We had the good fortune of connecting with Natasha Ragland and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Natasha, what do you attribute your success to?
One of my best qualities is Consistency. I am very methodical in my daily routine keeping a diary, working out, practicing piano and voice, and treasure mapping. I am always preparing new music for church services and Peking Wok Restaurant in Bonsall, where I play sometimes. When working on my own music, I use my digital recorder to transcribe ideas and audition them to reveal the gems. I have to escape to the studio from the droning of the TV in the house. In painting, I do one project at a time and finish it before I start another. My process begins with a photo shoot and a series of small studies, which get enlarged to bigger studies, and only become full-fledged paintings if they make the cut. I get inspired by looking at Art of the West Magazines and art books of my favorite painters: Richard Schmidt, Franz Bischoff, Renoir, Norman Rockwell, David Leffel, Helen Van Wyk, and others.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My life’s goal is always to uplift the spirit with beauty and joy. I focus on the positive, the idealistic, and the fanciful. I am most proud of my paintings depicting farm animals living a happy life because I love animals, and I am vegan, but lately I am in a landscape focus, because I finally realized that people want to see a view. My recent work is selling better too. I got to where I am today by pinching every penny till it squeaks. I’m not much of a risk taker, but have always been privileged to pursue my passions and spend my time doing what I love. I have taught thousands of music lessons and played thousands of church services. I love teaching especially to enthusiastic students, although it can be frustrating when kids are acting out. I appreciate just being able to practice and perform, which comes easily to me. I LOVE to practice and make recordings, etc. I am a perfectionist, and I like to work hard. One challenge that has continually pushed my “worry button” is insecurity about money. I try to overcome it by counting my blessings. Another challenge I have coped with is serving private students, the “flake factor” and walking the tight rope between their agenda and trying to cover the material they need to learn. I want the world to know that I am a woman who chose a different path than the standard expectation placed on girls (to get married and have kids). I made sacrifices to follow my dream in a rude world of men. It is an uphill battle for a person coming from humble means. My intention is always to save the planet, leave a light footprint, and bring out the best in people. I want to improve the quality of life with art and music, and to focus on the good, the true, and the beautiful.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If I was going to take my best friend around for a good time in the area, I’d suggest a bike ride on the trail that starts in Oceanside off Melrose, ride down to the beach, and go on the Coaster to Escondido. My very favorite restaurants are: Sipz Vegetarian Kitchen (San Diego), The Lotus (Encinitis), and Peking Wok (Bonsall). I love hiking at the Santa Margarita River in De Luz, and seeing a show at the Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista, or the Starlight Amphitheatre in Balboa Park. We would go to the Balboa Museum of Art and the Zoo or Safari Park. At home, I would host a party with bags of miscellaneous items of costumes or props, and we would do skits. That is really fun!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would not be where I am today without the love and dedication of my parents and family number one. My Dad, who is an artist, has mentored me all my life in most aspects of my career. He taught me basic piano skills when I was four years old before I started formal lessons, and also has been my art teacher. My Dad is also a professional soloist, so I got my professional start in church accompanying him. He has a flare for lyrics and interpretation of songs, and sometimes would alter words of a pop song to sing in church. Dad has the moody temperament of an empathetic, good listener, and expresses thoughts well. Dad’s life-long experience as an art professor and painter is valuable to me. My Mom has always supported our family as an elementary school teacher. She’s like our ambassador to the community. Mom can sleep through my piano practicing and not complain about the noise. If I’m drilling something over and over, sometimes she will tune it out, or she’ll say, “Wow, what are you working on, honey? You’ve been playing that one for a while!” My mom’s drive to travel and see the world is what led our family to take vacations to Europe, Canada, and the National parks, all over California and Washington state. She encouraged me to go on the East Coast trip and the College Choir Tour that were offered. My mom insisted that I get a college degree even though I just wanted to be a songwriter, so I got my B.A. of Music from CSULB. Mom is also a good sport about posing whenever I need a model. My Grandma Dorsey Whitney Ragland lived to be 107, probably because we moved out to Fallbrook from Iowa when I was two. My Grand dad had already passed away. Grandma and I were very close; both of us prefer rural life. She loved to listen to me play piano, especially uptempo music. Grandma Dorsey grew up on a farm in Missouri, helping her dad (like a Tom boy). She taught me how to make pies, harvest fruits and vegetables, and always place family as top priority. My Grandma Helen Gustafson Weaver Sheppard, who lived in Washington, also influenced my life being a Christian Scientist and health food fanatic. I’ve been playing for the Christian Science Church for 15 years now. Grandma Helen collected jokes for my dad and was fond of the the lighter approach to sentimental moments. That’s probably why I like to write limericks on birthday cards, and my dad creates lots of funny drawings on his cards. The Christian Science Church has been a wonderful support to me in my music performance and Spiritual grounding, especially from hearing people’s testimonies of healings, using the power of prayer. Fred Kirk, a retired Christian Science philanthropist, moved to town and asked for a recommendation of some young people who needed sponsorship for music lessons. He paid for our lessons for many years. My first formal piano teachers were Diane Protzmann and her mother Robyn Protzmann, who gave me a strong foundation in the Suzuki Method. Robyn was also a diver, and she had a pool in her back yard with a 1 meter diving board. Little did I know that I would become a springboard diver in high school and college and a Christian Science pianist, following in their footsteps. I studied 8 years with my second formal piano teacher, Florence Westerinen Cole. She shuttled us home from school for our lessons. Her bubbly personality and joy of music opened up the vast possibilities to me like a candy store. She let me work on anything I wanted, including pieces that were way too advanced for my level. Her accomplishments as a professional pianist include performing in Carnegie Hall and accompanying the famous vocalist John Charles Thomas. I am also indebted to each of my Dad’s sisters for their support which helped launch me. Aunt Mary Martha hosted me living at her home in Garden Grove for a year while I attended Fullerton College to study with some exceptional professors including Brent Pierce, and learned about the commercial music business. Aunt Mary Martha was President of the Cetacean Society for many years, and she served on the Grand Jury. Her dedication to saving the planet rubbed off on me. The title was her suggestion when I wrote my Christmas song “The Camel Trot” in 1994, which eventually got picked up by Holiday Music publisher Justin Wilde. My Aunt Dorsey hosted me on several occasions in Pasadena as I attended songwriting conventions and pitches in Burbank and Hollywood, and played piano at Santa Anita Nordstrom. My Aunt Shirley, who lived in Santa Rosa, commissioned me to create some artworks and songs over the years, and her appreciation for my recordings and generous random gifts were very encouraging. I can always count on my sister Roxanne to attend and perform in my events, and recruit her daughters to participate in recitals. I am also grateful to the Temecula Valley Center for Spiritual Living for 10 years of employment as house musician, and to the Hilltop Center for Spiritual Living of Fallbrook, where I got my start for my first 11 years of professional piano performance, and where I taught piano and voice for 17 years, and enjoyed the wonderful company of Rev. Guy Williams across the hall. I am lucky to have the love and mentorship of my boyfriend, Randie, who is a professional guitarist and knows all about recording equipment. Although he had to move up to Washington state December 2015 to find work as an aerospace manufacturing programmer, he calls me every night, and helps me with any technical problems I may encounter with my sound gear and cheers me on in my artistic pursuits.
Top Image: Natasha Ragland with “Boat on Serenity Lake” Natasha Ragland with “Twin Oaks Valley Sunflowers” Gracie Jensen & Natasha Ragland at the piano (Patsy Patton in background) Natasha Ragland at the Piano Natasha Ragland with “Anza-Borrego Palms” Natasha Ragland with “Twilight River” Natasha Ragland with “Tea Pot, Oxygen Plant, and Summer Fruits” Natasha Ragland with “Noah’s Ark” Natasha and Jack Ragland at the Piano