Rhonda Apple - A Small Town Girl

Home from birth to age 19 was the Twin Cities of Jonesboro and Gas City, Indiana. The youngest of my ten siblings, I was, therefore, spoiled rotten. My family was poor, although we never went without. My mother's and grandmother's love for music was the catalyst for my musical interest. I would sit at the piano and watch my mother and grandmother play and sing. I wanted to do the same. My mother's record collection of Nancy Wilson, Barbra Streisand and others made a deep impression on me. While swinging on my swing set at age 4 or 5 I can remember belting out "Sing, Sing A Song" and "I Write the Songs [that Make the Whole World Sing]".

I took piano lessons for four years, but hated to practice or sight-read. I'd memorize the pieces instead of looking at the sheet while I played. I liked the music but hated the work of making my hands coordinate themselves. So, I quit. What I really wanted to do was sing! My mother always said she had to have so many kids in order to have one that sang (like her)! Family and friends always told me that I could sing. I remember being singled out for a Christmas program at a very early age--maybe 7. At school in music class all the other kids would turn and look at me when we would sing a song. But, I never considered a career in music. I blocked out going to school for music when I was told that piano was required for the curriculum. Everyone was pressuring me to choose something for a possible career choice, so I choose astronaut! HA! I get airsickness.

I did choral singing in school and church choirs, singing my first solo in seventh grade in the Spring show. The song was "Edelweiss. "I was very nervous to be singing in front of my friends. My dad and I sang in the Marion Easter Pageant Choir for several years during junior high and high school. My first solo in church was "How Majestic Is Your Name" at age 14. My mom recorded it on tape. Being chosen to sing with the Swing Choir in high school as a freshman was a thrill. My choir director, Cathy Bomholt, was my voice teacher, I guess you could say. In my junior year she had a Vocal Performance class with nine girls in it. She taught us music theory, sight reading, ear training, technique and performance skills. It was an amazing experience for us in our small school. Only God could have done that! I am forever grateful to Mrs. Bomholt for her patience and dedication to us. After graduating from high school in May of 1987 I attended Indiana University in Bloomington for one year. There I took one semester of voice. It was intense and very rewarding. Unfortunately, it didn't interest me enough to put much effort into it.

In May of 1988 I moved to Dover, Delaware, attending Wesley College for nursing, and waitressing part-time at Plaza Nine restaurant. I will always be grateful to my bosses, Dennis and Carolyn Forbes, because they gave me my first gig. They heard me sing at a waitress' wedding. They then asked me to sing at their restaurant on weekends with Jude Crossen, the pianist they had playing temporarily for the summer. After waiting tables until 8pm, I would change in the little bathroom stall, sit next to Jude and sing every second or third song with him. The other owner of the restaurant gave me a cassette of Sarah Vaughn and told me to learn those songs. When their regular pianist, Nick Wayne, returned to the job in the fall, Dennis asked Nick to rehearse with me and let me sing with him on weekends. That's really where my singing career took off. Nick taught me many songs and much about the music business. We ended up playing together as a duo for three years. We worked in Delaware; Atlantic City, NJ; and on two cruise ships doing Old Standards, Jazz, Blues and Pop tunes. To Nick and his wife, Lorraine, I owe a debt of gratitude.

I moved to Florida in September 1992 with my fiancè. In the following year I waitressed at IHOP, made a demo tape, got married, had my daughter and bought a house! Whew! When my daughter was 3 months old I answered an ad in the local paper for a girl singer. Mike Riley, of the local's favorite band, The BoogieMen, told me the position was already filled. I took him my demo tape and suggested that he listen to it anyway. When his girl singer didn't show for the practice that Sunday night, he called me up. I proceeded to work with the BoogieMen for four years doing leads and backups on Aretha Franklin, Bonnie Raitt and "Rock & Soul" tunes. I learned how to really perform with a large group. Tambourines, cow bells, energetic choreography and belted vocals were my contribution to the show. I loved it!

In April of 1997 my husband and I put our house on the market with plans of moving to Salisbury, MD. Just after doing that I met Ray Lamatrice and his band Third Street Exit. He needed a girl singer part-time. I auditioned and was thrilled to be playing with a full-time cover band in the elegant Ritz Carlton in Naples, FL. It was very professional and rewarding. I was able to quit my waitressing job and perform with them in between BoogieMen gigs until the house sold in January. Leaving my friends in Florida was hard.

We moved to Salisbury in Feb. of 1998 to be near my husband's family. Getting my singing career started again wasn't easy. For a couple of months I practiced with a band that quickly broke up. Then I started working with Dale Britt doing one-nighters here and there. We instantly hit it off musically because we have similar musical tastes. Dale had played solo piano for many years at Phillips Beach Plaza Hotel. In March of 1999 Dale asked the owner, Shirley Phillips, to give me a try there with Dale. She loved me. I've been blessed to be working there (and other places) full-time with Dale as a duo ever since. Our song list has over 550 tunes now. Recording some beautiful music with Dale has been a great experience.

I listen to many different styles of music. It's too hard to say who I am influenced by because the list is endless! I am taking voice lessons again. Kathy Prout is teaching me (again) to keep my throat open, drop my jaw and support each note. With correct technique I should be able to sing professionally for the rest of my life. Well, that's what I'm hoping for, anyway. We shall see what God has planned for me. Almost every Sunday I am still singing in church.

Rhonda Apple