Music in my Blood

Those of you who’ve read any of my Sally Solari mysteries know that, in addition to food and cooking, there’s a fair amount of music in the books: from Mozart and Puccini to Ella Fitzgerald and the Beatles.

Music has been a part of my life since childhood, when I first started playing the clarinet in my elementary school band. I studied clarinet through college, but eventually gave it up, since my fingers could never move with the speed and dexterity required to do justice to the gymnastic parts generally written for the instrument.


with my three siblings in later years
(our dad was a UCLA law professor)

After graduating from university, however, I was hit by the rock ’n roll bug. This was 1978, when the New Wave movement was sweeping the pop world and, inspired by songwriters such as Elvis Costello and David Byrne, I began to pen songs of my own. My brother Richard and I formed a band called Enigma, and I once more took up the guitar (which I’d played briefly in junior high—strumming songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Puff the Magic Dragon”), and learned to sing into a microphone. We performed at a host of clubs from Santa Cruz to San Francisco.

Zounds, was that fun!


circa 1980
(Don’t you love that mullet hairdo?)

Then law school happened, and I had to get serious. But only for awhile. After a couple of years practicing law, I formed another band—this time with my sister, Laura (because it seems to be a rule for me that all bands must include a sibling). We called ourselves Electric Range, as I’d long been obsessed with food and cooking, and fancied ourselves a sort of “Everly Sisters,” based on our country-pop vocal harmonies.

I once again wrote the songs for the band, and we had a ton of fun performing at local bars, Elks Club dances, weddings, county fairs, and even the odd concert hall (opening for more well-known acts such as Robert Earl Keen, Laurie Lewis, and Stephen Bruton).

monument valley

I’ve long been a bit of the country gal.

This time around I was determined to get my songs recorded, so we went into the studio to cut an album. The result was a CD entitled Electric Range, with nine original compositions and three cover tunes. I recently uploaded the album online, so if you’d like to have a listen—or even purchase a hard copy or digital version of the CD (yes, please do!)—you can do so here.

Electric Range

the Electric Range CD

The band broke up some years ago, after I was handed the choice of truly going for it as a rock and roll star by heading out on tour as an opening act on the East Coast, or continuing my career in Santa Cruz as an attorney. Yes, the lawyer won out, I’m a mite embarrassed to admit.

These days, I still do sing. But I’ve traded schlepping around drum kits and PA systems for singing alto in my local community college chorus. So I’ve now come full circle, from playing Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto as a high school student to singing his sublime Requiem as a sixty-something grownup.

And you know what’s funny? The biggest, most exciting venue I’ve ever performed at has been with the Cabrillo College Chorus. For it was with that ensemble that I was privileged to sing at Carnegie Hall—America’s concert hall.


Readers: Have you studied an instrument or sung in a band or chorus? What do you think of music in mystery stories?

30 thoughts on “Music in my Blood

  1. What fun memories! I have never been musically inclined. I took piano lessons for a few months once, a long time ago, but I haven’t played in years and doubt I would remember anything. I’m always impressed by people who can sing or play instruments.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Such a talent! Great pics. What a time blast.

    Your post goes to show the lifetime of enjoyment art and creativity gives. I think there’s still a guitar in my attic. I should dust it off sometime…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Started piano lessons in third grade. Was—finally, mercifully—allowed to quit in fourth grade when it was time for the weekly lesson, and we couldn’t find the music book, but ultimately discovered it in the back seat of the car…where it hadn’t moved since LAST week’s lesson.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I was brought up with music, too. I wish every child would be! It develops all sorts of mental and physical agility. All my kids play at least piano, and one son is a rock musician. I played violin from age 10 until very recently. I tried very hard to get back to it, but my hands are no longer the right shape, after arthritis and hand surgery. Ugh! I can still play piano, though! You totally rocked that mullet, BTW.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know! Maybe I should get my hair cut like that again. Not.

      I totally agree about music. So sad that we no longer have the music programs in our schools that we used to in the 1960s and ’70s. Sigh…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This is so great, Leslie! You have such amazing range!! (Speaking of range, I love Electric Range as a band name!)

    I played the flute and enjoyed it very much, despite how ridiculous I felt playing Eye of the Tiger as part of the pep band. I picked up my flute a few months ago as my daughter was trying to decide on an instrument for middle school and was surprised that I remembered a few random arpeggios AND our high school fight song! Now I’m thinking of trying another instrument. The guitar calls to me!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I took 10 years of piano, lead worship for various church groups while playing guitar, played in a handbell choir, and sang in a choir. Right now, I’m just enjoying listening to music and singing along in the car.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. We Chicks were treated to a CD performance by Electric Range at a Malice room party a couple of years back. Highly recommended! Leslie, I also played clarinet (though I admit, I wanted to play flute like Kathy and all my friends–I inherited my sister’s instrument). I was known mainly for breaking reeds after screwing them too tight. But Leslie, didn’t know you opened for Robert Earl Keen–the musical road goes on forever!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! I remember that! As I recall, I put my phone in a water glass to act as an amplifier, so we could hear the CD. And there was some beer and wine involved, too…


  8. I sang in various community choruses until a few years ago when my hearing got so bad I was “gently encouraged” by the director to retire. I sang the Mozart Requiem several times, so I LOVED “A measure of murder”. As a mystery/music fan, I can’t wait for the next Sally Solari. Keep them coming!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Leslie, you and Laura sound great! You guys should do a reunion tour! *Raises flickering lighter in the air.* I sang in the church choir, including a couple of solos and duets with my sister. We weren’t very good—but the crowd was charitable.:)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I love all these photos!! AND I have the CD. (Thanks for that, pal.) It’s great. You are so damn multi-talented.

    As to my musical ability, it stops at singing. I have a decent voice – enough to once get a Bway chorus callback, which I think was more based on personality than vocal talent. I tried learning guitar in HS, but I’m lefty and it was tough. I took a couple of semesters of piano in college, but didn’t stay with it. So I’ll stick to singing. Around the house, when no one is home!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Leslie, the only reason they went with The Most Interesting Man in the World for that ad was because they hadn’t met the most interesting WOMAN in the world … YOU! Love the music, you two sound great! As for me, I plinked around on the piano, but mostly sang in choirs. Between them, my three kids have played: piano x3, classical violin, fiddle, clarinet, sax, tuba x2, upright bass, trumpet, and guitar. Some more proficiently than others! I always knew when my daughter had a bad day because she’d drop her backpack and head straight for the piano.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. These are the best pictures ever. The one where you are standing in the desert should be an author photo! Loved learning about your musical journey. What a talented family. Thinking you need to put out a Greatest Hits CD. Seriously. I will buy one right now.

    Oops, forgot to answer the question: yes, sang in choir and chorus and also played the flute in band, stage band, and orchestra. Good times!

    (Sorry I missed this one–we were traveling!)


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