About Yvonne

Born in Oakland, California, into a musical family that includes her brother, jazz trumpeter Jon Faddis, Yvonne Faddis-Stroud has been playing the piano since the age of three. Renowned for having an incredible ear for music, Yvonne says that when she hears a song, it goes straight to her fingers. As a result, her repertoire contains countless compositions, including jazz, blues, classical, Broadway, R & B, Motown, movie and TV themes, spirituals, and even video games. She often delights audiences with her unique ability to whistle and hum two different tunes simultaneously. Sir Roland Hanna has said of her talent, “She can see around corners!”

Yvonne’s professional career spans four decades and began while still in college. Though she majored in visual art, Yvonne performed regularly with the college jazz band and composed and performed original music for theatrical productions, all the while spending three to four hours daily in the practice rooms. She secured her first gigs improvising accompaniment to silent movies and leading her own jazz quartet in the Oakland area. After graduating summa cum laude with her Bachelor of Fine Arts from California State University at Hayward, Yvonne continued to season her musical palate. She worked as an accompanist for African and modern dance classes and performed with such noted Bay Area musicians as Eddie Marshall, Bill Summers, Herbert Mims, Paul Smith, and Harley White. She even sat in with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band and was a guest on the popular radio station KPFA in Berkley

All told, Yvonne spent more than 10 years exploring the Bay Area scene, moonlighting as a musical director at Oakland Ensemble Theater, playing solo piano at the swankiest country clubs, restaurants, and boutiques, and eventually becoming the house pianist for Nordstrom’s in Walnut Creek. She also collaborated in the studios of Fantasy Records with the chart-topping R&B group the Whispers, among other local groups.

Since relocating to Chicago, Yvonne has displayed her prodigious talents in diverse venues, from the Cotton Club and the Steppenwolf Theater to “sitting in” at the Green Mill, the Jazz Showcase, and in jam sessions at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival and the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival in Washington, D.C. She has performed with Make Music Chicago and played for receptions for Orbert Davis’s Chicago Jazz Philharmonic. Along the way, she has shared the stage with such local luminaries as the Chicago Horns and vibraphonist Darlene Hill, as well as with jazz legends Dorothy Donegan and Von Freeman. She also expanded her horizons, studying jazz theory with Bethany Pickens and Anthony Molinaro.

Among her many achievements, Yvonne’s proudest accomplishment by far has been helming her own television show, “Yvonne’s Piano,” which aired on Chicago’s WJYS TV 62. She produced a total of 23 half-hour episodes, featuring her arrangements of jazz and popular tunes in solo versions and in trio settings featuring bassist Larry Gray and drummer Joel Spencer.

Yvonne’s community service includes giving back as a guest jazz educator at the Lower School of the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools and lifting spirits at local hospitals and retirement homes.

She has served on the Governor’s Board of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and on the boards of the Chicago Sinfonietta and the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic.

Yvonne currently resides in Oak Brook, IL, with her family, where, in her spare time, she enjoys drawing, painting, calligraphy, and philanthropy.

By Ear I Hear:
How I Developed My Style of Playing

People always ask me where I studied piano. I started picking out tunes on a small, portable organ given to me at age three or four. I used to sit on the front porch playing, and all the neighborhood kids would come and listen. My mom said I was two-and-a-half when, out of the blue, I repeated—in tune—Nat King Cole’s “Nature Boy.” She was astounded!

I began piano and ballet lessons at age eight. My piano teacher, Laura T. Scott, gave my sister and me the same piece to play. I would listen to my sister play and would copy it without reading the music. I totally don’t know how I got away with it! I thought it was all a waste of time because I wanted to play my own stuff instead. So I struggled for a while, and then the lessons stopped.

As a young girl I totally fell in love with the late great pianist Liberace. I would sit in front of the TV mesmerized by his virtuosity, his ability to play in many genres and his amazing showmanship. I really wanted to play just like him.

I played violin at Washington Elementary School in the fifth and sixth grades. I didn’t study privately, so I would copy the kids that did, imitating their changing hand position, vibrato, etc. But I discontinued playing violin when I entered middle school.

When I had a chance, I would listen to the latest songs on the radio. We also had an old Victrola, and I played the old 33 1/3 rpm records my parents had. I remember playing “Jeeps Blues” and Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite and Swan Lake over and over again. I would then go to the piano and pick out what I heard.

Then one day, my mom brought home Erroll Garner’s album “Concert By The Sea.” Once I listened to that, I was totally hooked on jazz piano. I stayed on the piano so long that my parents had to ask me to stop. It was my everything. I loved taking any melody and jazzing it up. I remember playing the theme from “77 Sunset Strip” at summer camp. Everyone loved it.

In high school, all the singers wanted me to accompany them for talent shows. I knew all the latest songs no one else knew. It was so much fun!

When I began college, I really became obsessed with music, particularly jazz. When Ramsey Lewis’s “The In Crowd” and “Wade In The Water” were released, I immediately memorized them note for note. I played them in the choir room and everyone would clap the rhythm while I played.

I didn’t major in music because my reading was so far behind those who had been studying formally for years. So I opted for art instead, which was easy for me and I loved it. But my love for music was so great that I gravitated toward the practice rooms every chance I got. I made friends with some students who were into jazz, and we would listen to each other and talk about all aspects of music. We stayed current with the latest and most popular jazz charts and tried to copy them.

I picked up jazz chords by listening and copying—no formal theory. Some students would talk about theory, but it went in one ear and out the other. I just wanted to play! I would sit next to very experienced pianists and watch how they voiced the chords. I would then run to my own practice room and develop my own interpretations using what I heard. I copied the classical students’ arpeggios, scales, etc., without reading a note. I had to force myself to stop in order to study my other subjects.

At California State University at Hayward, I befriended the great jazz pianist Ed Kelly. He used to let me sit in and listen to him play when I could. Bassists Harley White, James Leary and other musicians let me play with them, and I learned a lot of jazz standards that way.

During that time, I began to get interested in movie soundtracks and classical music. I would go to Tower Records (my second home) and purchase the film music of Erich Korngold, Miklós Rózsa, Franz Waxman, and Victor Young, among many others. These composers wrote some very beautiful and dramatic music that totally drew me in. I was also drawn to Mozart, Bach, Strauss, Rachmaninoff, Rimsky-Korsakov, Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky, Berlioz, etc. I couldn’t get enough!

And then came the Broadway musicals. Rogers and Hammerstein were my favorites. And Afro-Latin. I would go down Telegraph Avenue to U.C. Berkeley, where there was a large group of Afro-Latin conga drummers who would just blow everyone away with their complex and dynamic rhythms. I would sit and listen for hours, but I couldn’t keep still. The rhythms went all through my body and totally put me on another plane.

At home, my mom kept the radio on. She loved to listen to KABL, which programmed “easy listening” music like Montavani, Frank Sinatra, the Boston Pops, Roger Williams, Ferrante and Teicher, Peter Nero, etc. All those beautiful melodies stuck in my brain, even though at that time I thought it was corny.

All these styles influenced the way I play. I still have to pull myself away from the piano. It is part of me and I am part of it. It makes me come alive!

A very special thanks to my late parents Woody and Mildred Faddis for providing me with a piano and putting up with all my noise.