Valerie Gillespie was born in the beautiful state of Pennsylvania, where at the ripe old age of eight she picked up a saxophone for the first time. She was paid for her first professional gig at the age of fourteenand has been playing ever since, though not strictly on stage. Valerie paid her dues in the university classrooms just like the rest of us, earning her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh with a major in Classical Saxophone Not content to stop there, she went on to get her Masters Degree in Jazz Saxophone from the University of South Florida in Tampa. Being a well-rounded player is something that is very important to Valerie. She might be seen one night playing classical pieces with the Florida Orchestra, the next evening playing with a jazz band in the park, then on Sunday morning you will usually find her playing in church.
Ask her which of her horns she likes most and she will certainly say it is her alto sax, a Selmar Mark VI that she bought in 1976 when she was just a young tyke. Since those days she has also acquired a Selmer tenor and baritone sax, as well as a Yamaha Custom soprano sax, flute, piccolo, and a Buffet clarinet. Valerie is an accomplished vocalist as well, with such influences as Diana Krall, Nancy Wilson, Shirley Horn, Carmen McRae, Diane Shuur, and many others.
Valerie has been fortunate enough to have played with many of the great entertainers of our time, including; Chick Corea, Bobby McFerrin, Rosemary Clooney, George Burns, Ben Vereen, Joan Rivers, Ray Charles, Jon Faddis, Steve Allen, Anthony Newley. And, she has traveled extensively with the Xavier Cugat Orchestra in the U.S. and Japan. Locally, you may have seen Valerie playing with Dan McMillion, Theo Valentin, JoAnn Samson, Belinda Womack and many other very talented musicians from the Tampa Bay area.