– Story by Sean McIntyre Photography by Lia Crowe
Victoria songstress Stephanie Greaves won’t ever forget her first live stage appearance, and not only because she stole the show: she nearly became the subject of a missing persons investigation.
She and her parents were visiting family in England when they spontaneously popped in to watch a local talent competition in Great Yarmouth, where Stephanie soon vanished amid the crowd. By the time worry had set in for her parents, the curtain lifted to reveal their missing six-year-old daughter all alone on stage singing Raffi’s Mr. Golden Sun. Once the applause subsided and the show came to an end, the host announced that Stephanie had won the event’s grand prize: a bottle of champagne.
Because they hadn’t anticipated the competition’s under-age winner, organizers scurried to come up with a more age-appropriate prize. Stephanie walked away with a “Milk does a body good” T-shirt and a one-week, all-expenses-paid stay at a holiday resort.
Even at age six, Stephanie was living on a healthy diet of the classics. She recalls a childhood household in which music was paramount. Songs by ABBA, Willie Nelson, The Carpenters and Frank Sinatra and a dose of classical music floated within the walls of her home in Toronto. She never doubted her love of song and the power of her voice. Stage fright was not a concern; Stephanie was never shy.
“I’ve never had that problem,” she says. “Mum and Dad always sang. I was literally raised on the good old music and didn’t wait long to make an impression whenever we were entertaining or at a social event.”
Stephanie’s penchant for song has helped her see and perform all over the world. With an untiring commitment to her craft, she’s become a household name at public events and private functions across Victoria and Vancouver Island. Be it at intimate solo shows, dinner theatre at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel, or singing Canada’s national anthem for international dignitaries or tens of thousands of cheering Vancouver Canucks and BC Lions fans, Stephanie displays the versatility and grace of a natural performer.
Stephanie spent 18 years as lead vocalist for The Naden Band of the Royal Canadian Navy. She was the only civilian among the band’s 35 musicians who travelled the world to support the Royal Canadian Navy at ceremonial events and public outreach initiatives. The band is a regular feature at Remembrance Day celebrations, the opening of British Columbia’s Provincial Legislature and during official visits from heads of state. Her years with Naden gave her the chance to work alongside greats such as the Victoria Symphony, while introducing her to the Salvation Army, an organization with which she remains very active on a fundraising level.
When a change in the band’s music director took place in 2016, it seemed like the perfect time to close the book on one chapter of her life. Faced with an unforeseen career setback, Stephanie could have been forgiven if she’d begun to worry. But she never had time to second-guess herself. Almost immediately, she discovered that she was in high demand. No longer committed to her previous band’s rigourous and unpredictable schedule, she had the freedom to set her own timetable, select her own gigs and explore new avenues for her music.
“Since that happened, I’ve never been busier,” she says.
Stephanie’s years of experience and natural command of the stage have earned her the honour of collaborating with many local musicians and hosting popular events such as the historic Oak Bay Tea Party. Her busy performance schedule and a full-time job have placed her in an enviable position of being able to say “no” when it comes to booking gigs, she says.
Stephanie has been a long-time proponent of fair wages for musicians. As is the case with so many artistic pursuits, music often places performers in a perpetual clash between following their art and coping with financial realities. Grabbing a low-paying gig for exposure and a free meal might seem harmless, but it lowers the bar, driving down the value of live music and forcing entertainers to look elsewhere to cover their expenses — and ultimately meaning they spend less time playing and practicing their craft.
Though her musical calendar is filled with private events of all sizes, Stephanie still makes time for public shows in and around Victoria. One such venue is at The Oaks Restaurant in Oak Bay, where she and her music director, pianist and great friend Darcy Phillips entertain patrons with live music on the second Friday of every month. Stephanie loves the venue’s living-room ambience. It offers an intimate venue where she can take patrons on a two-hour musical journey through song.
Anyone who has seen her perform will know that, in addition to a powerful voice of her own, Stephanie excels at impersonations. She brings well-known works to the small stage, where people can close their eyes and imagine they’re seated before some of the planet’s most famous divas and chanteuses. A standout is Stephanie’s version of the national anthem performed in a style that combines the voices of Cher, Edith Piaf, Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand and Adele. Another is the title track from 2018’s A Star is Born, featuring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper.
“It’s all music that is relatable,” she says. “It doesn’t matter what age you are, whether you’re a six-year-old child or an 85-year-old man, these songs are relatable. That’s what fuels me; music is what fuels me.”
Stephanie Greaves and Friends performed their annual Christmas Show from December 5 to 8, 2019 at the Blue Bridge Theatre at The Roxy, where she’s looking forward to sharing the stage and doing what she does best, making music with a local tenor.
You can follow her on Twitter here.