Levy Daniels said that she has spent her life experiencing both love and fascination. Her love for music started when she was a child and she and her father had daily jam sessions. "My dad played the piano and we would improvise. The whole fun of it was to take a song and put in as many twists as you could possibly come up with," she said. At the age of 12, she began recording for ABC Paramount Records under the name of Barbara Lyons. "I also recorded a children's album. I loved it. I always had music in my heart."
Barbara Levy Daniels said that she experienced love and fascination when at the age of fourteen. "When my husband met me, I was really young. He saw me lip synching 'Leo My Love' (at the Jewish Community Center). It was one of the first 45s that I made. At that time, that's how you promoted your records. You went around to record hops, and you lip synched. He loved jazz. We had that in common right from the start." Her father purchased a drum set so that Barbara's boyfriend would be able to participate in family jam sessions. Barbara Levy married Errol Daniels at the age of 19.
The romance is as strong as ever after forty-two years, she said.
But a professional career as a jazz singer was put on hold for many years. Levy Daniels had a brief career as a secretary. Then she and her husband had a son in 1972. Afterward, she went back to school and became a special education teacher. She had one of the first resource rooms for autistic children, where she used music as a teaching tool. "The meter of music is helpful for certain children who don't relate well with people."
After teaching for a while, Levy Daniels decided that she needed additional training to counsel families. She went back to school and earned a master's degree in social work. She now has a private practice in Williamsville, and her clients are mainly couples. "I see different variations of couples. I see married couples, unmarried couples, same-sex couples, young, old, you name it," she said. She explained that her job is to facilitate the healing of their relationships. "You need a mentally healthy mentor. People come to my office with all sort of strengths. My goal is to get them to realize it, not to tell them where to go, what to do."
Following her heart and taking risks have paid off, said Levy Daniels. A late bloomer, she followed her own path, she said, adding that, for her, life began at fifty. Going into private practice after finishing graduate school was a risk. Her return to performing in 1998 was a risk. "You get confident with the more risks that you take. The higher they are, the better you feel about yourself," she said.
To guide her path back into music, Levy Daniels found mentors in the jazz world. She studied at Dr. Billy Taylor's Jazz in July program at the University of Massachusetts. Her mentor was Sheila Jordan, who helped her develop her skills in phrasing and improvisation. She said her study helped her build confidence so that she could perform.
"I'm in charge of the rhythm up there, and if I change, then it changes. It takes a long time to learn jazz. I think that you have to be very secure in your vocal techniques," Levy Daniels explained.
Levy Daniels has traveled, both in the United States and abroad, and she has performed with a variety of musicians. They tend to be fascinating people, she said. She talked about a Cuban musician who has performed in the United States several times. "Some of the members of the Buena Vista Social Club came here. One of them, an older man sat in our car. He is amazing. He's always smoking a cigar. It's not always lit, but it's there. He really likes his Haagen Dazs chocolate ice cream. He's such a sweetie, a character. He speaks no English, but I played for him my first CD (They're Writing Songs of Love). I can't remember what he said. He just kept blowing a kiss into the air."
Levy Daniels plans to plans to appear at a variety of summertime jazz festivals. She's also looking take her act on the road. She said that she might even try composing. And she's thinking about making another CD.
She encourages people to follow their hearts, foolish or otherwise. She sings about doing just that on her CD. And she said, "Sometimes people think that they can't do something because they didn't do it at the right time. I'm having a ball. Go for it! Life is to be lived and supplemented by working."
by Alice E. Gerard
It's all about passion, about doing the things that you love, said Barbara Levy Daniels. Her marriage to photographer Errol Daniels, her career as a psychotherapist, and her burgeoning career as a jazz singer are all connected, she said.