2016-02-24 / Features

Val Kinzler

Growing up in Douglas Manor, after her parents moved the family from Whitestone when she was just a year old, Val Kinzler was the only girl in a family of four boys. At 15, she joined an all-girl rock band, The Sirens, playing at colleges and local venues, while studying jazz piano, and performing in theater productions. After studying acting, she enrolled at Berklee College of Music in Boston. She later attended Queens College, majoring in music and minoring in theater. During that time, Val joined the Technical Virgins from Manhattan’s Lower East Side, exploring every imaginable music scene, from punk, hard rock, metal, spoken word, glam, blues, and soul.

She has fronted the bands ICU, Blue Lagoon, Technical Virgins, Validation, and been mentored by Sid Bernstein, Dr. John, Popa Chubby, Larry Russell, and Genya Ravan. In 1998 Val’s song, “Love Won’t Break,” placed in the Pop category of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. In 1999, Martin Guitars’ “Women In Music” contest awarded her a grant to attend a Duquesne University workshop, based on her original song submissions. In 2013, Val won the Recording Artist Development (RAD) Singer Songwriter Contest. Throughout her life, Val has taught music and created special events involving women in music. Her latest CD titled, Nothing Sacred About Hatred, (Tate Music Group) is the culmination of years of songwriting. In her lyrics, Val shares a lifetime of joy, pain, love, and loss.

Val Kinzler Val Kinzler QG: You grew up the only girl of five children in Queens. Were your four brothers and perhaps your parents, all musically talented?

VK: One great thing about my parents was their appreciation for music. We had a Wurlitzer baby grand in the living room and a stereo/turntable, and a really nice fireplace. The piano became my personal haven where at age three, I’d stay to watch my brother Richard taking lessons each week. I begged my parents for lessons but they insisted I wait until I turned five. I didn’t like ballet, but when the dance teacher suggested tap in conjunction with ballet, I absolutely loved it! The jazzy music, cool steps and energy suited me.

Val Kinzler and her band Val Kinzler and her band My mom used to wake us up in the morning singing traditional gospel songs. When I was around nine, our piano tuner, Mr. Tallerico (Steven Tyler’s uncle!) used to show us pictures of his nephew’s band, Aerosmith, and tell us of their exciting success.

But I was the only one who kept up musically in my immediate family. The Douglaston Community Theater was my haven as well growing up. We rehearsed at Zion Church.

When they held the Strawberry Festival at Zion Church, my buddies formed a blues group. I was witness to some horrid singers...atonal, but exuberant in their desire to emulate Janis Joplin, Mick Jagger, David Bowie. Finally, I got the guts to approach the stage and sing some improvised blues. Like magic, I was hooked. I absolutely found my true love at last in the blues. When it came to this music, the crowd embraced me. This reinforced my self-esteem.

QG: What attracted you to join an all-girl rock band at the tender age of 15? Was this group based in Queens and where did you perform?

VK: My first all-girl group, The Sirens, was a lot of fun. At the time I was approached by a girl named Cara who studied guitar. I thought she was very “cool.” I was studying jazz piano; my pal, Pilar, learned the bass from scratch, Michelle was our drummer and attended Music & Art School in Manhattan. Nancy was our lead vocalist, who also played wild bongos and acoustic guitar. We had great harmonies. I played a Hammond B3 organ through a Leslie amplifier and the piano.

When The Sirens later got a manager and some paid gigs under our belts, our guy friends, who were serious musicians, couldn’t blow us off like groupies anymore. They were good players, but so were we. I am still to this day fighting that battle inside of myself. The Runaways were a big inspiration as well as Heart, Janis, Jefferson Airplane, because it spoke to the strength of being a female in a male-dominated field. Nancy and I were later singled out by the manager for a development deal. I joined two more all-women groups later on while studying music at Queens College. The Technical Virgins played all over the NYC punk pop scene. Sid Bernstein had called me in for meetings at that time on three different occasions. He wanted the girls to change the name of the band and to make me the lead singer. That wasn’t gonna fly. But, Sid remained a mentor of mine through the years.

QG: Who inspired you to become a rock singer, songwriter and performer? When did you realize you could also write songs, apparently also in the pop category?

VK: The song, “Somebody To Love” by Grace Slick was my first “singing in front of the mirror song!” Later on, after the release of my East 3rd Street CD (Produced by Genya Raven/Ten Wheel Drive also Rock ‘n’ Roll Refugee), I was picked to play opening act for Marty Balin and Three Dog Night in San Jose, CA. What a trip! About songwriting – this is important – because I run a Music Cool World Songwriting class for children/teens: I had an extremely unfortunate bullying episode in grammar school, coupled with issues at home with my dad’s restrictive ways and angry outbursts...fights with him and my oldest brother the cops coming over to intervene. The bullying incident at school totally caused me to retreat within myself. I was playing violin in school by this time, but suddenly quit. I also quit playing piano as a result, for five years. Thankfully, the music stayed in my heart for without it, I’d be dead. The only thing I could do with nobody to trust or confide in, was write in my journal. I kept on writing, which eventually led me to combining my musical compositions with poetry and then songs, specifically.

QG: Where did the theme from your latest CD, Nothing Sacred About Hatred come from?

VK: The CD was written in response to a Twitter update via Lady Gaga. I noted that she cancelled a certain show due to terrorist threats…too many people killing in the name of their god. This compelled me to compose our title track. I wanted to send a message of strength, imparting a sense of hope, while addressing the reality of this horror in the world at large.

QG: You have taught music and have created special events involving women in music. Do you still feel that you are in a still-struggling minority in the business, as a woman who aspires to make it as a rock star?

VK: My NYC Women Who Rock events are meant to celebrate a more outspoken and mature female creative presence, to deflect from the “pop tarts” decorated with crunch guitars and wimpy lyrics that have invaded the airwaves. It’s a constant struggle as an independent female artist, single mother of a young child (on the budget of a teaching artist) to promote my own band and musical projects. I find great strength within my own current band (VKB) which is comprised of an allmale cast because they honor me as a professional musician and artist. However, I have an all-woman songwriting collective/band as well. Moon Goddess Band generates an empowering energy that is completely feminine and very fiercely contagious.

My events for women artists hopefully lend a gesture of welcoming reciprocity on the playing field as men are also avid attendees of these live concerts.

QG: You’ve been playing dates at venues in Manhattan and Brooklyn, where you also are booked for upcoming performances this winter. Can our readers expect to catch you and bandmates at venues in Queens anytime soon?

VK: Our next show will be at Sidewalk 94 Ave. A at 6th Street in Manhattan – my NYC Women Who Rock 2016 event. Moon Goddess opens the show followed by more great female-fronted talents. We are also hoping to play in Queens at Gussy’s in the near future. Later this year, we plan a road trip to Nashville to promote our new CD. By the way, I was born Valerie Birgitta Von Kientzler. My producer Larry Russell of Music Jacket recordings encouraged me to adopt a new stage name. Thus, Valkyrie Von Kinzler a/k/a Val Kinzler.

Val Kinzler Band can be reached at: www.valkinzler.com, www.facebook.com/vkinzler, and www.reverbnation.com/valkinzler.

QG: Do you have favorite bars, clubs, restaurants in Astoria and in Queens?

VK: I lived in Astoria and LIC for many years. I loved the Bohemian Beer Garden in Astoria and would love to get a gig there. I still remember the Shilleleigh, an Irish bar on 30th Ave in Astoria that now features live music. Gussy’s has requested our band, so we may hit them up soon for a date. Austin Ale House, where I’ve performed with my pals, Lawrence Block and Victor Varelli of the folk rock duo Zuckary Bo, has great food and live music too! I love the wonderful Greek restaurants in Astoria. Finally, as a young girl, I used to tour the old Steinway Piano Factory with my grandparents who lived nearby, and I felt so lucky to play those wonderful instruments.

This column was originated in July 2013 by Nicollette Barsamian.

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