Gretchen Gould's Musical Biography

Singing with the Golden Age Singers

Gretchen's first performance was at the age of two, when her father put her on a table at his golf club and had the wee pisces sing "Three Little Fishies" for his golf buddies. She's been singing every since. As a child she participated in church choirs, a Girl Scout chorus and studied voice with her choir directors. She was Secretary of her High School choir, as well as assistant conductor. She studied music theory with her piano teacher while in high school and composed the school alma mater which was performed at her graduation.

Gretchen entered the Indiana University School of Music as a freshman and pursued a degree in Music Education with a Voice Major, graduating in 1960. While in college she sang in the IU opera productions and spent her summers in the singing chorus of Starlight Musicals, an Equity summer stock company based in Indianapolis. Also, in college she became acquainted with a number of jazz musicians and began singing jazz with some of the local bands. Discovering an ear for harmony, she started accompanying herself on the piano and before long started playing gigs as a singer-pianist. Her first lounge engagement was at the Stardust Café in Bloomington, Indiana, where Hoagy Charmichael supposedly penned the famous "Stardust." Her first jazz group was called "Four Cats and a Canary" and was composed of fellow students from the IU School of Music, including Jamey Abersold, who went on to create a best-selling jazz education program. She also played with Fred Waring, Jr. who worked alongside Gretchen and her future husband in a local music store.

In 1960, Gretchen married Neil Gould, and in 1962 they set off with their infant son, Noel, for Europe so that Neil could pursue his ambition to become an operatic stage director. While Neil worked in various opera houses, Gretchen produced a daughter, Giulietta, in 1963 and later that year entertained in the lounge at the General Walker Hotel in Berchtesgarten, Germany. In 1964 the young family returned to the US, settling in Poughkeepsie where Neil got a job teaching German, and Gretchen started teaching vocal music in the public schools. Son, Nicholas was born in 1975. Soon after, Neil and Gretchen wrote a musical adaptation of The Owl and the Pussycat which was produced locally. Neil wrote most of the lyrics, and Gretchen the bulk of the music, each tapping their individual strengths.

teaching music
Gretchen teaching student Heather Lamour

As the years went by, Gretchen worked on her piano skills, studying with such teachers as Bert Konowitz, Hal Galper, Joanne Brackeen, Don Friedman, and Barry Harris. Not having developed advanced piano skills as a child, however, limited her pianistic facility, so she learned to capitalize on the fact that she could both sing and play to get gigs. With good teaching the piano ability grew, however, and in the '80's she did a lot of summer work with show bands in the Catskill Mountains, playing for other singers. As a classical singer she was a High Holiday soloist at Vassar Temple in Poughkeepsie for 27 years. In 1988 a show based on the Beetle Bailey comic strip, which Neil and Gretchen co-wrote with cartoonist Mort Walker had its premier at Candlewood Theater in Connecticutt. It never made it to Broadway, however. So, not anticipating a big career as a Broadway composer, Gretchen gave up writing shows and started studying herbal medicine instead.

Then disaster hit. After Gretchen gave up cigarettes in the early '80s, she unfortunately developed an allergy to smoke, and around 1990 had to totally give up gigging in smoky rooms. Since there wasn't any place else to gig at that time, she turned to her interest in herbal medicine and began to teach herbal classes for her school district. In 1992 she bought land in Albany County where many wild herbs grew. In 1993 she started Herb Hill Amazing Grease, an herbal business devoted to making salves out of fresh plants. Herb Hill provides products to health food stores and the general public via mail order. (See Gretchen's Herbal Biography)

In 1997, Gretchen retired from teaching in the public schools and opened her own music studio where she taught piano and voice to many of the same students she had taught in the schools. The music studio continues to this day.

Happily, in 2003 New York State passed No Smoking laws that enabled Gretchen to return to her first love - playing and singing jazz. She formed a trio with bass player, Bob Offerman and drummer, Jimmy Schettino called Jazzlady and her Gentlemen Friends and they currently play in restaurants in the Hudson Valley, most notably. She also ventured into the realm of Irish music for a year with Irish Singer Jim O'Brien, giving her a new area of interest to pursue.

The trio put out a CD, "Jazzlady Swings" in 2005 which is available from Gretchen at (845) 485-2563. In June of 2005, Gretchen traveled to Los Angeles, to record a CD at her son Noel Gould's recording studio in San Pedro. "Lovely Afternoon" is the result of those sessions. It's a solo CD with Gretchen both singing and playing. Noel did the engineering and mastering. The CD is available at cdbaby.com/cd/gretchengould or from Gretchen.

Not content to run a music studio, an herbal business, and to play and sing professionally, Gretchen took on the leadership of The Golden Age Singers in September, 2005. It's a choral group consisting of 30 gentlemen and two ladies who sing at nursing homes, assisted living facilities, AARP meetings and the like, bringing the joy of song to senior citizens in the Hudson Valley. A senior citizen, herself, Gretchen is as busy in retirement as she was during her public school teaching years. She believes that keeping busy keeps one "Young at Heart", a song which the Golden Age Singers have in their repertoire, and she has no intention of slowing down any time soon! Since 2006 Gretchen has been a composer in residence at the Poughkeepsie United Methodist Church where she is also learning to play the pipe organ, so that she can substitute for the choir director when she is on vacation.

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Gretchen Gould's Herbal Biography

Gretchen began studying herbal medicine in the mid-eighties, after many years of teaching music in the public schools and playing piano professionally. This mid-life career change has been a tremendously satisfying transition, as she has enjoyed helping people find solutions to their physical problems by "getting back to nature".

In addition to the lessons provided by working with the plants themselves, and her extensive herbal library, Gretchen has studied with herbalists Susun Weed, Rosemary Gladstar, David Hoffman, Tieraona Klar Lowdog, Amanda McQuade Crawford, and many others.

She originated Plant Pharmacy classes for adults at Spackenkill High School in 1990, and at the Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook in 1995, where she taught until 2002. She has also taught plant medicine to children at Sharp Reservation and at summer camps.

In 1992, Gretchen purchased 24 acres of land in Albany County, called Herb Hill. There she found enough herbs growing wild to begin making fresh plant herbal salves for the public. Herb Hill became a business in 1993, and still continues to provide more than 70 different products to health food stores and the general public, via mail order. Her helper in the laboratory, Jennifer Parsons has been with her since 2000.

Gretchen has written many articles on herbal topics for various publications, and is a past president of the Northeast Herbal Association, an organization of professional herbalists from Maine to Maryland. She was invited to be the keynote speaker at the 2005 annual meeting of the organization. Gretchen has also completed an herbal book called Herbs from the Outside In -An Informative Guide to the External Application of Herbal Remedies which is available in xeroxed form.

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