Omaha native Heidi Joy won't be staging her "Holiday Joy" shows this Christmas season because another kind of holiday joy takes precedence - she and her husband, Michael Howard, are expecting their first baby in December.
But she will sing Aug. 26 at 2 p.m. at the Joslyn Art Museum as a nonprofit benefit for Outlook Nebraska and Nebraska Lions Foundation, both of which help people with vision loss.
Heidi, known for singing the national anthem and for many other performances, now lives with Michael in Jacksonville, Fla. Among other things, she is a contributor to a magazine about dogs, "The New Barker," the logo for which wryly mimics "The New Yorker."
"Her National Anthem rendition brings chills to me every time I hear her sing it. She is the best."
"Some, impressed with another's vocal talents, will remark, 'She sings like a bird'. If that's the case, Heidi Joy sings like NINE birds."
Transcript from May 2006, after Heidi Joy sang the National Anthem at Rosenblatt Stadium
Kevin Kugler: "Heidi Joy. You'll hear her in about a month. She'll sing the National Anthem at the College World Series - and with good reason, she is fantastic, one of the best in the Midwest."
Adrian Fiala: "Kevin, what a rendition! Just her voice, just so crystal clear. Great job, Heidi Joy. Looking forward to more of Heidi Joy in the future. Wow, what a great job."
Kevin Kugler: "Yeah, she does a lot of good stuff at Creighton Basketball all season long."
Heidi Joy is leaving her native Omaha next month and moving with new husband Michael Howard to Palm Coast, Fla.
Known for her "Holiday Joy" shows at Christmas, the singing of the National Anthem and performances at "Jazz on the Green" and private parties and weddings, Heidi said the move is personal, not professional.
She and Michael, a photographer, married on the beach in September, a block away from where they will live.
"I found a lot of happiness here in Omaha," she said Friday. "I've loved the community and was supported so much."
Although more than 1,000 people attended her 10th and final Holiday Joy show at the Holland Center in December, she said the show costs so much to put on that she always hoped simply to break even financially.
She plans to return to Omaha occasionally to perform and says she would love to sing the national anthem in June at the College World Series.
A 1992 Omaha Central High grad as Heidi Joy Hausman, she studied music for three years at the University of Iowa. In Florida, she plans to continue her music career and enjoy the climate.
Heidi Joy performs final Holiday Joy concert while looking to the future
In early December, Omaha native Heidi Joy had a moment to collect her thoughts in the hallway backstage before taking the stage at the Holland Performing Arts Center for her 10th annual and final Holiday Joy concert.
She did a little vocalizing. In just a few moments, her voice would be stirring people’s emotions and doing a healing work, as it often does.
“I was all smiles and I probably skipped down the hallway,” Joy said with a laugh. “I was just very relaxed and very excited. I don’t think at that point that I was sad that it was my last one, but just excited for the show.”
She stepped onto the stage – a stunning arrangement that included three lit Christmas trees serving as a backdrop and a dozen large blue and white snowflake displays hanging from the ceiling – and opened with a traditional song, “All I Want for Christmas is You.”
She transitioned into “Children, Go Where I Send Thee” – an old spiritual that made the Holland feel more like a church than a performing arts theater.
Her ability to sing jazz, rock, gospel and all points in between is just one of the many reasons she has gained a following in Omaha and beyond. But it goes beyond her ability to simply perform various styles of music well.
Her operatic voice is gentle and powerful at the same time. Sometimes her voice reaches inside you to caress the places that hurt. Other times, she gives voice to your deepest longings to worship God. For one woman in the audience that night, it seemed to do both.
“I don’t know if it is the season of life I find myself in or the experience of where I came from,” said Michelle Hancock afterward. “But I was raised Catholic and I fell away for a lot of reasons, but I know that Heidi’s music has really gone to the core of me and she’s bringing me back. She’s bringing me back.”
“Music moves people,” Joy said after hearing about Hancock’s reaction. “It’s a universal language and it moves people in different ways than anything else can. If you have beautiful music and you hear someone with a gift from God . . . I didn’t create my voice. I think that’s maybe what she was feeling, and it’s what hits people when they have that sort of reaction.”
Four songs into the first set, all of Joy’s band, except for pianist Rick Jacobi, left the stage. The stage went dark and Joy stepped into the spotlight. As Jacobi played the opening bars to the song “Mary, Did You Know?” – a short yet extremely powerful song written by contemporary music artist Mark Lowery – the stage was set for serious contemplation about the incarnation.
“It’s such a popular song,” Joy said. “And that really, really hits people, especially people with children. The most powerful line for me is, ‘And when you kiss your little baby, you’ve kissed the face of God.’”
She sang plenty of playful songs as well, including “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” (that included narration from Dave Webber), “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.”
After two sets, the crowd stood and cheered for what would be her final encore of the Holiday Joy concert series. She performed “Let the Music” and “O Happy Day” – a song that celebrates the fact that Jesus washes away our sins.
So, why end the Holiday Joy concert series now?
“It just felt like it was time,” Joy said. “Ten years is a long time to do something. It was a very hard decision because I loved doing it. It just feels right.”
Even though the series is finished, it won’t be hard to find her.
She has a jazz band that performs around town. She will continue singing at weddings, private parties, corporate events, memorial services and fundraisers, just as she has since she was 15. She will be available to sing the National Anthem at the College World Series and Creighton men’s basketball games. In fact, she is scheduled to perform it on Jan. 13 at the Qwest Center before Creighton plays Southern Illinois.
When she is not busy singing, she is also a vocal coach. Joy plans to continue her work in the Omaha community as well. Her final Holiday Joy concert benefitted Youth Emergency Services of Omaha. In 2007, she organized an event with David M. Mangelsen and Channel 6 called “We are One! An Evening of Comfort and Joy!” after the Von Maur tragedy. In 2005, she performed a concert that raised $50,000 for the victims of the tsunami in southeast Asia.
After 10 years of working up to 80 hours a week in the weeks leading up to the Holiday Joy concert series, she relishes the idea of spending more time with her husband and the rest of her family during the Christmas season.
If you would like to see her performance schedule or order any of her five CDs, you can visit www.heidijoy.com.
"That was beautiful. That was great." -Bobby McFerrin Heidi Joy sang an impromptu duet, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, with Bobby McFerrin at the Holland Performing Art Center in April, 2007. The following was taken from a review of his show... Vocalist Bobby McFerrin surprised and entertained on Tuesday night with an extemporaneous performance whose styles ranged from classic Bach preludes and smooth jazz to playground ditties and the theme from "The Beverly Hillbillies." Bobby McFerrin may be best-known for his Grammy-winning pop song "Don't Worry, Be Happy." With only his voice and a microphone, he performed for almost two hours, without intermission, in the large concert hall of the Holland Performing Arts Center. He invited dancers in the audience up to the stage to perform with him. He invited singers on stage; about 20 joined him for a number. Then he had the audience pass a microphone around so interested people could sing a song with him. The last of the audience participants sang "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," and it inspired McFerrin to perform a condensed version of the movie "The Wizard of Oz." McFerrin played all the parts and parodied key songs by the Tin Man, Dorothy and the Munchkins. He even threw his bottle of water over his head and died like the wicked witch.
"Words, music help uplift city after shooting" Excerpts from an article by JOHN FERAK OMAHA WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER Beth Rigatuso has noticed a different, better Omaha in the weeks since a deadly shooting spree at the Von Maur store on Dec. 5. Rigatuso was one of about 920 people at a Friday night concert at the Orpheum Theater titled, "We are One: An Evening of Comfort and Joy." Omaha businessman David M. Mangelsen said he organized the free event to bring peace and comfort to the victims, their families and everyone affected by the Von Maur tragedy. The event featured several inspirational songs performed by Omaha recording artist Heidi Joy. As the lights dimmed and the crowd grew silent, six Christmas trees glowed with yellow lights on the stage. Then Joy opened the concert by singing "Silent Night." She drew a rousing round of applause. Throughout several of Joy's solos, including "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," the theater was filled with the sounds of audience members crying, reaching for tissues and blowing their noses. "The people performing here tonight are incredible local talent," Rigatuso said. "I've had the privilege of hearing Heidi Joy sing on many occasions, and her voice is amazing." Rigatuso was working at her kiosk on Dec. 5, when 19-year-old Robert Hawkins gunned down eight people before killing himself. Five others in the store were wounded by gunfire, two of them seriously. During Friday's show, Omaha actor John Beasley delivered a moving, oratory performance that paid tribute to the victims. "We are here tonight to honor those and say we ache for you, and we support you," Beasley told the crowd. "While our mall closed, people wrote messages on paper snowflakes. These snowflakes are a blizzard of support that binds us all together. The snowflakes that fell over Westroads fell over all of us." Cindy Beck, chief executive officer of the New Realities retail stores, including one at the Westroads Mall, said she and a colleague distributed at least 1,000 concert passes this week to encourage Westroads employees to attend Friday's performance. "The employees were so appreciative and very, very, touched by it," Beck said. "Some of them just wanted to talk about (the shootings), what they saw and heard. Some of them really poured their hearts out. They were very grateful."
Last week, a friend and I attended Heidi Joy’s annual Christmas concert, called Holiday Joy, and, as always, it was a beautiful way to kick off the Christmas season.
Joy started performing this concert in 2000 and I’ve caught all but a couple of the shows. I asked her recently how it felt to know that her show had become a tradition to so many people.
“It was my intent after seeing how successful the first Holiday Joy show was, to keep it a tradition for my fans who attended,” she said. “I also wanted it to grow so that other community members could enjoy the music of the Season. I can’t explain the joy and gratitude I feel at being able to share my gift and use my talents on a daily basis. I am so pleased to know my favorite hobby is also my career.”
She opened with a playful song from the 1950s called “Man with the Bag.” Then she transitioned into “Winter Wonderland.” The stage had several Christmas trees on it that were wired to change colors as she sang. The stage was trimmed with lighted greenery and ten large, lighted snowflakes that hung over head. They changed colors as well.
As is always the case with Joy, her song selection this year was quite varied, which always makes it fun. And she had a few new local musicians this year as well—some of whom included members from another band she is in called Riverside Anthology. She enjoys sharing the stage with local talent.
“I like to keep things interesting for my audiences, so I perform a variety of musical styles and am accompanied by various musicians,” she said. “This year, I enjoyed singing with each group. It also keeps it fun for me to know that a harp and vocal duet might be followed by a soft song. Then a few minutes later, the audience is enjoying an upbeat holiday favorite. And I love showcasing local talent. It is abundant in Omaha.”
Half way through the first set, she sang “Gesu Bambino,” a song from the early 1900s. I can’t imagine anybody else signing these words more powerfully:
When blossoms flower e’er ’mid the snows,
Upon a winter night,
T'was born the child, the christmas rose,
The king of love and light.
Armed with an operatic voice that seems to be able to touch the heavens, Joy caressed this song for us and brought us back to the first Christmas Day, and then she let us linger there a while.
A couple of songs later she sang a moving original song called “Snowflakes,” which is a song about the journey all of us take. The song has taken on new meaning in Omaha since the tragic shooting at Von Maur last December. A few weeks after the shooting, she sang it at an event called We are O!ne, meant to bring healing to the community.
Here’s how the song begins:
When we begin
We play on the wind
Softly coming down
When we fall
We feel so small
As we look around
When our journey is done
We will be as one
When we reach the ground
Toward the end of the first set, Joy sang an old spiritual called “Children, Go Where I Send Thee.” Yeah, she’s that talented. She can transition from opera to an old spiritual without you even realizing what just happened. To her, good music is good music, and she covers the gamut. She also enjoys digging for old songs that are out of circulation and she breathes new life into them. One of them is a Stevie Wonder song from 1967 called “One Little Christmas Tree” which she sang in the second set.
“A few years ago, I made a point to search out old Christmas songs that I could bring to life on our stage,” she said. “There are fine songs with beautiful messages that seem to have gotten lost through the years. ‘One Little Christmas Tree’ is one of these songs. The message is clear that anyone can make a difference in other people’s lives and ‘throughout the world.’”
In years past, Joy performed my favorite Christmas song, “Mary, Did you Know?” early in the show, so I kept listening for the opening notes of the song throughout the first set and then the second, but it wasn’t there. She left the stage and came back for an encore and thankfully it was one of the three final songs she played for the evening.
I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again, I’ve heard many recorded renditions of this song and none of them can touch Joy’s version. Once in a great, great while a musician does a song so well that something magical takes place. The music takes you past the performer, past the stage, past the concert hall—and into a sacred place that you never want to leave. That’s what happens every time I hear Joy sing “Mary, Did You Know?”
Can you tell that I’m already looking forward to her concert next year? Joy has two Christmas CDs available. Pick up both of them. You won't be sorry.
"CD Review ~ Taking A Melody" Vol. 4, Issue 9
For an opening statement on Heidi Joy's latest CD, "I'll Take a Melody," I'll just say that you don't cover a Linda Ronstadt song if you're an ordinary singer. You... just... don't.
Have you ever heard it on American Idol or Star Search? It's because a smart singer knows never to cover a song someone has done extraordinarily well. However the very first song on Joy's fourth album is "Blue Bayou," a song sung so effortlessly by Linda Ronstadt that it's hard to believe there was any room for improvement. Yet, Joy's voice does the song total justice, not "over" singing, which would be a temptation, yet not copying Ronstadt's vocal movements verbatim either.
This achievement sets the tone for the album, which in Joy's words, is just "songs I like," - the only common thread running through the compilation. From McCartney and Lennon's "Blackbird," to Willie Nelson's "Blue Eyes' Cryin' in the Rain," Joy's voice is comfortable in any genre, a result of her extensive training. From bluegrass crooning to the haunting A Cappella cover of "500 Miles," made famous by Peter, Paul, and Mary, her voice settles comfortably over the curves and requirements with the richness of a younger Kathy Mattea.
Much credit is due the talented musicians also cited on the album. Tim Tyler, her longtime pianist, is featured and shines in Dylan's "I Shall Be Released." Jimmy Weber, also mentioned, is responsible for the many innovative instrumentations used in the recording, which brings authenticity and originality to the songs. "I'll Take a Melody" is a fantastic album, in all respects, and a great way to introduce younger generations to some old favorites."
Heidi’s JOY: Singer Heidi Joy is making CDs, money and plans for the future
When Heidi Joy was about eight years old, her parents opened a Hallmark store in Omaha.
Joy grew up in the retail business, eagerly pitching in for the next 10 years doing everything from stocking shelves to running the cash register to helping people pick out greeting cards.
Little did Joy know at the time how much the experience would pay off.
Basically my whole life I was dealing with customers and thinking of ways to sell products, making displays in the windows and even doing ordering for this store, Joy says. I attribute a lot of my knowledge of marketing and business to working in the Hallmark store.
Now, instead of cards and ceramics, it's her music that Joy sells.
The 29-year-old Joy recently released her fourth CD, Ill Take a Melody. She held a CD release party and holiday concert at the Joslyn Art Museums Witherspoon Hall in December.
Those who attended the concert heard the brilliant voice that is the key to Joys success. But that voice hasn't sold itself. No, Joy has done that, too, and much more. Where the singing stops with Joy is where the real story begins.
Besides singing, Joy manages a mailing list approaching 2,600 names. She develops her own print and radio advertising and creates content for her Web site, www.heidijoy.com.
Joy executes her own marketing plan, including creating her own media packets, pitching public performances and announcing her CD releases to the press.
Joy rarely passes up an opportunity to perform. She sings at up to 50 weddings a year, sometimes two in one day; she performs the national anthem at area sporting events; and shes entertained at venues from cocktail parties to concerts to church benefits.
She also has given voice lessons in her home for several years.
Working without a manager has undoubtedly made building a singing career more work for Joy, but she says it has also made the successes all the more gratifying.
I'm extremely organized and detail-oriented, Joy says. I feel that I have a good balance, which is, I believe, why I'm able to do it on my own.
Singing success came early for Joy. When she was only six, she won first place at the Show Wagon talent contest in Elmwood Park, belting out Matchmaker, Matchmaker from Fiddler on the Roof.
However, it took eight more years before Joy fully realized she had marketable potential as a performer. The idea dawned on her when was chosen to sing a solo of Irene Caras What a Feeling from Flashdance in an American Pop show at Holy Cross School.
That was the first time I remember realizing that I actually could sing, Joy says, although she grew up in a house filled with music. Her mother, Sally Hausman, taught voice lessons and was the choir director at Holy Cross Church, but Joy says her mother never pushed her into performing.
She taught me voice lessons and piano lessons and I sang around the house a lot, Joy says.
Joy started singing in her church choir in junior high and performed in musicals at Gross High School. She won the role of narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat her sophomore year, and played Marian the librarian in The Music Man her senior year after her transfer to Central High School.
She also sang in choral ensembles and began picking up paid gigs for weddings and other functions as a teenager at the urging of her impressed audiences.
It's just this gradual thing where people would hear me sing at weddings and people would hear me sing at church, Joy says. And then my fan base just started growing.
Joy began taking formal voice lessons in high school, followed by three years of studying opera performance at University of Iowa.
During her time at U of I, Joy says she realized she wanted to make her living as a singer, albeit not in opera.
I'm so glad that I had that experience, Joy says. I learned a lot. The training was really wonderful. It made the quality of my voice better and it made me articulate a lot better now.
Eventually, Joy returned to Omaha, turned her first and middle names into her professional name and began building up her music business.
For six years she also worked as an office manager at a downtown restaurant. She gradually decreased her restaurant hours until 14 months ago when she was able to quit and fully support herself through her music.
So far, Joy says managing her own career has been a delicate balance. Sometimes, of course, I wish I could have more time for creativity and have someone work for me, she says. But also I think I would miss it if I weren't doing it myself. I love being in charge of my own business.
Although she makes her living capitalizing on her artistic talent, Joy says she never forgets she is in business for herself, meaning no freebies for that friend of a friend.
I think it was, you know, where one day I decided I do not sing for free. People have to understand that it is my livelihood, she says. It's a business decision and you just have to make that decision and that's it.
I have to turn down gigs, and its too bad because you want to be able to sing for everyone if they can or cant afford it, but its just a business decision.
Joy says she also makes a point to support other Omaha artists.
She records at Ware House Productions and hires Omaha area musicians including her mainstay band Tim Tyler (piano), Carlos Figueroa (drums), Jimmy Weber (guitar) and Steve Gomez (bass).
Omaha artist Jean Mason created the cover art for her most recent release. There are so many amazingly talented people in Omaha, Joy says. Some people don't realize it, I think, what talent there is here.
Joys music defies classification into one particular genre. Her repertoire includes jazz, blues, gospel, traditional country, spirituals, rock, and inspirational songs.
That's my thing, is not having a thing, not having a genre. I love to sing so many styles that I cant imagine having to sing in only one style. That would be like putting me in bonds, Joy says.
Joy says her vocal versatility is also advantageous to her as a businessperson.
I have a full range, so it doesn't really matter what key anything is in, Joy says.
Of course, there are keys that a song should be in where it sounds best. If you wanted me to sing a high C or D, I would. I don't know how much I would enjoy it, but I would do it.
She also says she often works with her clients to determine the best way to perform a song, some of which she has to sing after a sight reading and little practice. It just depends on the song, I think. Some songs lend themselves to making it more emotional with a huge range, and some you just keep it really simple, Joy says. You have to be able to sing on a dime.
Concert performances in which she selects her own songs are especially rewarding, Joy says.
One of the things I do is make a lot of eye contact with audience. I think my songs have a lot of lessons in them and I choose songs where the lyrics really matter and I try to convey that to the audience Joy says. The most rewarding thing is to talk to people after my performance and listen to them. You know, to hear those good things and how much they enjoyed it, that it moved them.
And crying is actually a good thing.
I love it when people cry, because its not in a bad way, but to know that you moved them so much that they shed a tear or that you gave them goose bumps. That is the best, best thing about it, Joy says. I feel like God gave me this voice, so if that music moves people, how could I not sing it? It keeps me grounded, it keeps me humble and it makes me realize where my gift came from.
In 2004, Joy says she hopes to expand into more songwriting and also is beginning plans for extending her Holiday Joy concert, which involved an eight-piece band and three backup singers last year, into a regional December tour.
She also says she plans to perform more frequently outside of Omaha next year, although she intends to keep Omaha as her home base indefinitely and stay close to her parents (who still attend nearly all her public performances), friends and the community that has supported her career so well.
Friends and fans have urged her to seek a national record contract, but Joy insists she does not want to sell her soul to a record producer.
This has never been a goal of financial or fame. I make a living and I'm able to do it on my own and that's enough for me, Joy says. As long as I'm able to sing, that's success for me.