"The music of Laurie Z. has the pianistic touches of Chopin, the ornaments of Baroque, the sophistication and the grace of classical piano music; yet her structures and harmonies follow the verse-chorus structures of Elton John's music." ~ Penka Kouneva, Music Professor and Hollywood Film Composer
With a prodigious talent and plucky spirit, Laurie Z. single-handedly crafted her career and took her place in the music world. Laurie Z., as she was known professionally, was slim, sexy, and smooth, but also smart, savvy, and self-possessed. She was uncommonly poised, even as a teenager, with a Mona Lisa smile and a quiet twinkle in her eye.
Laurie received a total of 15 Grammy nomination considerations for her recordings which combine classical, jazz, new age and ambient influences. Her music demonstrates great depth, intensity and sophistication in her richly textured melodic songs.
Classically trained from the age of 4, her education and experience went well beyond the boundaries of classical music. Laurie began composing at the age of 16, and her skills were compared to those of Chopin. Laurie studied and performed classically in New York City, all the while playing rock and roll in addition to her classical studies. After her family relocated to California, she attended Cathedral Oaks School. At San Marcos High School, her sight-reading ability put her in demand.
As a student, Laurie was a prodigy. She played for all the music groups and sang in madrigals. One of few girls in the area to play in jazz bands at the time, Laurie also played in the school’s jazz band and in college vocal and instrumental groups while studying piano and voice privately with various teachers. Laurie received a Bachelor of Arts, Cum Laude, in Speech Communications from California State University, Northridge in 1981.
Laurie successfully melded both her musical gifts and business acumen by launching her own record label, Zebra Productions. Laurie Z. was not afraid of taking on a male-dominated industry to pursue her passion. The epitome of determination and perseverance, Laurie thoroughly researched all aspects of production, including promotion, distribution, radio airplay, and album pressing.
Children and adults alike happily gathered around Disneyland’s Tomorrowland Terrace to enjoy Laurie when she performed with the group Voyager. While playing keyboards at Disneyland, Laurie perfected her self-taught knowledge of songwriting. By playing the latest tunes accurately and repeatedly, she developed an ear for melody. She also had perfect pitch, which served her well in composing. Her improvisations created in concert by asking for concepts from her audience were often the highlights of a Laurie Z. performance.
Laurie played national tours for Alesis and Yamaha and represented Roland and Kawai products as a consultant and product specialist. She was featured in solo piano for Yamaha at the Monterey Jazz Festival. She opened for top instrumentalists - Herbie Hancock, Leo Kottke and Tim Wesiburg. Laurie also performed at Nordstrom stores throughout California. Her concerts with her Z band around the South Bay were frequently mentioned as a Top Pick in the Los Angeles Times. She played at Borders Bookstores nationwide played organ for the Mighty Ducks inaugural games and will always be fondly remembered by many as The Peterbilt Girl, performing nationally for more than a decade for Peterbilt Motors Company.
Dolby Labs confirmed the audiophile quality of Laurie’s recordings by licensing their use and shipping them along with the Dolby Surround Sound unit used by movie theatres and studios nationwide and Laurie was featured in Keyboard magazine’s Independent Success Stories. Laurie was unfailingly generous in sharing her expertise with other independent musicians. She taught her trade secrets at seminars, drawing standing-room-only crowds.
Laurie Z. was also a trailblazer and one of the first of a small group of female musicians to familiarize herself with MIDI. She recorded for Malcolm Cecil - inventor of the unique TONTO synthesizer. Cecil had a company in the 80's called Electronic Music Publishing House. EMPH, Inc. released the very first MIDI recording and playback software (MIDIPLAY) for the now obsolete Atari 1040 computer. Laurie (along with the late Nicky Hopkins) recorded MIDI versions of songs which were sold as Musidiscs. Only three Musidiscs were ever released - Beatles songs, Christmas music and Grammy winning songs from 1986. And Laurie recorded on all of them.
As a professional musician, Laurie had an affinity for children. While she played, young girls would come up to Laurie and tell her that they wanted to be just like her. Laurie would talk to them and give them encouragement. Laurie made sure that her estate would benefit the community. The Laurie Z. Scholarship Fund was established to help young help girls further their music education.
Laurie touched everyone with her positive energy and enthusiasm. She is missed.