Friday, December 21, 2012

Cassandra O'Neal - Music

Cassandra O'Neal

By Rych McCain International/nationally Syndicated Entertainment Columnist

Cassandra O’Neal,

Prince's Keyboard Stylist!

Photo Courtesy RMG

Cassandra O'Neal
     When it comes to having an eye for talent to fill out his band; platinum selling superstar Prince has always found the best qualified musicians to fit the bill. His current line up for his back up band “The New Power Generation” includes versatile keyboardist Cassandra O'Neal. The Copiague, New York native is also a composer, teacher and producer. O’Neal is a “PK” i.e., preacher’s kid and demonstrated her musical talent very early when she began playing piano at age 3. As she became old enough, she took classical piano lessons and started playing in the church. As with most gifted musicians, O’Neal began to explore many styles of music from new wave, rock, pop and r&b. While she was in high school, she honed her chops accompanying school choruses and ensembles. O’Neal soon relocated to Los Angeles and began touring with gospel great Daryl Coley which was her first break into showbiz.

     Coming off of Coley’s tour, O'Neal then became a staff musician at the West Angeles Church of God in Christ under the leadership of Bishop Charles E. Blake. She later released a gospel instructional DVD entitled “Wheatworks Productions Presents…West Coast Piano: The Ultimate Gospel Piano Master Class Featuring Cassandra O'Neal.”

Because she was able to blend the feel of several styles of music i.e., jazz, pop and funk, it wasn’t long before O'Neal was in the studio and on the road backing up some of music’s biggest acts, including Pink and her Party Tour in 2002, 98 Degrees, Kurt Carr & the Kurt Carr Singers, Helen Baylor, Avant, Chanté Moore, and the 2005 Sisters In The Spirit Tour featuring acts such as Yolanda Adams, Sheila E. and Martha Munizzi. She was also named Musical Director for Macy Gray (2004–2007) and Mary J. Blige joining Jay-Z on the Heart of the City Tour in 2008. 

      O’Neal’s recording credits, movie soundtracks, TV show and award show appearances and performances are too numerous to name. She joined Prince’s NPG in 2009 and has been with the band since touring all over the world on several of his purpleness’ major tours. Prince is a hard person to get next to, so how did O’Neal hook up with him? She explains, “I hooked up with Prince through Sheila E. I was playing for her at the time and he was putting together a band to accompany him for the NAACP Image Awards. He was receiving the lifetime achievement award (2005) and Sheila asked if I would be in the band. That was probably one of the most memorable times in my life because I went from being a fan to accompanying this legend. I’ve studied his music for years so it was an honor for me to be on the same stage with him. We rehearsed for a week and did the show. That was the first introduction.” 

     A couple of years later in 2009, O’Neal was again playing with a Sheila E formed band and Prince called again because he needed back up. His people flew her out to Minneapolis. O’Neal describes her arrival; “He gave me a big hug and he said ‘so, how long do I have you’? I said how long do you need me? He said, ‘you got a coat?’  What he meant by that was that it’s kind of cold in Minneapolis. I said sure, I’m from New York and the rest is history and I’ve been in the band for three years now.” 

     For musicians who are wondering how to break in and hook up with the major acts O’Neal advices them to set up camp in Los Angeles. She says, “When it comes to touring, this is where most singers come to find their bands.” She also is a member and staff musician at the mega church, West Angeles C.O.G.I.C. where many of the actors, singers, musicians, comedians etc. attend. O’Neal champions, “Go where the scene is. Where ever you’re from it’s all well and good but if you really want to play seriously, you want to go where the music is and this (LA) is where the music is.”

© 2012 Rych McCain Media/Syndication tm
(You DID Hear It From Me!) 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

2012 Mirror Mirror Awards

The 2012 Mirror Mirror Awards

By Rych McCain International/Nationally Syndicated Entertainment Columnist

The 2012 Mirror Mirror Awards
Photos Courtesy of Front Page/Rolling Out

L-R: Sharif Atkins, Necole Bitchie, Gloria Govan,Vanessa Bell Calloway, Naturi Naughton, Munson Steed, Kyla Pratt, Elise Neal, Toya Wright and Joyful Drake

    Beautiful people, bright smiles and the business of entertainment were celebrated Thursday when Colgate Optic White, RollingOut Magazine and presented the Mirror Mirror Awards - Hollywood honoring Vanessa Bell Calloway (Shameless), Elise Neal (Belle's), Kyla Pratt (Let's Stay Together), Kym Whitley 
(Animal Practice), Naturi Naughton (The Client List), Joyful Drake (Let's Stay Together), Necole Bitchie (, Dawn Richard (Dirty Money) and Gloria Govan (Basketball Wives LA) as entertainment industry trendsetters who embody the style, elegance and glamour of Hollywood. 

Sharif Atkins & Toya Wright
 The event was hosted by Sharif Atkins (White Collar) and BET reality star Toya Wright (Toya: A Family Affair), who were joined by over 200 Hollywood tastemakers and celebrity guests including Antonique Smith (Abduction), Edwina Findley (Treme), Olympic Gold Medalist LaShawn MerrittMatt Barnes (Los Angeles Clipper), Monifah (R&B Divas), Rotimi (Boss), and recording artist Brooke Valentine.
"It was cool to be a part of an awards ceremony that honored, applauded, and acknowledged the achievement of extremely talented women of color," said Atkins.  "These women are truly artistic entrepreneurs who are dedicated to their craft and committed to bringing a diversity of creativity to the front and center of our community."

Necole Bitchie
A highlight of the evening was when Necole Bitchie shared her struggle, losing her parents, enduring financial hardships and being taken in by family at the time she started her now infamous blog.  Also expressing sincere gratitude was actress Kyla Pratt who shared that Mirror Mirror was her first ever award and it came at a very important time her life, being a working mother.

Kyla Pratt
           "This is actually my first award and I am truly honored to be recognized by RollingOut," said Pratt. "As a new mom and working actress, I pour so much time into my craft, spending long hours away from my family, that it feels good to know that someone sees my effort and is acknowledging me for it."

           As a major contributor to beauty, style and entertainment, Rolling Out Magazine kicked off the National Mirror Mirror Beauty Awards Tour in Atlanta in
Joyful Drake
Kym Whitley

Vanessa Bell Calloway
Elise Neal
September with a private VIP reception and hosted the second event in Washington, DC.   The Los Angeles event marked the third stop on the Mirror Mirror tour, which rolls out to 13 major cities in 2013, highlighting many of the most prominent and recognized celebrities and style makers in the beauty and entertainment industries by celebrating their success.

Naturi Naughton
Brooke Valentine

These superfine ladies


"Beauty and style are part of the language of our culture," said Munson Steed, CEO and Publisher of Rolling Out Magazine.  "At Rolling Out, we recognize those stylish, charismatic individuals who, through their work in television, film and entertainment, create dynamic, unforgettable images that influence beauty and fashion in Hollywood and beyond.  Colgate Optic White's support allowed stars to shine bright and illustrate the industry's best recognized smiles. We celebrated our 2012 Mirror Mirror Award recipients this evening and honor their contributions to the industry."

© 2012 Rych McCain Media/Syndication tm 
(You DID Hear It From Me!) 


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Peter Ramsey - Movies

Peter Ramsey - Moives

By Rych McCain International/Nationally Syndicated Entertainment columnist

Photos Courtesy DreamWorks® Animation

Peter Ramsey
Breaking Ground In Animation!

     There are many success stories that come from the hood but those are usually the one’s that don’t make it to the news or other outlets for mass exposure. True talent knows no restriction to geographical boundaries, ethnicities, gender or any other categories that are traditionally used to block and hinder people from achieving their dreams and goals by a controlling few. 

Film Director Peter Ramsey
   Animated film director Peter Ramsey is a shinning example of what can be accomplished when proper preparation and determination meet opportunity. Ramsey became a new figure in Hollywood history by being the first African-American to helm and direct a major, mega budget animated film, “Rise Of The Guardians” from DreamWorks® studio.
L-R: Sandman, Easter Bunny, Santa Clause, Tooth Fairy & Jack Frost

     The movie is about the childhood characters known as “The Easter Bunny,” “Santa Clause,” “Sandman,” “The Tooth Fairy” and “Jack Frost.” Collectively they are referred to in the movie as the guardians of childhood.

The Boogie Man
    In this film their arch enemy is “The Boogie Man,” and they team up to do battle with him to protect the children of the world.

     Ramsey is a home grown, native of South Central, LA.  (Now referred to as South Los Angeles). He began as a child to draw pictures and cartoons. His fascination with the art world and animation continued as he grew and when he was old enough, there was no doubt in his mind that this was his calling. 

Easter Bunny
    In referring to the inspiration that got him to drawing in the first place in those early childhood days, Ramsey fondly remembers; “It was a way of entertainment. As early in age as I can remember, I would get my mom’s magazines and was just laying in the floor and drawing in the white spaces and drawing little stories that would fill up the magazine and I just didn’t stop.Whenever people ask me how did you learn to draw so well? 
Tooth Fairy
 What do you have to do? I just tell them draw and don’t stop. I learned by doing it, doing it, doing it. It really is that simple.”  On his path to becoming a director; like anybody else, Ramsey paid his dues while honing the skills needed to fulfill his goals and aspirations. 

Sand Man
  Ramsay explains how he finagled his way
Up the latter after joining the DreamWorks Animation studios eight years ago. “I worked on the third “Shrek” as a story artists. Based on that, I became the head of the story artist department on the next project which was “Monsters vs. Aliens.” 

Jack Frost
My friend, who produced those movies, told the studio that he had also worked with me in live action where I did a lot of second unit directing. The studio saw that I had a little bit of experience as a director which really helped me to get to direct “Rise Of The Guardians.”   

Santa Clause
   Ramsey had just completed directing a successful TV promotional spin-off for “Monsters vs. Aliens” when the studio approached him to helm their new re-organized project “Rise Of The Guardians.”
Santa's Elves
     The excitement rises in Ramsey’s voice when he ran down the order of events that led to his direction the project; “Guardians had been in development for probably a year and a half. They had character designs and tried a couple of scripts but it wasn’t working out so they had put together a new team and turned to me and asked are you interested?  Can we get your thoughts on what you might want to do with this and what your take would be? 

Guardians in action
I was kind of shocked that they asked me because I knew eventually this was going to be a big complicated film but they liked what I had to say. I teamed up with my producers and writer and we got to work.” As they say, the rest is history but in Ramsey’s case, that phrase has a deeper and multi-significant meaning.

 © 2012 Rych McCain Media/Syndication tm 
(You DID Hear It From Me!)