ABOUT THE BAND Velvet Stylus showcases R&B, Soul, Hip-Hop, and Funk . Their repertoire pays homage to the rich history of Urban music with originals and newly arranged covers. Velvet Stylus bears a signature sound - both innovative and respectful of its foundation. Each member comes from a deep-rooted performance background (please see individual member bios for details.)
Driven by a tight rhythm section and dynamic - slightly non-typical - female vocalist, Velvet Stylus delivers honest, emotional performances that appeal to a very diverse audience. They've truly got something for the younger crowd, and something for those who are into the Old School joints.
The band came together formally in 2003, and features Darcie-Nicole Wicknick (of "...Ask Darcie" Music Business Consulting) some of the best musicians around: Former LuvJones Music Director James Auburn Keys, Blink Music Senior Engineer Tony Porter on Drums, and Jay Prokorym on Bass.
Comprised of some of the most promising talent in Boston, Velvet Stylus has performed at Boston venues such as Harper's Ferry, Critical Breakdown, DeepTones, Abbey Lounge, a Blue Wave Soulful Saturday, Cantab Lounge/Third Rail, and at Doc Ryan's. They performed at The Hard Rock Cafe for the Berklee Alumni Showcase 2004 and appeared as a radio guest on Shadowline for Allston Brighton Free Radio, and members sat in often with World/Blues outfit Weather Outpost 12. The band has met favorable criticism, garnering a rave review in e-zine FMSound and coming in at the Number 15 slot on BarStar HOT 100 Boston Bands chart.
Two of its members are Co-Founders of The Boston Hip-Hop Alliance and the band has backed many MCs and singers including Metaphorick, Session, Sol Anderson, Noldy, Javon Fields, Danielle Scott, Letia Larok, Illin' P., One Love, and Afro DZ ak , to name only a few. Most recently, they backed DL as he opened for national artists Royce da 5'9", Joe Budden, Dre Robinson, and Devin the Dude at MIDDLE EAST DOWNSTAIRS shows. The feedback was incredible (SEE REVIEWS PAGE) and host DJ On and On likened Darcie to Queen of Hip-Hop Soul Mary J. Blige!
Unique to Velvet Stylus - in addition to performing in their own right - the band avails itself to other artists as session players and as a backing band for live shows. Their ability to learn songs very quickly makes this possible.
The group's sensibility and common goal toward the preservation of true Soul and Hip-Hop comes across in their playing and composition style. They are a no-frills act; what you see is what you get. Velvet Stylus is a featured artist on the Project: Think Different compilation, performs often as the house band for Hip-Hop Anonymous at Harper's Ferry. Their most recent performance was for Staff Awards Day at the Berklee Performance Center .The band is working on new materialfor their first album and is a 2006 Nominee for Best Live Group for the First Annual Mass Industry Committee Hip-Hop Awards!
ABOUT THE INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS
DARCIE-NICOLE WICKNICK, VOCALIST
Seasoned R&B vocalist and songwriter Darcie-Nicole Wicknick is never what you expect. She possesses a duality of innocence and maturity; kindness without naïveté. Darcie may surprise you, and she hopes so! As a lyricist, she incorporates elements of many styles to enhance dramatic movement. It is difficult to pinpoint who Darcie sounds like, exactly. But that's OK. She doesn't really look like anyone else, either.
She delivers R&B truthfully, which often shocks people who thought shed be a different kind of artist for whatever reason. Her songs draw from the rich historical spectrum of urban genres while introducing new ideas. Her amiable personality carries over to her image, yet she has the flexibility to transform from playful ingénue to reveal the sophistication she also owns. In either case, she is never contrived or imitative. Darcie is always genuine.
Originally from West Hartford, Connecticut, Darcie began her career in 1976 in child fashion modeling. In those early years, she also studied acting and modern dance before turning to voice. Though she became a capable Coloratura Soprano in traditional styles, Darcie developed a true affinity for R&B and Gospel. In 1991, she made a 180 degree turn in her studies, and soon teamed up with producers; recording several demos.
Not known for dropping names, its still worth mention that Darcie comes from a lineage of performing artists. Her grandfather, played Bass in war-era big bands and performed at the Grand Ole Opry. She is related to Betty Davis and to the Oscar-winning film score composer and conductor John Barry. Her great uncle is a successful musical and opera theater producer, and her cousins have performed in several symphony settings. While this strong history undoubtedly played a role in her exposure to music and theater, Darcie takes it in stride, and works diligently to be ever self-reliant in her pursuits
In 1994, Darcie moved to Boston and began writing with a Platinum-album winning producer Jesse Jaeo Tolbert (Ying Yang Twins engineer), for whom she also served as an A&R Trainee and session assistant. He and his wife encouraged Darcie to apply to Berklee College of Music. There, Darcie studied privately with Donna McElroy, Gabrielle Goodman, and Jan Shapiro.
At Berklee, Darcie was invited to join in on several recordings and live shows. She directed a Grease review and sang the role of "Rizzo." She worked as Stage Manager and vocalist for Gabrielle Goodman's Voice of Total Praise ensemble, which appeared at Bob the Chef's and at the Berklee Performance Center. She held a spot with the acclaimed Berklee Reverence Gospel Choir which performed with Jazz artist Nnenna Frelon and Gospel legend Richard Smallwood. Darcie also sang in a vocal clinic demonstration by visiting artist Patti Austin.
In addition to her vocal work, Darcie served as Vice President of the Music Business Association, appointed member of The Deans' Club and of The President's Club. The College honored her with the Berklee Achievement Scholarship and the Faculty-appointed Music Business Achievement Award. Darcie graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Music Business/Management.
From 1999-2001, Darcie worked in strategic planning and administration at I-POP Records. She opened a freelance music business consultation firm in 2002. Outside of Berklee studio projects, she recorded with John Maragos (assistant engineer for Toby Lightman), Jonathan Simmons, The Cool Grape Goodness and radio show host Amanda Lazar. She composed and performed a political jingle and the theme song for Connecticut call-in show Truth in Life.
In addition to her work in Velvet Stylus, Darcie runs a Music Business Services and Publicity company called "...Ask Darcie". Serving primarily the Hip-Hop, R&B, and Gospel markets, Darcie has a range of clients across the United States and in fourteen countries abroad, at all levels of the music industry. She continues to compose as well, and has current composition partnerships with several people.
She also serves as Co-Founder and Managing Director of The Boston Hip-Hop Alliance and as a freelance music business journalist and clinician. She has been a moderator at The NEMO Music Conference and panelist for Berklee's Hip-Hop Summit in 2005. She was also a guest on National Public Radio program Here and Now alongside Cynthia Gordy from Essence Magazine regarding the state of Hip-Hop lyrical content.
She recently served as Associate Stage Manager at Berklee's Soundtrack for Social Activism concert featuring legendary New Orleans artists Ivan Neville and Donald Harrison. She also provided ancillary publicity to the National Hip-Hop Political Convention Las Vegas for their Sudanese Relief Concert featuring national recording artists including Goapele, Immortal Technique, dead prez, One Be Low, The Chapter, and many more. She recently sang at a Hip-Hop and the Amistad Legacy event hosted by The Amistad Foundation at Mystic Seaport, where Divine Shabazz from the NAACP and Def Poetry Jam spoken word artist H'allah Black attended as panelists.
She will soon teach a course on SongU.com regarding contractual issues for musicians. She serves as the Co-Coordinator of the Boston Alumni Chapter for Berklee and volunteers her services for many youth and community organization including The Oscar Micheaux Repertory Theater Company and The Harlem Book Fair of Roxbury. She also teaches private lessons in vocal performance and vocal technique for rappers. Darcie writes regularly for MusicBizAdvice.com with readership in sixty-seven countries and territories worldwide, and has contributed to many other music publications as well. ________________________________________________________
JAMES AUBURN - KEYBOARDS and MUSICAL DIRECTOR
The first observation musicians make about James Auburn is his ability to perform a vast repertoire. Next, they notice how he interprets a song. Then, they learn of his dedication and professionalism. James emerges as an artist whose talent is eclipsed only by his commitment to modesty. Today, high levels of both are exceptionally rare. In addition to serving as general Music Director, James directs all of the Hip-Hop repertoire that Velvet Stylus plays.
James self-exposed broad spectrum of influence has lent to his versatility and acclimation to an array of genres. Originally from Mississippi, James began playing piano at age five. In his days at Biloxi High School, James performed with the choir as a vocalist and accompanist, and gave several recitals. He was honored to attend the State Choral Retreat twice. In Gulfport/Biloxi, James served as Music Director at Center Stage and Gulfport Little Theater and as a pit musician at the historic Saenger Theater. James received many awards from city and state competitions and lent his vocal talents to choir at the Miss Teen U.S.A. competition in Mississippi for two years. He was also a member of the local rock band Scoundrel.
James left Mississippi for Berklee College of Music, where he worked as a pianist for the Voice Department and performed for a variety of student recordings and recitals. He graduated Berklee with a Bachelor's Degree in Professional Music. After a long residence in Mumbo Jumbo - a band from his Berklee days, he explored different options. In addition to playing music, he was also active in Music Journalism, serving as Features Editor for The Noise, and organizing and hosting The Limelight Records special on Harvard's WHRB's Orgy programming; interviewing Limelight CEO Robin McBride and Fifty Foot Hose member Cork Marcheschi. James also served as a substitute keys player for acclaimed Boston-based jam band Hazie Maze for a few months.
Soon thereafter, he was recruited as the Keyboardist and Music Director for the R&B/Soul act LuvJones. During its tenure, the group met much success. They opened for vocal icon Amel Larrieux and played notable venues on the East Coast. They headlined a 9-11 Benefit at House of Blues (formerly in Cambridge, MA) and provided music at a birthday party for the Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor, Kerry Healey. LuvJones regularly appeared at several high profile private functions, and grew to become an integral part of the Block Island music scene.
These days, you can find James as a Reviews writer on Okayplayer.com (hub of The Roots, Erykah Badu, Common, Jill Scott, more) and on MusicBizAdvice.com interviewing Grammy-winning songwriter Jay Graydon and writing for the Rediscovered Talent Section. He performed often with Weather Outpost 12, USDA*Blues, Booty Vortex, and Beantown Project, and with R&B vocalist Nichelle. He recently accompanied Velma DuPont and international recording artist Milton Wright for the Fourth Annual Roxbury 9/11 Memorial, sponsored by Tri-Ad Veterans League and the Vulcans Society, Boston.
He continues to serve as a freelance journalist and accompanist, and as a Hip-Hop Historian. He recently participated as a guest presenter about Hip-Hop in CORE Curriculum (with David Cowan and Gilson Schachnick) at Berklee College of Music during their faculty conference Berklee Teachers on Teaching. He has also lectured at Fisher College and served as a cultural resource to students at Harvard Divinity School, Northeaster University, Emerson College, Norwich University, and others with their Hip-Hop related projects. He recently counseled regarding Hip-Hop culture and history for Tom Zoellner's upcoming book The Heartless Stone for the book's chapter on diamonds in Hip-Hop.
In addition to his professional pursuits, James enjoys record collecting, entertainment trivia, and science. James states that he is realistic about life, level headed, and tries to take things as they come. ____________________________________________________________
TONY PORTER - DRUMS AND PERCUSSION
Drummer Tony Porter has been playing drums since age ten. Senior Engineer and Programmer at Blink Music in Cambridge, MA, Boston native Tony is proficient in many genres and has a number of production credits. He graduated Berklee with degree in Music Synthesis and became a proficient studio drummer through his mentors Kenwood Dennard and John Ramsey.
Tony's multi-genre mastery is not limited to his drum performance, but also applies to his music production career. His recording, engineering, and mixing resume captures hundreds of projects. His project list of high profile clients includes Alicia Silverstone (for three episodes of Brace Face,) Jack Perricone, Typhoon Ferri, Marc Copeland, and G-Love. He also tracked Fay Gauthier's band - many of whom played with Peter Gabriel - for Fay's debut album Comicstrip. He mixed and did auxiliary editing and production for our good friend DL on his album The Supression and mixed bassist Tony Grey's album Moving. Tony also provided mixing services for two tracks for Berklee College of Music Songs for Darfur recording project.
He recorded tracks for the Hip-Hop verbal education and literacy album A Dictionary and a Microphone for Flowcabulary (featuring Afro DZ ak). In 2005, Tony mixed and did programming for the soundtrack to award-winning independent film Amu, provided mastering services for Project: Think Different's EmPOWERment CD, and recently recorded and mixed Atlas Soul, whose music will be featured on Global Rhythm's upcoming compilation CD.
Tony worked in several studios before joining Blink and his expertise in sound design has allowed him to be efficient with various orchestrators and film scorers. His talents also brought him on the road with Ozric Tentacles, during their month-long summer tour in 2005. Tony served as keyboard technician and opening DJ on the tour, performing at famous venues including San Francisco staple The Fillmore, The Knitting Factory Los Angeles, and B.B. King's in New York City, as well as The All Good Festival. He also engineered for Salsa artist and Central Square World's Fair organizers Kilombo Mambo.
Being involved from both the performance and recording side has given Tony a unique perspective on both of his professions; making him sensitive to human emotion, improvisation, and the magic inside of imperfections. He enjoys adding texture with computer technology and sound design as well. Tony appreciates the value of every style of music, embraces opportunities for experimentation, and the resulting beauty.
In addition to drumming and recording arts, Tony enjoys rock climbing, hiking, bicycling, and playing baseball. ____________________________________________________________
JAY PROKORYM - BASS Masterful bassist Jay Prokorym joined Velvet Stylus in early 2005, and we could not be happier about that! Jay had worked with James, back in the late 90's, in their group Mumbo Jumbo who opened for national artists including Missing Joe and Vertical Horizon. The band also performed at Lolita's Love Fest. Jay co-wrote and produced the band's first live album, Don't Squeeze the Shamin. His modest personality belies his accomplishments.
Jay, who hails from Albany, New York, comes from a lengthy musical background. In high school, he involved himself in Orchestra, Jazz Band, Concert Band, Full Choir, Select Choir, Men's Choir, and Marching Band. With various groups, he performed for several City of Albany events for the Governor, Mayor, and other special occasions. An honors student, Jay also studied Advanced Placement Music Theory, and enjoyed Math, Science, and Philosophy courses.
Jay graduated from Berklee College of Music on the Dean's List in 1998 with a degree in Music Synthesis. During his time at Berklee, he held a position working as a back-of-house associate and spotlighting technician for The Berklee Performance Center. Jay worked nearly every pro-show and visiting artist event at the venue from 1996 to 1998, including Jeanine Garafolo, Cesaria Evora, Chick Corea, Duane Allman, Horatio Hernandez, Donovan, and many more.
Throughout the course of his career, Jay's appeared at notable venues all around Boston, including Harpers Ferry, Bill's Bar, The Milky Way, TT the Bear's Place, and The Middle East. He played at the legendary Rathskeller (AKA the Rat) and in both rooms at former Aerosmith Landsdowne Street club Mamakin. He played for student festivals at both Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Northeastern University as well.
In addition to performing music, he enjoys administration, database management, and sound design for video games. _________________