Sunday, February 27, 2011


Every year I cannot wait to watch the Oscars. I love the glamour, just like the eveyone else & I love the idea that someone's hard work truly pays off. Once an actor wins an Oscar, their career skyrockets, and their names shall forever be preceded with "Academy-Award-Winning..." and what an honor that is! But this year is a little different...

If you recall, the 5th graders of Staten Island's PS 22 Chorus peformed No Reason to Cry with me back in November for the 25th Anniversary of Freestyle Concert at Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. (I'm sorry, was that a run-on sentence? Sorry Ms. Parisi!) Well, during their own Christmas concert, Anne Hathaway, this year's co-host for the Oscars, surprised them with the news that they would perform with her at this year's 83rd annual Academny Awards!! The children burst into so much excitement that they completely drowned out Anne Hathaway and she had a microphone, lol. Their music teacher, Mr. Gregg Breinberg, is just the most inspiring human being and teacher I've met in a LONG time! He deserves SO much, and is a shining example of what being a good teacher is all about. So it is with great anticipation that I will be racing to my friend's house for an Oscar party as soon as I'm done with my shift at KTU.

Okay, so let's get down to it. Just about one billion people will be watching thet Oscars tonight...and we each have our own favorites. I had to confess that I didn't see ALL the movies nominated (first year I was unable to because this was the first time that TEN movies were nominated), but I did see the following:

Black Swan
Social Network
The Fighter
The Kids Are Alright
The King's Speech
Toy Story 3

Hey 7 out of 10 ain't bad! Okay, so my vote for Best Picture is The King's Speech or The Fighter. Inception was incredible, no doubt about it, but let's face it, stories based on factual events and people are more compelling, and Colin Firth's acting was AMAZING

So now you know my pick for best actor,lol! By the way, Mark Wahlberg was completely overlooked for best actor...when will they finally realize what a wonderful actor he is. I think he's such a natural that it's easy to underestimate his talent. My vote for best actress, hello...duh...Natalie Portman. She acts with a certain sense of desperation and vulnerability that is truly captivating. And the poor thing lost 20 pounds for the role...bendito, she was hungry!!!! But her portrayal of a prima ballerina wss magnificent. She's come a long way, and I think tonight, she will be honored...we'll have to wait and see.

For best supporting actor my pick is Christian Bale in the Fighter. First of all, he pulled of a Boston accent and he's not even from America...secondly, playing a strung-out-almost-made-it-to-the-top who was addicted to crack is a VERY difficult thing to pull off. And when you see the movie, you cannot take your eyes off of him. He was just on e of the most believable actors I've seen in a LONG time...and if he doesn't win, I'll be kind of angry. If not him, then I believe it will be Geoffrey Rush in The King's Speech. He really is a phenomenal actor and he usually outshines everyone in all his movies. For best supporting actress, it MUST be, HAS to be Melissa Leo from the fighter!! She was brilliant as a dysfunctional, "trashy", mother who although loves her sons, she stands in their way too, She was loud, she rambunctious and flamboyant...but she was also a mom...a mom of 9. I just recall watching the movie and thinking, "WHO is this woman? Where did she come from and why haven't I heard of her before?" I hope she gets it.

Well that'll do it for me. I don't pretend to be a film critic - just a yong woman who appreciates the cinema and ALL the work that goes into it...after all, I was cast with a minor role in a film called Elliot Loves, scheduled to be released in the summer. I only had three lines and it took almost 18 hours to get 2 scenes done, so I can imagine the time-consuming, stressful and hard work that goes into film-making. Thank you, film makers, for begin brave enough to put your ideas on film so we can be entertained and inspired!!!

Thursday, February 24, 2011


I received an email from a graduate from my alma mater of four years later, Margaret Goulet, a teacher at PS 189M in Washington Heights, NY. She explained that the music programs in schools are being cut, and their school's music program is thriving with very talented children who could use inspiration from someone in the music business. I was invited there, and Tuesday, February 8th, I arrived to speak with the students. I didn't bring any speeches because I have learned from past experiences that the children don't want speeches; they don't want to be spoken "at", they want to be spoken "to".

I arrived and was taken to the auditorium, which was of a nice size. No one was there yet, but I was introduced to the music teachers and then was taken to the library to wait until my appointed time. Somewhere around 1:30pm or so, I was escorted to the auditorium. There they were, perhaps around 200 or so children. All those eyes on me as I walked down toward the stage. And I find it amusing that I found myself wondering what they might be wondering. What were they thinking?? Were they thinking, "Wow. She's big!" or "Where' the bling?" or "Doesn't she have bodyguards?" LOL. I know, sad, but true. But then I tell myself what almost gets me through anything almost every time: Just be yourself! I was introduced to the 5th graders and then all eyes were on me. Hm, I'm a little out of my element. Most of the time, when in front of any crowd, I am a bit more relaxed knowing in advance that most people PAID to see me...I know in advance that they came to see me. This was a little different - they were brought to see me. Children have an inborne talent of knowing the doesn't matter what you're wearing, or what you say, the way a blood hound hunts down the prey, children hunt down your sincerity - they want to know that you are truthful.

I took the microphone...looked out at them, and broke the ice: "Waaaazzzzzuuuupppp!!!" They laughed, and I smiled and thus began my talk about where I had come from: oldest of 5 siblings, raised by a single mother in the Bronx, on welfare, but knowing the entire time that I wanted to be a singer. Then I told them how I was discovered: at a local gong show in the Bronx, by a man who had NO experience in the music business - just a heart of gold wanting to really help me. I went on to tell them how I recorded my first song, and what it felt like when I heard my song on the radio.

I brought along my "visual aids." - Photographs taken with celebrities & autographs of celebrities wishing me well, etc. When you speak to children about being a "celebrity", but they've never heard of you, the easiest way to get them to be more open minded is to SHOW them where you've been, who you've met and of course show them all the cds released along the way. Their questions always amuse me: "Judy, do you know Pitbull? Do you get scared before you sing? Can you sing for us?" Ah, I always get the last question...and singing for the children somehow makes it real for them, so I never say no. (I just tell them that I will sing AFTER the talk.)

I love 5th graders. They have a gleam in their eye, knowing that anything is possible...they still have hope, they have dreams and they are open to working hard. The talk was over, and then Ms. Goulet said, "Ms. Torres, before you go, we are going to take you back to 1018 and Roseland." She asked me to take a seat in the audience...And then they walked onto the stage: about 8 chorus girls to my left, 20 or so children with recorders in hand, 8 boy steel drum players, and here's the kicker: about 12 violinists! There is something about the violin and cello that almost always move my heart in a way that makes it beat me, the strings "cry" out the emotion of a song. The music teachers, one on drums and the other conducting, joined them and they began to play.

For 24 years, I had heard the "strings" on my songs, but they were computerized...but then I heard the children playing the string line from one of my favorite songs: Come Into My Arms. Be still my heart! I was rendered truly speechless. My heart began to pound...I looked around and they were all smiling. They were performing Come Into My Arms for me! For me! Wow...and then, you already know what happened: I cried. How could I not? I realized rather quickly that they must have been rehearsing this for a long time; that they had to be taught a song they most likely had never heard....and they played it for me. I can't explain why I was so moved, except to say that I felt VERY validated and affirmed as an artist. I think it's quite interesting that performing at Madison Square Garden should make me feel far more validated. And it did...don't get me wrong, BUT...the children...when the children played the song for me...I was honored. I felt like the luckiest person in the world...or as my mom would say, "blessed, Judy, not lucky. There is o such thing as luck." LOL.

I was immediately taken back to the movie, Mr. Holland's Opus, starring Richard Dreyfuss. And if you have never seen it, you honestly need to. It is a story about a teacher who gave up his life long dream of becoming a famous composer and musician in order to teach children at a school. He wss somewhat forced to teach as a means to make a better income because he and his wife were suddenly expecting a child. Mr. Holland always had plans to leave teaching, but before he knew it, 30 years later...he was still a music teacher...and to his heartbreak and surrpise...he was fired. On his last day, he hears something in the distance, and when he enters the auditorium, the students both present and from years past, are there to celebrate him and his life's work. And then to his amazement, he discovers that his students have prepared his symphony, which he had kept a secret for so many years. It is one of those, Randy-pass-me-a-tissue moments, and I cried like a baby. And when the 5th graders of PS 189M played Come Into My Arms for me, I knew EXACTLY what Mr. Holland felt. It was a privilege and an honor...and I felt that all these years of hard, hard and sometimes unrecognized work, was finally being recognized and appreciated. What an honor!! I am hear your own song being played for you by's the closest thing to hearing angels sing thatI could experience!

I spoke to the children afterward, I took some pictures and I even spoke to some parents afterward....I went home feeling so happy. And later that night, I received an email from Ms. Goulet thanking me, and informing me that the children were so excited that a real singer came to visit them. She said that they "got so much out of it." beg to differ. I was the one who got so much out of it...they gave me a gift that I shall take with me even 'til the day I die. There is no better feeling than giving to those who need, and no better feeliog to love and be loved!And for one glorious day, I heard through the hands and ears of children - Ms. Torres' Opus!!"

Sunday, February 13, 2011

For Those Who Have Loved, Been Loved, Lost Love & Pray For Love

In the spirit of Valentine's Day, I'd like to post 3 songs that I love: one for those in love, one for those who've been hurt from love and one for those praying for THE love of their life. I hope you appreciate it!

1. For those in love:

Everything you are, everything you'll be
Touches the current of love so deep in me.
Every sigh in the night - every tear that you cry...seduces me.
And all that I am, and all that I'll be -
Means nothing at all, if you can't be with me.
Your most innocenty kiss or your sweetest caress...seduces me.

I don't care about tomorrow. I've given up on yesterday.
Here and now is all that matters -right here with you is where I'll stay.

Everything in this world, every voice in the night -
Every little thing of beauty, shining through in your eyes
And all that is you becomes part of me too
Cause all you do seduces me.
And if I should die tomorrow
I'd go down with a smile on my face.
I thank God I've ever known you
I fall down on my knees for the love we made.

Every sigh in the night...every tear that cry...seduces me.
And all that you do - seduces me.

2. For those who've been hurt from love:

If the sun went down tomorrow and it never came back
And the city went quiet and we fade to black.
Well I,I won't have a single regret, and I wouldn't change a thing.
'Cause I never knew I could feel what I feel inside of me

Better to have loved than never loved at all
Better to have dreamed than never taken the fall
Better to have held you and let you in than
Never to have touched your skin.
Better to have hurt and screamed and cried
Fallen to the earth for a trip to the sky
Better to have

I knew all of the time I was taking a chance.
When I stand there at the edge of the cliff and
No one was holding my hand...
Well, well the wind blew strong - and the clouds rolled in
And I felt my slipped off the ground
Yes I bared my soul, and I dared to go
Knowing one day you might let me down.

Better to have loved...
I gave you everything, but you had said goodbye.
You said goodbye...

3. For those praying for love:
Ready For Love - India Arie

A few years ago, I went to see Sade in concert at Madison Square Garden, and this woman I had never heard of opened up for her. She sang this song & I was literally captivated...

I am ready for love - why are you hiding from me?
I'd quickly give my freedom to be held in your captivity.
I am ready for love - all of the joy and the pain -
And all the time that it takes just to stay in your good grace.

Lately I've been thinking maybe you're not ready for me.
Maybe you think I need to learn maturity
They say watch what you ask for, 'cuase you might receive
But if you ask me tomorrow, I'd say the same thing:

I am ready for love. Would you please lend me your ear?
I promise I won't complain
I just need you to acknowledge I am here.
If you give me half a chance I'll prove this to you
I will be patient,kind,faithful and true
To a man who loves music, a man who loves art -
Respects the spirit world and thinks with his heart.

I am ready for love - if you take me in your hands
I will learn what you teach...
And do the best that I can.
I am ready for love - here with an offering of
My voice, my eyes, my song my life
Tell me what is enough to prove that I'm ready for love?

I know, I know it's all very corny, but hey, I can't help myself...I have no Valentine and this stuff makes me feel happy!! Love you! LOL - By the way you can sell all these songs' videos on youtube!

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Tonight, was Super Bowl XLV! Yea, yea, I confess, I really don't care much for football...I care about it as much as it cares about me. But I deinitely watched one of the singers I admire, Christina Aguilera, sing the National Anthem. So many things come to mind whenever the National Anthem is even mentioned. Firstly, it is a brilliantly written song! And if you pay close attention to it, it gives an intense visual of the sights of war: "...and the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air..." And if you really listen to how the melody rises perfectly with the right words, it should ALWAYS deliver chills to the listener. Our National Anthem, to me, is one of the greatest ones written; although I'm sure every person feels that way about their own national anthem - no matter what country they are from.

Another thing that comes to mind is how difficult it can be to memorize the American National Anthem. Have YOU ever personally tried to memorize it? Not the easiest song. One of the reasons most songs written actually rhyme is to make it easier for the listener to remember the words. Not true with the National Anthem. When I was attending Aquinas High School in the Bronx (Class of '85), my choir director and mentor, Mr. Roman, literally went insane when someone, anyone forgot the lyrics to the anthem. I mean his face would turn red, his blue eyes went black (at least that's what it looked like from my standpoint) and his voice went to such volume that one could hear him from the principal's office...and his classroom was in the basement! I remember him saying, "Dammit!!! You are an American...EVERY American should know the national anthem! What kind of American are you??? Jesus!!" Then with his veins popping through the side of his temple, he would sit down in defeat and throw anything within his reach onto the floor. And then...

I never forgot that for some reason. His words rang in my head for years. And thank God it did. Four years after graduating, 1989, there I was performing in Flushing Meadow Park, Queens for World's Fair. The Gipsy Kings were headlining, and I had the fortunate blessing of being introduced to them. I didn't understand one word they said...I can tell you it wasn't Spanish. It was a mix of Spanish, and a whole bunch of other stuff. Oh, sorry...back to the story. All of a sudden, Al Bandiero, one of the dj's for HOT 103, came screaming out, "Does anyone know the National Anthem? The person who was supposed to do it never showed up and the show can't start until the National Anthem is done." I was a little hesitant but I raised my hand. There I was onstage, music, no lyric sheet and Mr. Roman's face bursting in my head. "Oh, say can you see..."

Fast forward to 1993 or so. I found out that the NJ Nets were holding auditions for National Anthem singers. I wanted to be one of them so bad. I had already been singing professional for years, and Iknew all the words. I auditioned and it was harder than expected. As you sing, you hear the line you already sang come right back at you while you're still singing. It gets very confusing...and you basically hear your own echoes delayed for a second or two. It is not just confusing' it's annoying! I was finished. I felt pretty good about the whole thing. Then I got the letter: "Dear Ms. Torres, we regret to inform you that you have not been chosen for this season..." WHAT?!! Do they know who I am?? LOL...Yes, for a second I was full of myself. Sad, but true.

This is what was written about Christina Aguilera's performance tonight of the National Anthem at the opening of the Super Bowl (link: " Perhaps she was too concerned with breaking Patti LaBelle's record for turning single-syllable words into entire paragraphs during the singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner," but noted ex-teen queen Christina Aguilera botched the national anthem something fierce before the Super Bowl. Aguilera started out all right, but she had a problem with the ramparts -- specifically, the "O'er the ramparts we watched" line, which she left out altogether.Aguilera tried to make up for it by combining two lines -- "What so proudly we watched," instead of "What so proudly we hailed", but let's just say that it was too late to reverse the error. Twitter blew up, and all Aguilera could do was to oversing every word from there on out, which she most certainly did."

My point?

Leave Christina alone!!! Oh, my goodness, have YOU ever tried singing it in front of over 100,000 people....acapella...I'm sorry but I have here what I call "singer's compassion." As a fellow singer, let me just tell is a FREAKING TERRIFYING experience to sing at a stadium. It's not the same as when you sing for a concert. Yu sing your own music, with your own tracks or band in the background and everyone in the audience PAID to see you because they are ALL fans!! Not so in this situation...All eyes are on you. She's singing acapella which means she has to stay on key no matter what she does. Not too many people are very good at doing that. Take another look at American Idol auditions and you will see that some pretty good singers lose out on their chance because they're "all over the place" with the key of the song. Then she's got to worry about all that echo coming back, which can throw off almost anyone. Who knows what was happening in her head. Yes, she's a pro. Yes, she's a seasoned performer. Yes, she's great and level of expectation from us is far greater!! But that's my point, we ALWAYS expect greatness from her...and God forbid she doesn't deliver EVERY...SINGLE...TIME! And sure, one could argue that it might be nice to hear her sing the melody without all the runs and rifts and screams, etc...but that's her style and you know it. Why would she sing any differently. Actually I was impressed that she did all those runs and didn't forget what key she was in to begin with. LOL.

I don't know. Maybe I'm just a nice person. Perhaps it's that I realize that there has been a rare occasion when I forgot the my OWN songs...or times when I cracked in the middle of a high note. I say, "Good job Christina!!! You were great~! And when you messed up the words, like a REAL PRO, you kept didn't make it obvious that you flubbed. In fact, I'd bet anything that if there weren't a whole bunch of articles and tweets about it, 1/2 the audience wouldn't have even noticed it. By the way, Ms. Aguilera, you were FANTASTIC in Burlesque!" ...Applause, applause!!