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Check Out Pamela Parker’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Pamela Parker.

Pamela Parker, born Pamela Jean Ciconte in Washington, DC, grew up right outside the DC line in Kensington, MD where she started her musical journey. She learned a lot about music and dance doing weekly piano lessons, dance lessons in ballet, tap & jazz, plus she was singing in church every Sunday with her mom. Pamela’s brother, Robert Ciconte, taught her the classic duet on piano “Heart & Soul” and she was hooked on music from a young age. Growing up in the DC Area, Pamela was able to attend regular concerts at The Kennedy Center bringing to light classical music through orchestras, along with world music through many great international performances, some of her favorites being Anoushka Shankar on Sitar and Yousou N’Dour’s live band performance. Growing up in the DC Area was one thing, but then after Pamela’s parents split up, she was moved to Oklahoma with her mom and stepdad. It was in the small town of Ponca City, OK that she started violin in the school orchestra, sang in choir, and kept up with her piano skills at home teaching herself songs like Beethoven’s “Fur Elise”. Pamela also did a lot of sports and was on the diving team (placing in state competition) as well as she did track, cross country and was on the golf team, having grown up with a dad who competed in golf. Her sporty nature kept her in dance classes all through high school, all the while she was playing music. In 11th grade, Pamela decided to put the violin down and bought a drum set with her life savings, which at the time was $1000. Her new Ludwig drum set was in her room and she played as much as she could while taking a few lessons from a local pro drummer.

During this time, she also found her mom’s classical guitar and started playing with that a little bit teaching herself a few chords. During her visits back to Maryland to see her dad & brother, her brother started to teach her some of her first guitar licks when he showed her how to play Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters”. She quickly became a fan of guitar and added that to her arsenal of instruments! During Senior year of high school, Pamela performed for the first time playing guitar at the Senior Assembly, where you could showcase your talent. She played a cover of her brother’s band’s song “Sunday Afternoon”. After high school, Pamela moved back to the East Coast to attend University of Maryland at College Park. Pamela quickly found guitar to be the instrument of choice because it was small enough to take with you everywhere. Her love of piano, drums and violin would just have to wait while she studied up guitar in her spare time at college. After two and a half years of college, Pamela was still finding it hard to decide on a major, so upon her dad’s advice to take a semester off and search for her passion, she found herself on a cross-country road trip with her best friend, Kim Manning. They went from Oklahoma to New Mexico to LA to SF to Sebastopol, CA and back. It was on this trip that Pamela had an epiphany while jamming with some friends and realized she could make a big difference in the world through music!

After coming home from this trip, Pamela proceeded to get an internship at a recording studio to learn the ropes as well as she enrolled in voice lessons and eventually auditioned to get into college for music. She went on to get two degrees in music: one in Vocal Performance with double minor in guitar & piano (both jazz & classical) from Montgomery College and her second degree in Commercial Music with emphasis on Vocal Performance (Producing, recording, songwriting, performing music and double minor in piano & guitar both jazz and classical) from Shenandoah Conservatory. Pamela was also a member of the Jazz Band playing piano in both colleges during her music education journey and loved every minute of it! During her first semester in college for music at Montgomery College, Pamela decided to put on her very first show called the Aspects of PAM. She designed her own Fillmore style poster and arranged for many friends to collaborate and perform with her for the show. The show was a huge success and was even filmed for the school’s TV network. Out of this show, her first band was formed with two other friends, Stacey Silvermoon and Ren Rick. They called their band Roots A’Risin’ and they went on to play some pretty cool festivals and venues making a name for themselves on the East Coast. RAR released two albums during their course and had a range of 3 members all the way to eight members at one time, with a slew of band members over the years. After attending her second school for music, Pamela needed just one more thing to complete her education.

In order to graduate with her degree in Commercial Music from Shenandoah Conservatory, Pamela had to do an internship in the music business. She was lucky enough to meet Michael Franti on the Jam Cruise and he helped her get her internship in San Francisco, CA with his producer Jay Bowman. Pamela loved every minute of the 3-week internship where she not only learned the ropes from Jay but also met a great mentor, Maestro Curtis, who would open her eyes to sound healing and color theory. Maestro even had her sing on a track for Clive Davis. Pamela now knew she wanted to live full time in San Francisco because there was such a special vibe in this city as well as a really cool network of musicians all working together for the greater good of the people. So, after graduating college, she moved to California. Pamela continued to tour with her East Coast band for a few more years while living in San Francisco, but eventually started her own band and now performs under Pamela Parker’s Fantastic Machine with her full band, including horns and background singers. She also continues to teach private music lessons in voice, piano, guitar, songwriting, producing & recording music. Still living in the SF Bay Area, Pamela Parker is a producer, engineer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and high-powered vocalist. She has been working for the last 14 years at the legendary Hyde Street Studios in SF as a producer and engineer with an array of bands like Latin Grammy winners Flor De Tolache (recording for Paul McCartney’s Christmas Album), Iman Shumpert (Cleveland Cavaliers), and so many more.

In addition, she fronts a rock band and her recently released album is called The Fantastic Machine, produced by herself, Chris McGrew and Jaimeson Durr (Sammy Hagar, Jason Bonham) at Hyde Street Studios. Of note, Pamela has opened for classic rock band Heart at the Mountain Winery and frequently plays at festivals like High Sierra Music Festival and frequently plays at venues like The Independent in SF. The band also produced a full score and theme song for a multi-award-winning short film Love Hurts. In addition, the band has also composed custom music for commercial clients such as Discovery Channel & Verizon. Pamela’s latest album, The Fantastic Machine, creates a fresh rock n’roll landscape with a wide range of surprising touchstones like Bonnie Raitt, Aretha Franklin, Thin Lizzy, Funkadelic and Heart. Her previous album, Evolutionary Process, also produced at HSS debuted at #1 and was up for Album of the Year in Vancouver, BC on CHLY Radio. Currently she is performing online, teaching (voice, piano, guitar & songwriting) online and doing vocal recording and mix sessions from home and some from Hyde Street Studios until the Pandemic is over. Pamela is also working on releasing her online course in singing in 2021 under Pamela Parker Vocal Academy. So, stay tuned!

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
It’s never a smooth road, in fact, I think once you’re up on stage, it’s smooth. Just getting to the stage can be quite the challenge. I think the road is always bumpy in the music business because we are all working with music and feelings and not everyone feels the same or thinks the same music is great. I think one of the biggest challenges has been to remain in control of my own music and remain in a place where I feel truly authentic to what I’m releasing. Being a female in a male-dominated industry (both music and engineering) has been a struggle because I constantly have to stand my ground and speak up for myself and what I know. Being a female who fronts a rock band AND is a recording engineer who also producing can also be confusing to some who want each person to only take up one lane. I take up like three lanes, Musician, Producer, & Vocal Coach…there’s a lot there, but it’s so good when you’re in the studio! I think one of the hardest challenges at first was to stand my ground as a female in a male-dominated industry. I still have to remind people of some of the things I can do, but I know that’s a constant thing and feel confident about all my skills both in and out of the studio, so it doesn’t bother me anymore.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I do a lot! I am a female guitarist & vocalist who can sing anything from opera to jazz to rock as well as shred with the best of them on guitar. On stage, I specialize in singing while playing my Red Gibson SG, especially doing solos with my singing, like George Benson. I am most proud of the time my band and I got to open up for Heart at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga, CA. That was a dream come true and they called me! I had become bi-coastal in 2012 and while pumping gas, I received a call from AEG Live asking whether I wanted to open for Heart, well, of course I said yes!!! And the rest is herstory! Off stage, I specialize in recording and producing music at the legendary Hyde Street Studios in San Francisco, CA. I’ve been working there for 14 years and am so proud that this studio is still open and thriving. I’m a staff engineer at HSS as well as bring in many of my own artists to produce and record. I’d say my specialty is Vocal Producing because the vocal is so important to the track, it’s the main thing!

I’ve worked with some vocalists that were very far off the mark and one session with me worked miracles I didn’t even think I could make happen! Most people really need months of training to hit some of the notes they want but don’t have it. Then I come in the door and whip their voices into shape right on the spot. I also highly specialize in singing background vocals for many artists and my band calls my vocals on a track the “Legion of Pam” because sometimes there are 40 tracks of background vocals…and they sound so silky smooth! I think what sets me apart from others is that I’m a female who fronts a rock band playing electric guitar and work at this dope studio producing and recording bands. I feel so empowered with the ability to go into a studio and know the entire process and command excellence from those I work with. It’s such a great feeling when you hear a track you’ve been working hard on for a while come to its final stage. When you sit back and press play on the final listen, it’s so rewarding to know this song will go out into the world and change some people’s lives. Music is magic! My motto is to make a difference in the world for the better one song at a time!

Is there a quality that you most attribute to your success?
Diligence. The music business has so many twists and turns you’ve really gotta be diligent and work hard when the going gets tough!

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Image Credits:

Photos by Ashleigh Castro, Ryan Hickey, Dano Perez (Dr. Dano), and Tom Dellinger

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