A Musical Treasure
Once the narrow stairs were ascended, the magic began! For those of us fortunate to live on Hilton Head Island in the early 80s, we found Teri's Upstairs, above the original Fratello's, to be our favorite evening entertainment. Teri Rini Powers enhanced the Lowcountry not only with her amazing music, but also with her exceptionally generous heart. "It's the way I was taught," she flashed the beautiful smile attached to her personality. "When we are given a gift, we should share it." At age three, Teri's mom, Celia, could not contain her little Youngstown, Ohio charmer from rushing to the piano her father played. "Music was our way of life," recalled Teri. "I remember Dad played 'Honeysuckle Rose' along with his group in our living room. Mesmerized, I declared to him I wanted to be a singer, dancer and play the piano as he did!"
And so, at age five, Theresa Marie Capuzello (Teri) began classical piano lessons. By age ten, she was accepted as a special student into Youngstown University, where she continued her classical piano studies. She attended the university on a music scholarship, with minors in speech and organ. "My first performance was at ten when I played for a Muscular Dystrophy benefit in the Stambaugh Auditorium. I'll always remember that moment. "Dad (Cappy) and I had a TV musical variety show on WKBN TV. Those were the days of live performances, so you never knew what might happen! At 15, it was great experience!"
In the 70s, Teri moved to Pittsburgh, where for ten years she taught piano and organ, while performing in a host of fine clubs and hotels. A favorite at the William Penn and Hyatt Hotels, Teri also entertained at the Riviera in Las Vegas and opened the Thunderbird Hotel Lounge in San Diego. "I was fortunate enough to have played with such greats as Duke Ellington, Natalie and Freddie Cole and many more!"
By 1980 Teri was awarded the "Best Female Jazz Artist" in Pittsburgh and was voted as one of the top ten most "Outstanding Jazz Performers" citywide. She was the only female pianist to perform for the opening of the Pittsburgh Convention Center. She and her trio were hired by the Variety Club of Pittsburgh to entertain at the "After Glow Party" held for Lena Horne and Tony Bennett following their Heinz Hall concert.
Fortunately for Hilton Head Island, Teri made an interim stop in 1980 while headed to open a Hyatt Hotel in Palm Beach. "Because it was six months behind, I opened the Marriott Hotel here and was convinced by General Manager Angus Cotton to remain," she smiled. "I played the Marriott for nearly two years, and then opened Teri's Upstairs." Teri continued to exhibit her family values, and immediately became a treasured Island resident. She was a founding member of not only the Hilton Head Jazz Society, but also Savannah's Coastal Jazz Society. With all the love she gave, it was sure to be returned. Local jazz pianist, Joe Hanseler, introduced her to Don Powers. "We married in 1984, and had 27 wonderful years!" Teri declared. She fondly recalled Don's memory, "We practiced real estate together from 1987. I never gave up music, so Don always helped in my concerts, setting up sound systems and handling those annoying little details. We volunteered for Meals On Wheels together, and we produced and directed the first concert performed at the Self Family Arts Center as a gift to the community and the Self family, who had recently lost their son." Teri understands such anguish having lost one of her four sons at age 39. "We have to remember happiness and sadness are never permanent, and to appreciate adversity, because out of it, heroes arise."
Now heard often at the Jazz Corner, Bistro Mezzaluna and around Savannah, Teri remains a shining example of a constructive and creative life. "We need to try harder to set better examples and not forget the Golden Rule. I am blessed," she beamed. Others may have forgotten, but Hilton Head's Outstanding Citizen award winner continues after 30-plus years to give everyone her many radiant gifts!
Greatest loves: My family and music.
A little secret: I love to cook, especially home-made macaroni!
Most treasured moment: My first concert. Mom told me if I was nervous, just remember I had a gift which needed sharing. I couldn't wait!
Teri's CD's: "A Little Jazz", "I'm Enjoying the Blues" and "I Couldn't Leave Savannah".