By Valerie Victor
LaForrest "La La" Cope, an adjunct English Professor at York College and Queens College that wrote songs and produced music for entertainers such as Whitney Houston, Lauryn Hill, Christina Aguilera and more has just finished writing her first novel, "Soul Shaker." Her novel, though fictional, is based on true events, and focuses on issues facing women in the music industry.
The Grammy Award winning composer said, "I had a recurring dream about performing and songs, and ironically the person in the dream besides myself would be the late Whitney Houston. Cope added, "When I decided to start a family, I took those dreams and went back to Queens College. It was there that I began writing short stories that eventually turned into this novel."
At Queens College, Soul Shaker was originally a thesis that earned LaForrest Cope her MFA degree in Creative writing and Literary Translation. The genesis of Soul Shaker later earned Cope a nomination for Best New Fiction Writer by the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) in 2007, as well as a nomination to represent the Queens College Graduate Degree Program at the Graduate Center Turnstyle Readings (an event where creative writing graduate students could present their manuscripts to all participating CUNY colleges according to Cope).
Cope read live excerpts of her novel in the faculty dinning room to students and faculty on the York College campus. She sang live with a drummer playing to her every word and breath. York College English Professor, Patricia Milanes said, "She is a master teacher but independent of that she is an enormous talent." Milanes continued, "Her reading, her delivery, her prose which sings accompanied by a percussionist with just the right touch, it's transformative."
Cope's novel focuses on the idea that the music industry sexually objectifies women by telling the tale of the main character "Coco" trying to make it in the business. "It is important to understand the path that this fictional character has to go through," said Cope.
With the help of her thesis advisor and mentor, Jeffery Renard Allen, Cope currently seeks to secure a publishing house as well as the right literary journal to introduce the novel to. The book will be available for purchase later this year on Amazon and there is a possibility the novel will be made into an audio book according to Cope.
Apart from writing her new novel, Cope currently performs at a number of venues, and works as a vocal coach and producer behind the scenes to help emerging talents. "Nothing pleases me more than to share what I've learned," said Cope. Cope assists aspiring singers and professional singers who struggle with their voices gain confidence and build their skills. She urges anyone interested to visit her website www.laforrestcope.com for pricing and scheduling.
Previously, Cope has performed at venues like Soul Train, the Apollo, Radio City Music Hall, Carnegie Hall to name a few, and she still performs today. She is currently featured as a singer on keyboards in "Dugard's Hit Squad," a band composed of four professionally trained elite jazz musicians. Both Cope and the bandleader, Freddy Dugard, currently perform live at Sangria's Restaurant in Jamaica regularly. For the dates and times listeners can subscribe to the band's Jazz Newsletter on Cope's website.
Cope's most recent performance was at the BAM Cafe in Brooklyn, Saturday January, 17th, where she was accompanied by acclaimed jazz pianist, Onaje Allen Gumbs. Many of the listeners had great things to say about Copes voice and performance. Brooklyn Music Producer, Rapheal Gibbs said, "She has a wonderful voice. She knows how to engage with the crowd and she has a great stage presence."
This article is was published by the Times Ledger Newspaper in Queens.