By January 31, 2016 Read More →

InterView – Grace Lieberman


Grace Lieberman
Modesto’s Sweetheart
By Chris Murphy

No one showcases love like “Modesto’s Performer” Grace Lieberman. Eighty-six years old and going strong, Grace, a caregiver and teacher by profession, is a multi-faceted performer, singer, motivator and at the core, a wonderful friend. Grace lives to inspire others to be great, to excel and to dream. She has helped and mentored so many people in all generations and she has tirelessly worked to support the arts in Modesto for over 40 years. She shines every time she is on stage. One of the annual highlights of each year is the Grace Lieberman Valentine’s Showcase that will be presented at Congregation Beth Shalom on Valentine’s Day, February 14.

Grace was born in Rhode Island and grew up in Providence. Her father was a chauffeur for Mr. Cluett, the owner of Arrow Shirts and he filled Grace with ideas and a desire to help others. She married Dr. Myron Lieberman who hired her at the College of Rhode Island after an interview question, “Do you smoke?”. She said “No” and was hired immediately. Ultimately, they moved to Modesto by way of Beverly Hills and USC, as Myron was a enthusiastic tennis player wanted to play against Fritz Earle. Grace earned her degree in teaching at State University of New York at New Paltz then as an Asst. Professor at the College of Rhode Island. She earned her Masters at Stanford. She has one daughter living in Texas and she has two granddaughters. Modesto is very lucky that the Liebermans found Modesto to be home.

She has been honored with many awards and served as the Executive Director of the Stanislaus Arts Council, the Culture Commission and along with her good friend Marie Gallo, helped push for the creation Gallo Performing Arts Center. Dr. Lieberman has since passed away, and today she is a regular inspirational speaker for a variety of organizations and is a soloist for a few symphonies. But her talents as a performer and champion for the arts put Grace in a league of her own, and I am so honored to have been her friend for many years. When you talk with Grace, the conversation goes everywhere so we tried to narrow it down.

We asked Grace a couple of key questions:
MV: What was your first performing experience?
GL: Don Vance urged me to try out and my very first role was in Little Mary Sunshine at the Denair Gaslamp Theatre. Soon after, I auditioned for Man of LaMancha, one of my favorite musicals ever. I went to audition for the role of Aldonza. Despite an initial ambivalence by Buck Townsend, Dennis Clark and Paul Tischer were sure that I was their Aldonza.

MV: What is your favorite role you have played / sang to.
Fraulein Schneider in Cabaret. I sang the lyrics “Go on; tell me, I will listen. What would you do? If you were me?” It is a magical song from a really complex character.

MV: You were celebrated with a MAMA Lifetime Award in 2003. What did it mean to you to have the community support and a presentation by Marie Gallo?
GL: “I carried three loads of red roses back to my house after the MAMAs. Marie and all of her friends hand delivered roses to the stage while “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” played. It was such a special night and I felt so loved by my friends and colleagues.

MV: What do you think that Modesto needs to do to take our arts community to the next level?
GL: We need to encourage Modesto to discover the variety of arts. Poetry, Folk Art and Fine Arts all need to be explored and encouraged. More people need to attend the less popular events like the Poetry Readings. We need to teach poetry to kids and have them do it in front of people.

MV: Who have been your role models and mentors?
GL: Donald Vance has been one of my greatest friends. He got me to do my first role. We sang in the MasterSingers and did many shows together. He really encouraged me to do more. For by 54th birthday, he did my will. (She laughs.) Sandor Salgo, maestro for the Modesto Symphony in the ‘70s gave me the role of Queen Of Sheba in Soloman after hearing me sing only four bars.

MV: Since you are only 86 years young, what is your dream role to play?
GL: I have played every roll I wanted to play. I have been lucky enough do Man of LaMancha 3 times and the Full Monty 66 times!

MV: What is it that makes you keep going?
GL: Baroque music, singing in the symphony chorus. I love singing alto in the Modesto Symphony Chorus. I love sharing my inspiration with others. I love collecting inspirational quotes, and I try to share inspiration with others.

MV: What are you looking forward to?
GL: I am so excited to be cast in Modesto Performing Arts “Bye Bye Birdie” this summer. At 86, I still have it.

MV: How special is the Valentine’s show that you do every year and why?
GL: This is the feel good show of the year. We have so many fantastic performers and the theme of the day is “Celebrate yourselves and have fun”. Many of my friends will be performing including Dr. Joe Wigget, Claudia Ridgway and will even feature a high tea and tasty treats, wine and chocolate. You shouldn’t miss it.

MV: I know you love quotes and carry around a few, what is your favorite?;
GL: From Sister Corita Kent, who said in ’67, “Be, of Love (A little) More Careful, Than Of Everything.”

MV: And our signature question, Beatles or Stones?
GL: Beatles of course. I have all the Beatles records and I treasure my White Album. I have all of my old records. I have over 2700 records.
Now you know why we love Grace, Modesto’s Sweetheart.

Grace Lieberman and Friends
Congregation Beth Shalom – February 14 3:00 pm
$20 tix



About the Author:

Chris Murphy is the President and CEO of Sierra Pacific Warehouse Group and Publisher and Founder of ModestoView Inc. Chris worked globally in the cycling industry returning to Modesto in 1996. He is also the founder of the Modesto Historic Graffiti Cruise Route, Legends of the Cruise Walk of Fame, Modesto Rockin’ Holiday, the Modesto Music History Organization and co-founder of the Modesto Area Music Association. Chris is married to his artist wife Rebecca since 1985 and has two daughters Madison and Abigail, both graduating from Modesto High and UC Berkeley. He is lead singer and guitarist for his band, Third Party that donates their performances to non-profits.