Elsie Nelson's first album is a Grammy winner of sorts -- at least
that's what her daughter, son and five grandchildren think.
At 78, the soft-spoken, delicately elegant Burbank grandmother set
out on a personal journey to record a few of her favorite songs to
leave her family as a sort of inheritance.
"I don't have any money to leave to my family, so I thought this
would just be something I could leave behind to remind them of me
after I'm gone," Nelson said.
What started out as a small personal project quickly blossomed
into a three-month task that culminated in a full-length CD filled
with 14 romantic arias and heartwarming love songs. Titled "With a
Song in My Heart," the CD was released in December and has sold more
than 200 copies.
"I didn't expect anything to come from it, but I'm thrilled," said
Nelson, adding that she's finally living her life dream.
Glendale vocal coach and recording artist Valerie Miller has been
teaching singers for nearly 20 years. She spends an hour and a half
every week working with Nelson on things like her breathing and
posture. There are several things about Nelson's voice that make her
unique, and it's very apparent that her classical training when she
was younger has stayed with her, Miller said.
"She doesn't sound old, for one thing, and she truly sings from
her heart," she said. "Her voice is youthful and fresh; it's
completely intact, and she sings with tons of passion."
Nelson grew up in a basement apartment in what is now known as
Spanish Black Harlem in New York. She started taking singing lessons
at 15 with two opera teachers in hopes of developing a singing
career, but then moved to California when she was 18 and got married.
Soon after, she started a family, and those dreams quickly fell by
the wayside. Because her marriage lasted only a little more than
three years, she quickly found work as a secretary, which she did for
more than 35 years, and raised her children as a single mother
As she speaks of her late-life career and how her more-than-15
minutes of fame have made her feel, her eyes sparkle with excitement
and easily convey her gratitude at having survived a battle with
breast cancer at 74, as well as two other major surgeries, including
a knee replacement.
"I thank God for letting me live to raise my children and to know
my grandchildren," she said. "I can't complain about anything."
With hopes of promised great-grandchildren in the future, she's
also taken up the piano and ukulele so she'll be able to entertain
them when she baby-sits.
Nelson, who is barely 5 feet tall, has the voice of an angel, said
Toni Morrell, who co-produced the CD at Diamor Music Lab in Monrovia
along with her composer husband, David Dial.
"When we first started to record, she sang 'O Mio Babbino Caro,'
an Italian aria, and both David and I had tears in our eyes," Morrell
said. "It was at that point we decided to continue recording because
she had so many beautiful songs."
Morrell and Dial's company, Diamor Entertainment, is also managing
Nelson, whose career is kicking off nicely.
She recently shot a pilot called "Feel Good TV" for Paul Ryan
Productions, an independent production company. She's been featured
on KPFK's (90.7 FM) radio show "Good For Life," singing two cuts from
her CD, and has also been featured on Fox 11 News.
"After the Fox episode aired, my answering machine was crammed
with calls from friends and family and one message from 'The Ellen
DeGeneres Show,'" Nelson said. "Even though they eventually passed on
having me appear, it was a thrill just to get the call."
She's not holding her breath, but says she going to hold out for
"The Oprah Winfrey Show" and maybe a two-song quickie at the Lincoln
Center in New York City. For now, she's keeping her chops up singing
with Burbank's own Mellow Tones, a choral group that meets every
Wednesday at the Tuttle Center and occasionally entertains locally at
senior citizen and convalescent homes.
Lois Andre-Bechely, Nelson's daughter, says she's not surprised at
all by her mother's talent and good fortune and hopes there are a few
more CDs to come.
"I remember listening to her sing when she would vacuum, and I
always knew she had a great voice," Andre-Bechely said. "She's an
inspiration to other seniors and to me, and I can only hope, even
though I'm not a singer, that I can bring that same kind of joy to
people like she does."
* To hear a sample of "O Mio Babbino Cara" or to order a copy of
"Elsie Nelson -- With A Song In My Heart" or for more information,
contact Diamor Entertainment at (626) 303-1593 or order directly
online at http://diamorent ertainment.com/Elsie_Nelson.htm.