Vegas Voices is a weekly question-and-answer series featuring notable Las Vegans.
From nursing and clinical research in neuroendocrinology to jazz promoter?
Why not? Las Vegas is a city of reinvention. And Teresa Kidder lives the theory that if nobody’s putting on the kind of entertainment you want to see, quit wishing you were some place else (in her case, New York) and do it yourself.
Though she’s still a freelancer working several jobs in the health care industry, Kidder has gone from being the “ultimate fan” of jazz and roots-leaning local musicians to a niche promoter, under the handle Teresa’s With The Band. Currently she’s presenting the Chandler Judkins Quartet on select Fridays (including Jan. 22) at Nora’s Cuisine.
The past year also saw more gigs for Sounds of Miles Davis, a project that Kidder had coaxed along for two years. She’s also been the champion of acts including The Funk Jam, Brian Czach Trio, BFD (Czach, Fred Schrueders, Dave Inamine), standards singer Laura Shaffer and singer-songwriters including Justin Mather, Tim Catching and Kirsti Manna.
Kidder may not be a threat to big corporate promoters such as Live Nation, but “I booked jazz for all of 2015,” she says. “That was a big accomplishment for me. Straight-ahead jazz with no singer? That’s like the antithesis of Vegas, really.”
Review-Journal: So when I first met you in 2011, you were Frankie Moreno’s biggest fan and he was encouraging you to commercially market the salsa you would bring to him and his band at the Stratosphere. Whatever happened to that?
Kidder: That is still an active option. Food can be more difficult because of the liability, figuring out where I could make it, how to get a commercial kitchen. It’s still something I want to do, and when people eat my salsa they ask, “Can I buy this? I’ll give you $20 for a jar of this.”
I was born in Amarillo, raised in El Paso. My grandparents had a Mexican restaurant so I grew up in a restaurant. The salsa recipe is based on my mother’s.
R-J: But at some point you went from being a super-fan of these musicians to being a presenter. What made you cross that line and start Teresa’s With The Band?
Kidder: I can tell you basically where the whole thing started. It was Meatheads bar on Decatur (at Charleston) in a Walmart shopping center. I had met Brian Czach, the Funk Jam drummer, and he had invited me to their first or second gig.
I walk in and the band was at the end of a long walkway. Brian was doing a solo, he had his eyes closed, doing what he does. All these syncopated rhythms. I just found this heaven in Las Vegas that I just felt could never exist.
I would have never known that Meatheads bar was going to give me such a New York moment. I felt like I was in the East Village, which was my hang when I lived there for 20 years. I am a New Yorker, heart and soul.
The only thing was, I was the only person in there other than the bartender and the sound guy.
R-J: So you adopted them?
Kidder: I went every Wednesday religiously. I just started telling everybody about it. At that time I was going to Frankie Moreno three or four times a week wherever he happened to be playing, and Chandler (Judkins, trumpeter in Moreno’s band) had his New Jazz Testament band at the Mandarin Oriental. I was just meeting all kinds of musicians at that time. Eventually, the Funk Jam asked me if I would do some promotion for them. They needed to bring more people in so they could keep that gig.
R-J: You were a music fan, but your career had been completely different, right?
Kidder: All critical care, my mother’s a nurse as well, so I became a nurse and worked in Dallas, at Parkland Hospital, in pulmonary intensive care. Then I moved to New York and worked at Bellevue in critical care dialysis and NYU in post-open heart surgery ICU. I moved to Las Vegas in 2004 (as part of a relationship), but I was not in touch with the music world until about 2010, when I injured my wrist and my physical therapist talked me into going to see Frankie Moreno and opened that door for me.
R-J: So after your high-stress jobs, is promoting bands a piece of cake or something that’s harder than you imagined?
Kidder: I worked a lot with pharmaceutical companies and went several places around the world to give clinical presentations. There was a lot of PR involved in that job and I didn’t really realize it. It’s PR with patients to keep them in the study, and with the marketing people and the pharmaceutical companies. So I kind of had an idea of how you talk things up to make them look great and hope people will come in. But you have to be honest about it because you don’t want them to be disappointed.
But of course there’s a learning curve. When I first started trying to book Sounds of Miles Davis, nobody wanted to talk to me about booking anything until the (NFL) teams their bars represented were going to be in the Super Bowl or not. I couldn’t believe it. I’m not a football fan. That’s just so foreign to me to think that everything stops for it. I had to wait until March. But Sounds of Miles Davis debuted at the E-String (in Henderson) in March to a sold-out audience and we actually made money.
R-J: But obviously there are easier ways to make money than putting traditional jazz into video-poker bars.
Kidder: Of course I would pick jazz because it’s my favorite. But that’s difficult anywhere, except New York or Chicago.
R-J: So it really does seem to be a case of you working to make the things happen that you yourself want to see.
Kidder: It really is. It’s like, there’s all these guys and I love this music, so everybody has to hear about it so I can hear it.
I used to have a running daydream: Wouldn’t it be cool to take all these musicians I know and love and make my own band? (One night in the Stratosphere lounge) Brian and Chandler were talking about jazz as they always do … . I wanted them to do a project together, because they’re my two favorite musicians. So I interrupted and said, ‘Hey, if you two were going to do a project together, what would it be?’
Brian said, “What about Miles?”
That was it for me. Miles Davis is my only answer to that “If you’re on a desert island …” question. I told them, “If you’re serious, I’ll do my best to book it.”
I really have to love the band to be able to promote them. I actually learned that’s a good thing after I went to this music business seminar at The Bunkhouse. One of the main things they said was, ‘If you don’t love the band you’re trying to promote you will never be successful. It’s like false advertising.’ To me it was just common sense. If I don’t love it, how can I tell people to go see it?
— Read more from Mike Weatherford at reviewjournal.com. Contact him at email@example.com and follow @Mikeweatherford on Twitter.Like Neon Las Vegas on Facebook: