RIP Ray Charles Jr. – Official Mascot

RIP Ray Charles Jr

Ray Charles Jr.; smiling for the camera.

Shortly after moving into the studio home of Las Vegas Vocal Training, students enjoyed a warm greeting by Vocal Coach Jessica Marciel and  Super-Sheltie Ray Charles Jr..

Ray’s welcoming bark and company in the studio, earned him status as the Official Mascot and soul of Las Vegas Vocal Training.

Sadly, Ray’s life was shortened, with incredible speed, by a condition called IMHA aka known as Canine Leukemia. It’s a common condition, but is terminal, with no known cure. From the moment of Ray’s diagnosis with IMHA, until it became necessary to  ‘put him down’ was just a matter of days.

As companion to both Jessica and Las Vegas Vocal Training students, Ray brought sunshine and effervescence to all he touched.

RIP Ray Charles Jr.

Jessica and Ray- in the studio

For their exceptional care, concern, love, and understanding during an incredibly stressful and challenging period, Immeasurable Thanks to…

Ray Charles Jr.
March 13, 2004 –
August 25, 2014

2013 A Year of Remembrance

2013 has been an emotional roller coaster, filled with remembrance. I can remember last summer (2012). My daughter’s grand stepfather Neil Turner passed, and the family gathered for a memorial service at Donnell Lake in the Northern California Mountains.

I decided to drive, because if I flew to Oakland, I needed to rent a car to drive way up to high altitude of my former mother-in-law’s house; then up another 15 miles or so to the memorial site.

I remember this event well, because it was the last summer of my ex-husbands life,  Greg Marciel; father of my daughter, Alexandra (Lexi).                                                                                       Her half-sister, Ariana and Greg, and Alexandra flew in together. I was the very first to arrive , driving all night, listening to great music, enjoying the solitude mile after mile, and long stretches of empty desert and sandy roads.

I drove through Northern California farm land, and saw cows, and smelled the fresh-cut grass and sometimes not too pleasant smells! I drove next to big trucks in the morning, and it was quite challenging after being up all night.  I was weary from the all-night road trip, but being a night owl, I thought leaving at 2 am would get me there around 11 am. Then I could catch a rest before the arrival of the family.

Greg Marciel with mom, Pat Turner, early 1990s

Greg Marciel with mom, Pat Turner, early 1990s

My brother and sister-in-law, Gary and Katy, live in Castro Valley, California, and have a cabin near Pat’s house. Pat is Greg’s mother and the loveliest mother-in-law anyone could wish for.  She is beautiful and so sweet. You simply don’t divorce a family, when you have a child, you try to stay in touch. Pat always came to Las Vegas for the girls’ birthdays. She drove up with her sister Ginny. they were inseparable. Like me, they enjoyed the drive. Long stretches of highway and  nothingness. These were the closest sisters I have ever known. I was glad to arrive first for the memorial because it gave me some one-on-one time with Pat.

Pat arranged for me to stay with her neighbor, Maxine, a lovely widow. When I reached her huge custom-built cabin, I was truly amazed. I drove about three miles up the mountain and then turned left up, traveling a curvy, narrow road,; a private road with a beautiful stone custom-house.  Just its stone patio, rafters, and staircase to a loft would be showcased in a magazine if anyone knew of it.  The loft circled the entire downstairs, and could accommodate ten people, if needed.  The kitchen was a cook’s dream; with storage and pantry to die for. I had the most cozy bed and down comforter. But the best thing about the house is Maxine! She is a joy, so wonderful. I hope to see her again.

The day started out with family arriving slowly, and dinner. Greg was the middle child of three boys. Older brother Glenn, and youngest brother, Gary  his beautiful wife Katy and kids, Kirk and Emily.  I shot some photos of Greg and his two girls , our daughter Alexandra, and his daughter with his last wife Ellen, Ariana; a high school senior at the time.


Greg, Lexi, Ariana

I took pictures that night and the next day at the service up in the look out point of Donnell Pass. How fortunate, because those two pictures, would be the last photos of Greg with his daughters. Less than a year later, I discovered that Greg had suddenly, and shockingly died in his Henderson townhouse.

The bright sun shone on Greg and the girls. he squinted his eyes and beamed with pride being with his two girls. Greg and I had a warm friendship and called each other on birthdays, Mothers Day, and Fathers day.  He was kind, and soft-spoken, I never heard him raise his voice, and called me “Hon.”

He was one of the top trumpet players in the country, having played with Buddy Rich,  Sam Butera & Keeley Smith, just to name a few. People were surprised by our friendship and working relationship. You see, I lead a horn band, and hired him when he could sub out his gigs with the Rat Pack Show.

That day, at the pass and lookout view, was the last time we were all together. How could we predict that, at 61, a very healthy, very active jogger with good eating habits, would just,,,,,die.  alone, in his condo.

I left the service first,  and decided to just head home over the mountain through Yosemite  National Park.  It was a winding, tricky road, so I wanted to drive it in daylight, before I got to the lake at the base of the mountain.  I pulled over in a remote spot, under some huge sequoia trees, changed into warmer clothes, because it was  going to get a little chilly.

The drive home was tiring, and I was regretful I didn’t stay an extra day. But I found a Subway store, around midnight, just before closing time. A foot-long sandwich sustained me for the final stretch home. Long, long night, but it was well worth it. It was a beautiful drive.

If I hadn’t been alone, I would have stopped at the lake and one of the restaurants for a nice scenic meal.  It was tempting, but I hate to eat alone in a tourist resort. So, against my will, I kept driving, through this gorgeous area that was calling to me to stop and enjoy the sights!

After losing Pat’s husband, Neil, the year went on with nothing out of the ordinary until December. Our daughter and her boyfriend, David, came to Las Vegas from Chicago for the holidays.  The two of them felt strongly about their future so she picked up and moved to Chicago with him two years ago. They stayed a week.

Pendants of Greg Marciel and Irv Kluger

Pendants of Greg Marciel and Irv Kluger.. joining Lexi for her walk down the aisle.

Late one afternoon, David called and asked to see me. I said I had a vocal student in 15 minutes, would he like to come another time? he said “I am outside”  OH, well, I opened the door. I really was baffled.  He said, “I need to ask you something very important.” OH, I got it now!  NO one does this anymore, what a gentleman!

We proceeded to the couch where he asked my blessing to marry my daughter. After excitement and hugs, he said the ring was being designed.  David was trying to reach Greg for his blessing, but wasn’t getting his calls returned.   He wasn’t going to do it until he talked to Greg.

This began a very unusual time, a strange time, with Greg NOT returning Davids calls. Then, started calling Greg to prompt him. He said, they don’t need my blessing, they can do whatever they want.  This wasn’t like him. I said, “Greg, he wants it this way, why can’t you call him. Please…”

What happened next was very strange. He called our Lexi, who knew nothing of this, and said to her, “You guys don’t need my permission to get married.” She was amazed and astonished because she was clueless. The cat was now out of the bag.  I called David, and said, “Look., you have Greg’s blessing, just go ahead and trust me, there is something not quite right.”

Now, in hindsight, I question why I didn’t say something to his family? I think his thinking… his logic… was out of kilter. Could  this have been a symptom related to his death? We’ll never know, but in retrospect, it haunts me.

Billy T


Jessica and Billy T – 12/31/12 at the Las Vegas Hilton

I sang on New Year’s Eve at the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel for the last decade, with Billy Tragesser on piano. Billy had been battling cancer, and this time, I made sure we had a picture taken, Just a few months later, Billy passed away.

I had plans to attend Billy’s memorial service on June 1st, when the night before (March 31st), I discovered Greg’s body. I never made it to Billy’s service, Saturday morning. Instead, I was at the airport picking up my grief stricken daughter. She had previous plans to come to Las Vegas on Wednesday ,for Ariana’High School Graduation and to look at wedding venues.  The entire family was coming for Ariana’s Graduation Celebration, but now, with Greg‘s sudden passing, everyone arrived early.

Together, we worked madly to plan a service for the following Saturday. Most family members were here, with the exception of Gregs dad, who was too ill to travel, and brother Glenn, who had to work, couldn’t come.

The service was organized in a week; not a long time to prepare and let people even know he was gone! Frankly, we were all in shock. It was something of Twilight Zone experience, but, we went ahead and the memorial was lovely.

Group TherapyGreg’s old band ‘Group Therapy’ played some of his original songs, and family members share stories and said some wonderful things, but the fog of shock still permeated the service.

Some weeks later on, the family did a second service in Oakland, so the people who couldn’t make it to Las Vegas, plus his high school and college friends could gather. Greg’s final resting place is in the Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland.

I was so sad, and still stunned. In part, I suppose because, he was a little younger than me, and I knew him to be in good health. I didn’t see him frequently, now that I was teaching singing more than singing on the Strip. But I kept in touch with him about our Lexi. He always sounded fine. Greg was teaching at the Las Vegas High School of Performing Arts. Coincidentally, I had three vocal students who were in his class.  They talked of him, and when he died, they called me to express their condolences.

Jim Belk


Jim Belk

I was still pretty catatonic, when a drummer friend, Jim Belk who had worked with me for over a decade fell ill… very ill. Jim had been a member of Michael Grimm‘s band, and was now rehearsing a new show.

Jim’s decline was fast… too fast.  His cancer was very aggressive. His friends thought Jim would recover. He went to UCLA medical center for treatments, and you know that is frightening.

Jim was only in his forties, with a beautiful wife, Megan and two adorable girls… daddy’s girls for sure. They adored him.

You could how much Jim loved Megan by the expression on his face when she called. Her picture would pop-up on his phone whenever I saw him.,

Now, here I was, again, attending an excruciatingly sad memorial.

In spite of the sadness of the memorial, it was also a festive celebration of Jim’s life…with singers and violins and really great talent.

2013 was filled with loss, and then renewed with the wedding of David and Alexandra on November 10th.  But it wasn’t smooth sailing before the wedding. Pat, my mother in law, was planning on driving with her sister Ginny, as usual. Then Ginny had a stroke.

And in a matter of days, Ginny was taken off life support, In the course of year, Pat had lost her husband, a son, and now her sister.  We continued the the roll up to David and Alexandra’s wedding celebration through a challenging and difficult confluence of loss… and periods of extreme and contrasting emotions for all of us.

This would be a challenge.

Part 2 is coming:   Renewal and Hope

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training


Official Mascot: Ray Charles Jr.

Ray-Charles-Jr-mascotRay Charles, Jr. is the official mascot of Las Vegas Vocal Training. Andy and I rescued Ray about five years from a family in North Las Vegas.

Ray, a Sheltie (Shetland Sheepherder), has a warm and friendly personality, and responds well to petting and tummy rubs.

When Ray first became part of the household, he rarely barked. Now, his barking is as an extension of the doorbell. When he hears the doorbell, Ray alerts me of the arrival of my next student, by running to the front door and barking, cheerfully. Upon opening the door, Ray never jumps up… he just needs a few moments of acknowledgment and affection, and that’s it… barking stops, and he accompanies me and my student back to the studio.

Singing phenom, Nikki Yanofsky, started singing jazz classics at a very young age. On one of her live recordings, she introduced the Etta James standard, At Last (see Nikki’s performance), by saying (paraphrasing)…

“I’m only 13, a little young for the mature theme of this song. So when I sing it, I think about my dog, Hudson.”

Nikki Yanofsky

As a vocal coach, part of my job is to help students relax and focus. Ray is the soul of the studio, completing the cozy atmosphere of my home studio, enabling students to focus, more completely, and fully enjoy the learning experience.

Ray is an asset to my studio for students of all ages, and like Nikki Yanofsky and her dog, Hudson.

In the video, below, Ray provides inspiration and audience for my student, Ella (Cool, classic, jazz name, too).

Enjoy Ella as she serenades Ray Charles, Jr. 

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

Helen J. Stewart School – Hail ‘The Mighty Turtles’

John and Jessica

John and Jessica

My friend, guitarist and songwriter,  John McDonnell, asked me to sing a new song for Helen J Stewart School.

This is an exceptional school for special kids, teens and young adults.  The student age range is from 7 to 20. They are people with certain needs which regular schools cannot provide for. The Stewart School is on Viking and Flamingo, I have traveled by it many time.

Helen J. Stewart

“Where Life is Special”

Helen J. Stewart Vision Statement

Helen J. Stewart embraces the vision that all students can develop the skills necessary to become participating members of their communities.

I last saw John when we were filming a photo shoot on Fremont Street for the documentary DVD of The Las VegasRock Reunion Hall Of Fame. John was an inductee, as was I.

We were in the same photo shoot… nighttime slot. The other options, in the heat of the summer, were in remote desert locations!  This particular meet was Downtown Las Vegas at The Beat Coffee House and Records.

The Beat has become a popular meeting place for people, coffee, and live music. Each band was taken outside and we walked and danced and posed in front of the Neon bright lights of Downtown. 

I have always admired John for  his calm, cool talent, and pleasant personality. I was surprised and honored he wanted ‘me’ to record his song.  I said “Yes!” right away.  I was even more surprised when we rehearsed the song and it was one of the coolest kind of Michael Franks, hip kind of tune.

Listen to the new school song

I was even more happy when he told we would record with one of the best in the business, T-Bone, at his recording studio. He is one of the top recording engineers anywhere.

I had recently recorded the standard ‘I Won’t Dance’ with T-Bone and he made me sound so good!  I like him, always have, and wish I were recording more often.

John is now the musical director of the Stewart school, and he said they had a song that was 20 years old,  he said no one liked it!  So,  he wrote this cool as school song and now when they hear it, on Nov 1st over the intercom, I wish I could be there to see the faces of the people who will be speechless.

We are talking , a song that with different words, could be a jazz standard. I will, along with T-Bone and John, be mentioned in the school newsletter, about the song. I am a part of the school’s history now. Thrilled and happy, and so honored that John thought of me to do this.

mighty-turtleThe school mascot is ‘The Mighty Turtles’. The Mighty Turtles written on the school building, yet the old song never mentioned the name!  In this song, the coda and repeated coda is Me and the Mighty Turtles Over and Over, and I can hear the school singing the coda with me every Friday.

Listen to the new school song

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

Your Voice: Don’t take it for granted?

your voiceWe take many things for granted… like going to the dentist, getting our hair cut, brushing our teeth, shaving our legs! Yes, many things we do, you really don’t think about, often.

A musician practices hours every day. A dancer trains every day, as well as working out. eating well, and staying healthy.

  • Why would you take your voice for granted?
  • What makes you think it will ‘be there’ for you anytime you want it too.

Growing up first, in California, I had no vocal problems. The weather was humid, and I was in good vocal shape. When I moved to Las Vegas, the dryness of the city, really took effect. I went to dance class every day, and then the gym, and had a humidifier in my bedroom. I drank a lot of water all day, and went swimming almost every day.

Yes, sure… to maintain your figure when wearing tight, tiny costumes. In show business, in your 20’s & 30’s, it’s as much how you look, as how you sing… Sadly, that is a truth, though I wish were not true.


Our voices are the same way. They need to be worked out, stretched, warmed up, and challenged.  Sometimes, you hear a singer and if you really pay attention, you will notice they get stronger toward the end the show. They are warmed up by then, that’s why.

Cardio is not enough, you need to EXERCISE IT. Not Sing!  Singing is not warming up!  Do not confuse singing with doing proper vocal exercises.

Many students say when they get here, ‘I warmed up on the way’.  I ask, ‘ Really, what did you do?’  They reply,‘ I sang in the car’ 

No…. singing is the result of warming up, not the other way around.  If you maintain your voice properly, it will be there for you, and you won’t have to wait til the end of your show before it suddenly becomes strong for you.

It takes the proper balance between your lip, and your stomach InterCostal muscles, the muscles all the way down to your waist,  These Intercostal muscles play an important part in the way the body movement functions.  Muscle fibers range in length from a few hundred thousandths of a centimeter,to several  centimeters. Each fiber has it’s own nerve impulses,  and releases Glycogen, to give fuel for energy. Intercostals are one of five muscles that run from the rib above to the bottom rib on the rib cage,, The  Subcostal muscles are found in the inferior portion of the thoracic wall.   And you thought it was all from your Vocal cords and vocal folds, Didn’t you???   Think again….

It takes certain body movement, neck and mouth tissue massage,  along with extreme breathing technique.       You shouldn’t even Sing without knowing what your body is supposed to be doing….ONLY Then,,,,, Only, Then will it be as Strong and beautiful as it can be.


Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training



Jessica Marciel on the Radio


My First Show, with Skip Weisser

In July, I was a guest on the radio show “On the Slide With Skip”  Skip Weisser is a hero of mine. he was with Elvis, Chase, and Wayne Cochran and the CC Riders, as a trombonist. Loretta St. John bless her heart was my connection for Skip to have me on a segment “Woman in jazz” with Sandy Kastel and Loretta and myself as guests.

His producer Joe McGough called and asked me to be a fixture on the show. They added a new music calendar segment for me to report and to chat with the guests and Skip and Joe,  on air.

With my many years of performing and my personal friendship with many of Skip’s musician friends, he thought I was a good fit! I am thrilled.

It is my 4th show this Wednesday night 6pm  on the radio 1230 am on your dial. If you miss any shows, you can go to and listen to archived past shows.

For recaps and music news around town and blogs, visit my new website, Live Music Las Vegas.  

See you when the curtain goes up,


Superstar Band for Student Katie Pilkey

When I first heard Katie sing, I thought of Nashville, and Eric Bikales, my friend, pianist/producer/arranger for Neil Sedaka.

Eric moved to the South 7 years ago from Los Angeles where he did quite well. Knowing, and trusting him to get me the best originals from award-winning writers. I sent a video of my new discovery Katie. He responded with a Yes, I could work with her. We fell in love with 4 songs and Eric and Katie decided to write a fifth one themselves. It is one of my favorites!, “Somewhere, Anywhere”.

Katie and I booked six days in July in Nashville, and Eric outdid himself!. The guitarist was possibly the best guitarist in the country. George Marinelli was with Bruce Hornsby and the Range, and for the last few decades, Bonnie Raitt,  I think because Bonnie plays, people do not realize the genius of this musician.

The drummer had worked with me before when I was in Nashville, two years ago, Fred Satterfield, of the Oakridge Boys and Ronnie Laws. Bassist, Steve Mackey is with Dolly Parton, and again, a major talent. Matt Berry rounded out on guitar and was just divine in filling in those places that round out the song. Eric on Keys and B 3, and adding steel guitar, I threw in some back up on one song, and Katie knocked it out of the park. She has no idea of the star power that Eric got her on her first 5-track EP download.

I can”t wait to hear the finished project. I feel so honored to have worked with these guys, I even got to cut a song with them myself, due to Eric’s generosity.

Katie Pilkey and I had the best time seeing Nashville by night, and being in the studio all day. It is possibly the best time I have had in the studio in a long time.

Can’t wait to do it again!

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

Barbra Streisand is Honored as Person of the Year

The Grammys and MusiCares are honoring Streisand , she will emcee the silent auction and concert to raise money for the historic event. She will perform at the events closing.

MusiCares has helped millions of performers in times of life or death. If you play a piano bar in Ohio, or you are a famous conductor, they do not discriminate. The concert will be at the Los Angeles Convention Center Febuary 11, 2011

  • 5:30pm Cocktails, and silent auction viewing
  • 8pm Gala Dinner
  • 9pm: Concert and award presentation


To hear that my new favorite singer, Nikki Yanosfky, will be in this event is quite exciting.

Ellen Silver

Ellen Silver

Let me tell you how Music Cares has affected my life. My dearest friend, and pianist/singer, Ellen Silver, became very ill from a rare blood disease. After suffering and getting chemotherapy for a year, she finally told me about her illness when she needed help. She was burning with fever, and needed rent money.I went to the ATM and dashed to her apt. I threw the money on the piano, and ran to her bedside where I first saw how seriously ill she was. Why had she not told anyone? She was afraid  no one would hire her if she was sick.  I wanted to take her to the hospital, but she said her boyfriend would be home soon, and they would go.

It was the last time she would see my face. When I saw her at the hospital the infection had gone to her eyes and brain, and she had no vision, ever again. All of her friends gathered round and we were all helpless. I convinced her brother to get her to Hospice, because the Doctor had told us there was nothing we could do.

We went to Nathan Adelson Hospice, they had treated my father so well. Her brother Jerry was in denial, but by the time we got him to agree, the room was gone. They found another hospice,  Odyssey, and she went the next morning. Her boyfriend was concerned how he could live in the apt, until he could settle somewhere else, and the memorial, when she would pass, it was all too much.I ran around town collecting 20 dollars from here and there, and her boss a Fellini’s gave him enough for rent, he used the money I left on the piano for bills or something, I never knew what? She died that evening, just after I left her and went home, I got the call, she was gone.

The money from MusiCares went to her boyfriend Sean, so I suppose it paid for the lovely memorial service we had. Every dime I collected went to Sean, so I suppose it helped him stay in the apartment another month. A dear friend and fan of Ellen’s gave me the money to buy the contents of her storage shed, filled with her life. I have her music, and she is everywhere in my studio.

Whenever there is a musician, singer or dancer in trouble, you can always count on MusiCares.

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

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