooklyn restaurant owner and have since developed a new band project and found a new home for my creative growth. Working with these 4 people has given me the support and confidence to fly higher than ever.
What would you like to convey to your audience when you perform?
It's my wish that my audience be enveloped in bliss when they are at a RD Experience. Be connected with good people, good music, a comfortably inviting environment, and a message of joy through the music. When I perform that's what I like to experience...being in the moment and feeling at the height of my soul's joy -- I'm committed to inviting folks into that to share those feelings with me.
Check out Rhonda’s sites and upcoming events!