The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.
Front and Center: Professional Touring Bassist, Angeline Saris
Angeline Saris from the San Francisco Bay Area is a charming triple threat on the bass: she's a performer, a professional recording artist and a coveted instructor.
She has shared the stage with Carlos Santana, toured the world, and graced audiences through her acts with all-girl, kick-ass Led Zeppelin tribute band Zeparella, and other projects.
On any given week, you'll find her playing styles ranging from rock, funk, jazz, R&B, metal, and everything in between. What's more, she's got an inspiring story on how she pursued her dream of becoming a professional bassist, and continues inspiring all the people she touches with her music, whether it be her students or fanatics.
WiMN: What made you choose bass above other instruments?
AS: When I was 15, I was playing clarinet in the wind ensemble in high school. I think my teacher could tell I was pretty uninspired. He said the bass player from the jazz band was graduating the following year and asked me if I had any interest in taking his spot. I remember thinking that the bass seemed like the *coolest* instrument ever. I studied privately all year and the rest is history!
WiMN: When did you realize you wanted to be a professional bassist?
AS: I remember the exact moment in time! I had gone to an open house at Musicians Institute in L.A. just for fun. Up until that point, I had always just played bass as a hobby, although I think I was in a bit of denial. I was practicing a ton, collecting music school pamphlets and reading them at night before bed. Looking back, it seems so obvious! That day of the open house, Musicians Institute had a drawing where you could put your name in a hat and win a free year's tuition. After spending the day attending all sorts of cool bass classes, we met up again for the final drawing. I was on the edge of my seat while they drew the name. Sadly, it wasn't me. I was totally devastated. I drove back to my house and sobbed the entire way. It was at that moment, I realized I had no choice but to pursue my dream to become a professional bass player. I knew I would never be truly happy doing anything else.
WiMN: Who have some of your biggest mentors been?
AS: Wow, there are so many! My high school teacher, Mark Peabody was a big one. He was a bassist himself and he really introduced me to the beauty of the bass and its ability to be so versatile. My time in the jazz band with him was one of the most magical periods of my life. I fell in love with Coltrane, Mingus, Miles, Marcus Miller, Jaco, Victor, Herbie... I fell in love with music. It was awesome.
Uriah Duffy was another. Right after I decided I wanted to pursue my dream to become a professional bass player, I met Uriah. He really took me under his wing and showed me the ropes. He taught me how to listen to music while driving in my car as a way to upload it into my brain before even sitting it down to chart it out. He taught me how to show up to a gig and be professional. He hipped me to lots of new bass players and new techniques. He encouraged me when I needed it and gave me that silent look when I wasn't cutting it. Ouch! We are still good friends to this day and he continues to inspire me!
Bobby Vega is another for me. I took a lesson from him about three years ago and we have been best friends ever since. He has taught me so much about tone and pocket. Nobody has a pocket like Bobby's... it' ridiculous! Plus, we both relate to bass and our careers in the same way. It's hard to explain... We just get each other.
Narada Michael Walden is another big mentor for me. I met him very briefly when I was16 years old, but he came back into my life at a time when I was really starting to explore my spiritual connection to music. Narada is one of the most encouraging and positive people I know. He says things in a way to always build you up and never knock you down or discourage you. Playing with him for the last three years has been a period of extreme growth for me.
Finally, my mother is one of my mentors. She has always supported me and guided me to follow my heart and listen to my intuition. She has believed in me, even when others were critical. Having someone like that teaches you a lot about life!
WiMN: What have some of your most exciting career moments been?
AS: Touring with the Narada Michael Walden Band in Japan was pretty life-changing. Also, getting to rehearse and share the stage with Carlos Santana was wonderfully unreal. I hope to get to do that again someday! Playing with Ernest Ranglin is amazing. I love his style of playing, a perfect blend of deep reggae groove and really interesting melodic shaping. Finally, meeting the ladies of Zepparella and getting to rock the stage with four beautiful women on a regular basis is always pretty exciting! It's all fun for me though... 🙂
WiMN: You play in all-female Led Zeppelin tribute band Zepparella. Has your band as a whole ever been dissed? What are some of the reactions in the audience when people realize you girls rip it?
AS: We have definitely been dissed before! Lol... People are entitled to their opinions, although I don't always take them to heart. It depends on where they are coming from. I find the harshest critics are the ones with the greatest insecurities or the ones who are too afraid to get out and bear their soul themselves. When I read a mean YouTube comment, I think, "Would Jeff Beck ever take the time to write this?" Of course not...
Teddy Roosevelt said it best in his Man in the Arena speech:
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
As far as reactions from the audience once they see a show... Ha! Well, it's pretty funny. People sort of lose their sh*t. It's awesome to witness :).
WiMN: What have some of the biggest challenges been in playing with an all-girl group, both internally and externally, if any?
AS: The band gets along really well overall. Lobby call in the morning is usually around 11:00, and we are together until 3 or 4 a.m.... that's a lot of hours with the same four people. I'm always surprised we don't have more drama! As far as externally, I would say the biggest challenges are more about changing the way society views women in general. It's getting better, but it's still a novelty to see women authentically rocking the stage. I am thankful to do what I love while hopefully breaking some ground in that department.
WiMN: Aside from Zepparella, what other bands are you in? Do you do any solo work?
AS: Yes! I am a full-time freelance bass player, so I play in a lot of different bands, do session work and teach privately. A few of the other bands you may see me with are the Narada Michael Walden Band, Ernest Ranglin, and the Gretchen Menn Band. I also pick up a lot of one-off gigs when I'm home.
I'm super excited to say that I am finally working on my solo album! I'm in the process of recording now and I hope to have an EP or at least a single out by the time Zepparella goes on our summer tour in July. Stay tuned!
WiMN: What is the most rewarding aspect of being a professional touring musician?
AS: I love making people happy. My goal is always to inspire and emotionally move the people that have taken time to come and see me play. That is really what it's all about :).
WiMN: You're also a teacher. Tell us on average how many students you teach and what styles/levels.
AS: I have about 20 students that I teach privately right now. My youngest is 8 and my oldest is probably in his late 50s. I have total beginners, super advanced students and everything in between! It's awesome! I teach all sorts of styles including funk, rock, jazz, reggae, fusion, latin, motown, hip hop, metal.... Pretty much everything.
WiMN: What is one thing you'd like to help change about our industry?
AS: With the advent of the internet, it is harder to make money from music now. Tons of people are pirating music and the CD has essentially become a calling card. Spotify returns are laughable... it's really sad. I'd love to find new ways to capitalize on technology so that musicians can make better money from their music. I'm currently working on an app right now that might help with that... I can't say too much about it at this point, but my hope is it will help to promote the artist while also putting money in their pocket.
WiMN: Words of advice for young aspiring female musicians?
AS: Establish a good practice routine. Stick to it. Practice what you need to work on, not what you already know. Be versatile. Show up on time. Have a good attitude. Prepare by learning the music before the rehearsal. Listen to your bandmates. Give your best effort 100% the time. If you do all of those things, the rest will fall into place! Most importantly, have fun!!
Watch a demo video Saris did for GHS strings below: