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By Robert Waldner
Photos by Ryan Wendler
To Jeanetta Salyer, music is life. “I want my ten-year-old daughter – and kids everywhere – to know that with smart decision making, hard work, and passion, music is as viable a career option as any other profession,” she says. A lifelong musician, Salyer began performing in the Ancient City in 2014 with Chelsea Saddler and her current sax player, Chris Kearnes.
“The first venue I had a regular spot at was Stogies,” she says. Today, Salyer is the lead vocalist and manager of Ramona, a venture that she takes on with her boyfriend, pianist, guitarist, and flautist Alberto Cebollero. The couple, performing as a duo as well as with their seven-piece band, can be found in various venues around St. Augustine and the entire state of Florida.
“My grandfather and my mother were both musicians,” says Salyer. “I established a love for music early in my life.” Today Salyer’s mission takes her far beyond satisfying St. Augustine’s nightlife clientele with her soulful vocals and her band’s impeccable jazz instrumentals. Her message is evident in the band’s title.
“Ramona Quimby is my favorite childhood novel series. It’s based on the objective of readying girls for leadership,” says Salyer. Embodying every essence of a grown up Ramona, Salyer assumes the strong female role both on and off the stage. Her passionate lyrics, delivered via her smooth vocals, carry the band’s vivacious contributories to create melodic masterpieces. As agent and manager, Salyer’s organizational skills, and attention to detail keep everyone focused, and on task behind the scenes. “One of the biggest things people should know about me, is that I’m an extremely hard worker,” says Salyer. “Being a full time musician means that I spend numerous hours every day at my computer scheduling performances and reaching out to potential clients.”
Around town you will find Salyer and Cebollero at Dos Gatos many weekend nights performing as the house musical duo. The Ramona twosome’s fiery medleys and mashups pair up perfectly with the ambience of the lively little joint that serves up some of the finest cocktails in the Ancient City. “Our music is standalone,” says Salyer. “We are not like any other band in town.” Describing Ramona’s style as “similar to Postmodern JukeBox and Jazz Funk arrangements that are big and juicy,” she elaborates. “We play everything from Etta James to Tupac and everything in between.” When touring and playing private events, Salyer and Cebollero team up with their resident members to form a seven-piece band complete with strings, brass, and percussion. “We are the only female-led big band in North Florida” says Salyer.
Currently working on their second album, Ramona has now caught the eye of the national music scene. Last year they performed at Grammy Week in Los Angeles and are slated to do so again this year. Salyer herself has a new project, “WineHoused- The Amy Celebration” an Amy Winehouse tribute that will kick off in October at Prohibition Kitchen in commencement of a national tour. As far as their place in the Northeast Florida community, Ramona headlined a fundraiser at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre to benefit local musicians affected by Hurricane Matthew in 2016. They have also participated in charity events for Velofest, Sea Turtle Soiree, and The Lightner Museum. Salyer, who lost her house and car to Hurricane Matthew and received an outpouring of support says, “It’s is because we have entrenched ourselves in the community that we have been able to survive hardship.”
Ramona’s original jazz album is available for purchase on iTunes and Spotify where you can listen to the band’s latest original release, “Ramona: Not Your Momma.” For more information, videos, and private booking inquiries visit Ramona The Band on Facebook or their website Ramona the Band dot Com.