rockford illinois entertainment guide
Date: 05/08/2006
Doris LaMarca Wins Lifetime Achievement Award
by Lisa Palmeno

One of the winners of the RAMIs Lifetime Achievement Award for 2006 is one of Rockford's very first divas. Originally a student of opera at The Conservatory of Music in Rockford, opportunity knocked very early in Doris LaMarca's life.


A Rockford native, she began at The Conservatory when she was eleven years old. Her private voice teachers, Mrs. Keeler and Mr. Malcomb, soon discovered that she had a high-pitched voice (above a high c) and steered her toward opera.


At age 15, she went on a vacation with her father, aunt and uncle. Traveling cross country in her dad's Oldsmobile, they reached California via Route 66. She had barely arrived in Hollywood when she met an MGM agent, through Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.'s butler. The agent, Mrs. Richardson, quickly began preparing the young lady for a professional career in show business.


Before she was able to take a screen test that might change her life forever, she and her family got a call that her mother was ill. They returned to Rockford immediately, leaving California behind for good, a decision she says she never regretted because "the Lord guided her in a different way."  She returned to West High School, her home, and her friends.


She never performed opera publicly, and soon, she met Joey LaMar. LaMar had a band, and while sitting in with Joey, Doris found that what she really loved singing was jazz standards. When she was 19, she and Joey married and had two sons, Henry and George, who both became drummers. She says she became ?strictly a jazz singer? and that she's "always been known as a belter. I don't know if that's anything to write about. I've enjoyed singing. It was never hard for me," says LaMarca.


She explains that she never wanted to go to New York. She was happy and contented with her family in Rockfod. When questioned about singing with her husband and sons, she says it has benn "fantastic. There's something natural about the way Henry plays-he knows what I want, and he will never, ever brag. He?s very low key."


Her sons come by their talent naturally. Both parents are professional-quality musicians, and Doris was singing with a big band when she was eight months pregnant with Henry. She has performed in duos, and various combos, but she always enjoyed the big bands. "You can't beat the sound. It's an era gone by. How can so many musicians can get together and sound so good?" she says.


With a wonderful family life and a singing career that has lasted more than 60 years, she continues to inspire listeners with her vibrant presence and jazzy style. A few of her favorite standards to singer "When Sonny Gets Blue;" "Somebody Loves Me;" and "There'll Never Be Another You." She particularly loves Gershwin and Sinatra tunes. She performs "at least 100 tunes that go way back." Her favorite singers are Judy Garland and Barbara Streisand.


Her show credits include a multitude of venues in Rockford and Chicago with well-known musicians such as: Johnny Faren, Frank Guzzardo, and Mike Vaccarello. She gigged out with her son, Henry, and was part of a duo at Bellamy's with the man she cites as being her biggest musical influence, Ron Pederson. Other bands she has gigged with are Charles Hook Dixieland Group; Norris Romeo Big Band; Vince LaLoggia; Joey LaMar Orchestra; and Tony Colletti Quintet.


She has entertained huge crowds at Festa Italiana many, many times, and she continues to inspire listeners with her vibrant presence. She still has a couple of gigs a month. At age 75, she still finds the time to visit nursing and retirement homes and bring beloved standards and hits from the past to appreciative audiences.


"It's fun being a musician, and I've loved my whole life doing what I've done: Singing for people who really enjoy hearing me," says LaMarca.

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