Jade Simmons is a concert pianist from Kingwood who was asked to perform before some of the most influential and powerful women in the world gathered in Geneva, Switzerland.
No wonder she was asked. Simmons is a unique concert pianist, blending inspiration, information and entertainment into a one-of-a-kind performance that has mesmerized such diverse corporations as Nationwide Insurance, Hershey’s, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals … even the Royal Bank of Canada. On this day, however, Simmons was performing her blend of “Rachmaninoff to Rap” for the Simmons International Leadership Conference, which is billed as a can’t-miss experience for women executives from companies throughout the world.
“And then, 48-hours later, after being treated like a queen in Geneva,” laughed Simmons, “I was back home in Kingwood looking at a huge pile of laundry while I was cooking breakfast for my 10-year-old son and my 4-year-old daughter.”
What the most powerful women in the world heard in Geneva, Lake Houston audiences will be able to hear in Humble when the Jade Simmons Experience comes to The Charles Bender Performing Arts Center Sept. 15 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15.
“I’ve never played a stuffy concert,” said Simmons. “It’s interactive. You may end up on stage. And you’ll hear music you already love, and you’ll discover music that you’ll fall in love with.”
Simmons has played the piano since she was 8, “… very late, I was already over the hill,” she confessed.
On her way to become a concert performer, Simmons was Miss Chicago, Miss Illinois and first runner-up at the 2000 Miss America pageant. From an early age, though, she had a love for practicing and performing at the piano.
She moved to the Lake Houston area in 2001 with her air-traffic-controller husband who was also her high school sweetheart, and was accepted into Rice University’s master’s piano program.
Simmons credits her Rice instructor and mentor, Jon Kimura Parker, who’s enjoyed a stellar piano career of his own, with inspiring her and giving her the courage to carve out her own path in what is a very traditional industry.
“I just wanted to be a classical pianist, but 'Jackie' Parker, who is so down to earth, felt like I had the type of energy that the classics needed,” said Simmons. “It was a divine connection for me to come here and study with 'Jackie.' I always remember after my first recital, he told me I could do this. I could have a career doing this. That blew my mind because it’s tough making a living and being a concert performer, but what he told me is a moment a performer wants to hear.”
And what a career it’s been.
Simmons would “power up” her corporate audiences, using her Yamaha piano to draw them into her own creative process.
“At the end of my performance, the business people would see that they can be creative and inspirational as well,” she said. “I turn the light on for them, so they can know their own possibilities.”
After performing only portions of most of her music at her corporate performances, Simmons is now taking her experience from the corporate world and bringing it to concert venues throughout the country and the world.
And her first stop on this new adventure is The Bender.
“The Bender is just the beginning,” she said. “That’s where I’ll kick it off for my hometown audience. There are people here, at my church, who’ve never heard me perform.”
The Bender audience can expect to hear a diverse menu, Rachmaninoff to Rap, as Simmons calls it. And she’ll follow The Bender performance with concerts at some of her favorite venues including Detroit, Chicago, Nashville, Washington D.C. and, eventually, Asia.
She also has written a book, “Energy Already! The Ultimate Guide to Career Building for Emerging Artists.”
“You're told practice makes perfect, but everyone is the best,” said Simmons, “I explain how to turn your talent into a career.”
Built in 1929 as Charles Bender High School, The Bender was renovated, refurbished and refreshed with a lot of love and care under the direction of former Humble Mayor Donnie McMannes and the Humble City Council. It now is the performing arts center for Humble and the entire Lake Houston area. More than 5,000 guests have oohed and aahed at the art deco lighting, the wood-stained columns, and the original hardwood floors on the stage – and at the diverse performances on that same stage.
“In addition to the Jade Simmons Experience, we’ve got some wonderful events scheduled,” said Director Jennifer St. Julien-Wooden.
To experience Simmons at The Bender on Saturday, Sept. 15, or to learn what other performers are scheduled, call 281-446-4140, visit humblepac.com, or log onto Facebook at Charles Bender Performing Arts Center.