Sylvia Brooks’ debut album, Dangerous Liaisons, has earned her rave reviews. Christopher Loudon of the The Jazz Times, describes her voice as, ” a dark, smoky sound with impressive firepower.” Forging a connection between the traditional and contemporary, unlike any other performer, she has taken the role of ‘jazz singer‘ in an entirely new direction.
Read on to know more about her passion for music, her idols, and, more importantly, her plans for her much anticipated second album.
Kindly give our readers an introduction to your business.
My business is making and performing music. My debut album, Dangerous Liaisons, has been played on over 500 radio stations throughout the United States and Canada, as well as on 100’s of streaming stations around the world. My live concerts are standing room only events throughout the Los Angeles area. I am currently working on my second album featuring percussive orchestral arrangements by Kim Richmond. I am also in discussions to bring my ‘high art homage’ to Europe.
Kindly give us a brief description about yourself.
I was born into a musical family and was raised on the great jazz music of the 1930s and 1940s which reflects in my music today. I sing in the cabaret tradition of such stellar torch singers as Lena Horne, who is my personal idol, Edith Piaf and Ella Fitzgerald. As a young actress, I studied classical theater at the prestigious American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, and went on to star in musical theater productions throughout the United States and Europe. As an actor, I realized that I have little control over the kind of artistic fulfillment, which I sought, and this brought me back into the musical fold.
What ignited the spark in you to start out on your own?
My passion for this music and how it speaks to me motivated me to break out on my own. My life influences and experiences have also contributed a lot to my venture.
How important have good employees been to your success?
I would like to call them my team. My musicians, arrangers, technicians and support team have all been a key component in my success to date. When you surround yourself with good people, it can only elevate everything.
What three pieces of advice would you give to college students who want to become entrepreneurs?
Stay true to your vision, work hard at your craft, allow change to instruct you, and don’t give up.
If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
Nothing… Everything that I’ve done so far in my life has brought me to this point and has lead me to where I want to be.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Talent, ingenuity and perseverance. Integrity is also a key factor.
How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
I am of the belief that if you make intelligent choices there is no need to give up. You just need to stay flexible. As you grow, so does your vision. Just stay true to yourself.
How many hours do you work a day on average?
To me, it’s not about how many hours I put in, it’s about the quality of my work.
What motivates you?
My passion for music motivates me. Music is the wellspring of my creativity and joy.
How do you generate new ideas?
Talking to others, listening to other’s music, staying on top of what is going on in my field and self reflection give me new ideas.
What are your ideals?
I am guided by honesty, humility, hard work and courage. I also try to stay true to myself and my voice.
How do you define success?
Success is when my singing reaches people and they appreciate it.
What is the best way to achieve long-term success?
Stay true to your beliefs and success will be yours one day.
How do you build a successful customer base?
My customer base is built via creating good music, giving live performances and Internet and social media marketing.
Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
Yes, you must have talent in that area, do what you believe in, and be good at what you do.
If you could talk to one person from history, who would it be and why?
Lena Horne. She truly elevated her life through a very difficult time in American History. And, her art grew as a result of her courage.
Who has been your greatest inspiration?
I have been inspired by Lena Horne, Edith Piaf, Bessie Smith…artists who put their lives on the line. I also loved Amy Winehouse.
What book has inspired you the most?
The book, The Nature of Personal Reality by Jane Roberts has inspired me the most.
What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Being able to make the big decisions in my own voice.
To what do you most attribute your success? What would say are the five key elements for starting and running a successful business?
For me the key elements for starting and running a successful business would be – Vision, intelligence, flexibility, passion and courage. I also attribute my success to these characteristics.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Recording, releasing and hearing my first album played on the radio, and getting appreciation from those I respect and admire has afforded me a lot of satisfaction.
What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
Entrepreneurs work on their own vision, not someone else’s. Unlike an employee, an entrepreneur has 200% of the responsibility but also 200% of the reward.
How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
The Internet and the talent of those I bring in around me. I bring people in for their talents, and then trust them to do what they do. I always try to work with people who are better then I am.
What kind of culture exists in your organization?
The culture in my organization is one of openness, honesty and collaboration.
In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.
What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made?
My biggest mistakes were committed when I did not think objectively enough.
How can you prevent mistakes or do damage control?
You can prevent mistakes, but not always, by staying informed and updated.
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
My hobby and work is my music. I am fortunate to be doing the one thing in the world that I most enjoy doing.
What makes you happy?
I am at my happiest when creating and making music.
Where do you see yourself and your business in 10 years? 20 years?
I see myself having an international presence in the world of music.
If you were conducting this interview, what questions would you ask?
One of the questions I would ask is “Why are we on this planet?” And, my answer to that would be: “I believe that we are here to contribute something of value to society, to be original and to have a voice. And most importantly, to have the courage to have your voice heard.”