The Moments: Sandi Kimmel

by Steve Steinberg

I’ve long understood that my journey is about sharing my journey and I do that through

my music.” Temecula resident Sandi Kimmel wrote this statement to describe what she

and her music have evolved into over the years. During a recent interview she shared

the moments that defined her identity as a musician and her music as a powerful tool for

healing and joy.

By age five Kimmel was singing all the songs from any musical her family would call out

on car trips. Her “watershed” moment came at age 9 when her family went to dinner at a

Long Island restaurant, The Spice of Life. “It was a really eclectic, funky restaurant in a

yellow house. They had a woman go from table to table and she would play folk songs

and I was mesmerized! Something ignited in me,” says Kimmel. From this experience

she realized what one woman could do with music, though it would be awhile before

she would go it alone. As she tells it, “Not long after, me, my brother, my best friend and

another friend would sit in the backyard singing old folk songs, and we had the nerve to

go to The Spice of Life and asked if we can do entertaining. The owner was very nice

and gave us a Saturday afternoon because there weren’t very many people there! But

they gave us tips and that was cool.”

Kimmel began playing guitar at age eleven after seeing and hearing camp counselors

play for the campers on rainy days. “I wanted to be up there playing with them,” she

says, “so I borrowed a guitar and on the second rainy day I was up there watching them

play and trying to play along.” As she learned the chords and played along she realized

she had a gift for music, so she started writing songs. With a laugh she says, “I thought,

if Simon and Garfunkel and Joni Mitchell can do it, then why can’t I?” Her first song was

about a crush she had. More songs would follow. Protest songs. Pop songs. Folk songs.

And there were the songs of teenage angst. “Music was a place to channel intense

emotions, and the feel of the vibration of the guitar against me was so comforting,”

Kimmel says about her first experiences with the healing power of her music. “Things

weren’t great at home,” she remembers, “I was writing these songs of the darkness and

the pain, and they were my salvation.”

In her 20’s, Kimmel rediscovered her childhood love of musical theater after attending a

performance of Sweeney Todd. “My jaw dropped,” she says of this awakening moment,

“seeing that you could be intelligent in your lyric writing opened up a new world for me.”

She was accepted into the renowned BMI Musical Theater Workshop. During this time

she wrote two musicals, but was confronted with the reality of needing to earn money

and make a living. So, she began what would be the beginning of a long career in public

relations. She describes these years as “boring”, “unsatisfying” and “stressful”. She all

but abandoned music, and though she felt it calling to her, “I wanted to write musicals,”

she chose her corporate career over music.

What happened next would put her on the musical path she continues on today. As she

recalls it, “A friend invited me to a party and there was a piano player there. So this

coworker really wants me to sing a song and the third time around the piano player is

playing “Satin Doll”. I know that song so I go over and it is just me and the piano player,

and something happened to the party. Suddenly, people gathered around the piano and

everybody started singing! At one point I went into the bathroom and I looked in the

mirror and I saw my face had really changed. There was a light in it I hadn’t seen in a

long time. It was like the curtain to my mind opened and I knew I had to get out of the

corporate world. And I never looked back.” Reflecting on that moment now, Kimmel

believes that the music healed her and understands that music is her calling. “I honestly

did not get it until that night,” she says, “before that I did not have the confidence to put

my stake in the ground.”

In the more than 15 years since her musical healing, Kimmel has produced four albums

of songs about her journey, personal healing and expressions of joy. Each album

reflects on a period of her life, but she sings for everyone to listen, learn, heal and feel.

Her recently released album, Soul Feathers, came about when a friend of a friend

introduced her to Thomas Barquee, who is a famed performer and producer of sacred

music often associated with yoga. He brought a new sound to Kimmel’s compositions

and deepened the listener’s experience. Everything came full circle for Kimmel as

recording Soul Feathers wrapped up, and Barquee approached her with the idea of

collaborating on a musical. “He did not know anything of my background in musical

theater,” she says with a gleam in her eye, “How fun that I might get to do this again with


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