Musical Talent Terrell Sass: Finding Fulfillment through his Passion for Music: A Gemma Exclusive!

Terrell Sass is a multi-talented and multi-instrumental artist with so much to offer. He’s a music producer, drummer, and composer. Music is his life, and he could not be a kinder person. Terell is a true collaborator, and this characteristic has contributed to his success. We were honored to interview him. He’s ultra-professional (questions answered in a day)?!?! and always captions his Instagram posts with the tagline: “PURSUE YOUR PASSION.” Sass is super inspiring and it’s also why he’s a true ‘gemma.’

Terrell has been interested in music since he was a child. He’s an incredible combination of raw talent and strategic execution. He produces for musical talents, plays drums, and composes. Sass also has an entrepreneurial side with his apparel company., ‘Drumman Apparel.’ More importantly, Sass inspires others to pursue their passion and achieve fulfillment. When he had a brief moment, Terrell sat down with Gemma to talk.

Have you always been interested in music and what attracted you to drumming, specifically? Did you have a mentor or you “just knew?”

I had an affinity towards music, practically since my birth. My older brother and I were always turning everything we could (Ideally spoons, hangars, and pencils into drumsticks)!!! Drums weren’t Only the loudest instrument; Drums was the most visually stimulating instrument to me. Growing up I had a few musicians that I would watch at the church I was attending. (My father was very active at every church we visited) so that jump-started my “tutoring.” I definitely “knew” that music was something that I was exceptional at and was something that I wanted to do! I eventually got to study with Craig Harbor and Tom Knight at the Atlanta Institute of music and media!!

What was your experience like at the Atlanta Institute of Music? Is it true you got your friend to drive you (while missing a midterm)? That’s a great story. 

My experience at the Atlanta Institute of Music and Media was nothing short of phenomenal!! Being able to learn from some of the best musicians and minds in the music industry. My experience definitely helped mold me into the musician, person, and entrepreneur that I am today. That Story you are referring to is very true! Unfortunately, (But fortunately, )I was not focused on making good grades like I should have been during my two-year stint at Colombus State University. I did consider dropping out and moving to Atlanta, but I knew my parents would not let that happen without a plan. Therefore, I began to research and I found out that one of my favorite drummers (and now a good friend of mine), CHRIS COLEMAN, was doing some work at The Atlanta Institute of Music. Since I didn’t have a car, I became discouraged when I found out that I had to physically audition by a certain date to start the next quarter. When I was telling a friend of mine about it, she said, “Don’t let the little stuff stop you from doing what you have to do… I’ll take you.” I knew she had a midterm the day of my audition and I told her to not worry about it but she was not havin’ that!! She said, “Don’t worry about me, I’ll make it work.” That was a true blessing!!!

You produce for many musical artists. Can you please explain why you enjoy producing for others and what characteristics go into it.

There is absolutely no greater feeling than watching an idea and a concept turn into a full-blown song! You definitely have to be a visionary and have a clear idea of where you want to take a song, which makes everything run so much smoother (In my Opinion). You also have to have good communication skills and also understand the talent you are working with– that’s key.

How did you get to produce for Mya? Also, it must have been thrilling to have been instrumental (both as a producer and musician)  in “Smoove Jones” being nominated for a Grammy

I was working in the “D-Room” at D.A.R.P. WAS WORKING IN THE “D-ROOM” AT D.A.R.P. (Dallas Austin’s former studio) with a producer friend of mine named Orlando Williamson. We would just take turns playing music for each other. One day I played some music from my Live Production folder. He asked for a copy of the few compositions that I played. After a little touch from Orlando and an acquaintance of ours named “YOUNG YONNY,” the song that I gave him became “One Woman Man” ON MYA’S “SMOOVE JONES” Album!!! (Networking is Important!)

How was your most recent experience with Alvin Garrett? Can you pls. expand upon the creative process

Alvin is great! He is one of my favorite singer/songwriters to work with! We collaborated on three songs for HIS Upcoming album “THIS HILL”. For me, it makes sense to create in bulk when I’m feeling a distinct vibe. It also makes sense to create in bulk when I feel that a unique musical aesthetic since there is no guarantee that the sound will be retrievable in the future. With these elements in mind, I then created music for “Have a Good Time” “Time” and “What I’ll Do.” Therefore, I sent him the idea, amazing lyrics and jump-started to the compositions! “Love is Still the Answer” was an idea that he brought to the table. He sent me an acapella voice note of the melody. I got inspired and created the music around his overall sound. Then he went back and recorded his vocals… AND WA-LAH!!! Now you have a finished album.

Do you consider yourself a “true collaborator?”
I consider myself a true collaborator!!! If I’m working with you, it’s because I respect what you do and respect what I do. Furthermore, you must recognize what I do. I genuinely believe the iron sharpens iron!

Tell us a bit about who you have toured with and how the experiences impacted you?

I’ve done tours and performances with Tyler Perry, 2 Chainz, Rich Homie QUAN, Jennifer Holliday, Danny Gokey and currently Liv Warfield to name a few. Outside of exposing me to different places, touring and doing live shows also gives me a front row seat to what the public reacts to positively and even negatively! I then apply the knowledge that I gain from those observations to my production! It’s actually an amazing learning experience.

There is ABSOLUTELY no greater feeling than watching an idea and a concept turn into a full-blown song. You definitely have to be a visionary and have a clear idea of where you want to take a song, which makes everything run so much smoother (In my Opinion). You also have to have good communication skills and also understand the talent you are working with– that’s key. (Terrell Sass)

You have an impressive work ethic. Do you ever need downtime?
I don’t think that I do!! Since music is my hobby that I’m blessed enough to get paid to do!!! (I do make sure that I go to the gym daily)

Who inspires you in the music industry? Both R&B as well as Rap?
My music industry inspirations are Quince Jones, David Foster, Rick Ruben SIir George Martin, Stevie Wonder, Prince, Pharrell, Sean Combs, and Dr. Dre!

What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into the music industry?

NETWORK!! BE PERSISTENT!! Always be professional and do your best because you never know who’s watching. PRAY! Most Importantly — The Internet is your friend!!! Don’t be afraid to do ‘it’ on your own. The industry has turned into a “Venture Capitalistic” environment.

How do you stay so motivated? Your mindset is incredible.
It’s effortless for me to stay motivated because I’m passionate about what I do. Music is my job and my hobby!! Playing and creating music gives me a feeling that nothing on earth could give me!

Tell us a bit about the t-shirts you wear and new apparel that you offer.

I wear my merchandise line called “DRUMMAN APPAREL™” (If Michael Jordan can be the “JUMPMAN,” THEN I CAN BE THE “DRUMMAN”)!!!! I started this merch line as a Birthday gift to myself. My goal is to get every drumline in America wearing it. We’ve been selling hoodies, t-shirts, and dog tags. We are preparing to release some new products and designs shortly.

I love how you always say “Pursue Your Passion.” It’s Very inspiring. Do you feel this is the path to true fulfillment?

I believe that pursuing your passion is a path to fulfillment. If you are passionate about what you are doing when you can and as much as you can, you are enriching your soul. Whether you are making $0.00 OR $1,000,000. Things we are passionate about get our endorphins going and that’s always a good thing.

Lastly, any upcoming projects that you would like to mention
I’m back with a few artists now!! I’m not sure what songs are going to end up where but stay tuned!!! Also, if you see that Liv Warfield drummer is doing a show near you — Come on Out!! Be sure to check out my website and order your drummer friends some fantastic drummer merchandise!! Also check out Alvin Garrett’s new album, where we collaborate for three songs. Tthe upcoming Alvin Garrett album will be awesome!

Terrell Sass was a pleasure to speak with — An amazing example in going for your dream. On behalf of Gemma, I would like to thank him. Very, very inspiring!!! You can follow him on the following social platforms:

www.terrellsass.com

@terrell.sass(Facebook)

@terrellsass (instagram)

In The Spotlight: Creative Entrepreneur Vicky Mara Story

Vicky Mara Story is a fierce force with an excellent affinity for business. Vicky has defined her entrepreneurial skill set as an art and is the ultimate Creative Entrepreneur, within both her family life and business. She excels as a Producer and all facets of overseeing a business. The loveliest part — she’s humble about it. This makes her a “gem” as we say. Gemma Magazine is excited to cover an inspiring woman with both business and creative talents in addition to managing a family,  as we feel the journey of empowered women is to empower others.

How did Vicky Story become a Gemma Magazine aspiration? After speaking with her for ten minutes at a social gathering that Gemma was covering, we knew. Story is soft-spoken, remarkably calm, and has an inner strength. Vicky is a gorgeous woman but more importantly; she’s a beautiful person. She has concrete goals and a creative business sixth sense. The more she talked about her path, (both within business and life), we wanted to know more.

For a bit of backstory, Vicky did not have the most comfortable childhood. Both of her parents immigrated to the states from the Philippines. Their first stop was Ohio but eventually landed in sunny Los Angeles. The Mara family lived on 37th Street (across from USC). Walking to school in South Central L.A. with her siblings consisted of survival, and as a young Filipina girl, she did not always feel safe. However, her home was filled with love, and her father represented strength to her. Both of her parents instilled a strong work ethic within her that Vicky carries with her to this day.

Vicky is also married to acclaimed film Director Tim Story (https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1103162/). Vicky and Tim founded The Story Company (http://timstorypictures.com), an entertainment production company, in 1996. They have a wonderful partnership while continually achieving both family and business goals. They also are the parents of three children. Vicky explained how it could be challenging working together at times, yet, it’s also a beautiful collaboration. While Tim is immensely busy directing, Vicky handles all business affairs and logistics for The Story Company.

When she had a moment, she sat down with us to chat. We must note, there could not be a more appropriate last name for the Story family. The entire family is lovely and Vicky has set the tone for the family environment. Tim Story is very supportive of Vicky’s projects and they both are advocates for education.

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The Story Family

After hearing your story (Both ups and downs), it’s apparent that you have so much love and respect for both your parents. How did they inspire you?

My dad and mom had an incredible work ethic. My dad was a real businessman — he ran rental properties, owned a market in South Central L.A. and managed a nursery. He was terrific under pressure and never cracked. My dad was a self-made entrepreneurial businessman. My mom worked for LAUSD for thirty years, and her consistency was such an influence. They sacrificed so much for their children, and it made an enormous impact. My interest in a business career is most likely from the importance of having a strong role model as a father and watching him succeed through good and hard times.

Why were you drawn to production?

For me, production is inspiring. I naturally am attracted to business — numbers, organization, logistics, budgeting, and scheduling. I probably got it from my dad. I received my degree in Operations Management from Cal. State L.A. Many of the characteristics of Operational Management consist of the production process. I eventually started producing music videos. I worked my way up from PA to Production Manager to Producer. The hours were long (first to arrive and last to leave), but I loved it!

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Did you and Tim meet through work?

No, we were friends for two years before working on ‘The Firing Squad,’ the first independent movie we made together. After ‘The Firing Squad,’ we moved on to music videos. Tim directed music videos before getting into the film industry. However, I never produced for him, only for other directors, but would oversee all his business affairs at The Story Company. He’s a true creative storyteller and is in his element when directing a film. We are both very supportive of each other’s career achievements, and it’s a great balance.

As Executive Producer of The Story Company, what type of productions would you like to bring to fruition and what are you currently producing?

We want to broaden the scope a bit and start branching out more into the television sector as well as producing more as a company, whether it’s an episodic, cable, network or other streaming platforms. Currently, ‘Prince of Peoria’ (https://www.netflix.com/Title/80223556) has been the most recent production airing on Netflix. It centers around a prankster prince who wants to experience life as an ordinary teen leaves his kingdom to live incognito with a single mom and her studious son. We are excited about The Story Company’s upcoming film project. Tim will team up with Eddie Murphy for New Line Comedy Inspired by the hit Walter Matthau-Jack Lemmon comedy ‘Grumpy Old Men.’ Tim will direct and produce the comedy through the Story Company banner, and Sharla Sumpter Bridgett is also producing.

What do you like about production?

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I love the energy of production. As soon as you walk on set, there is this fantastic setting for all creatives from all departments to thrive. It allows me to be in my own world and be an entrepreneur. The beginning is always exciting because the project gives you a clean slate, and you get to build in every department. I love dealing with budgets, negotiating, and money. I’m a businesswoman at heart and production allows me to do that on a per project basis since there is a beginning, a middle, and an end. Therefore, I get to treat every production like it’s a new business venture.

You are also a devoted wife and mom. Do you find the balance difficult?

Well, the kids are a bit older now, so it’s not as physically taxing.  I’m very good at time management and setting my priorities for each day (both family and business). Of course, as a mom, there are so many sacrifices we make. I have recently had a renewed sense of wanting to take The Story Company in different directions as well as take on other business opportunities I’m developing. With three children, there are always activities, homework, and sports.  We are big on family life, and it’s our priority.

“Mindfulness represents unconditional love towards the self (without judgment, resentment, or past mistakes), that will transcend and produce a beautiful sense of peace. Ultimately, it is about understanding your true core and letting go of others opinions. My path is in front of me and I take one step at a time.” (Vicky Mara Story)

You are so calm and centered. Do you meditate or practice mindfulness?

I do, but it’s a process. With meditation, it took a while for me because I had to learn that there is more than one way to do it and the most important way is what works for you. In my personal experience, meditation and mindfulness go together. If we are truly able to clear our heads of all the clutter and distracting thoughts, we can have an authentic presence with just “being.” Then, we are completely living in the present moment. I had to get “out of the box” of what it’s all supposed to look like and tap into me. For me, it was honoring myself, accepting myself, being mindful of my time, and understanding what I can give back to others and family. As women, we have a lot of responsibility placed on us as wives, mothers, and work. Mindfulness represents unconditional love towards the self (without judgment, resentment, or past mistakes), that will transcend and produce a beautiful sense of peace. Ultimately, it is about understanding your true core and letting go of others opinions. My path is in front of me and I take one step at a time.

What does self-empowerment mean to you?

For me, Self-empowerment is to stand in your truth authentically and being confident in who you are. It means sharing with people you trust through selfless conversations and giving them insight, empowering them, and having an impact on others. Personally, being authentic with yourself and others is the ultimate empowerment. It has represented understanding my power and accepting it. It has also consisted of standing tall and moving forward without reservation and affecting others who we love.

Vicky Story is such an inspiration as a woman, entrepreneur, and someone who gives back to the community. On behalf of Gemma, I would like to thank her for her time and thoughtfulness for such an insightful interview.


To follow Vicky on social media:

https://www.facebook.com/vickystory

https://www.instagram.com/vickystory/


Carhartt Men’s Acrylic Watch Hat A18, Black, One Size“>Carhartt Men’s Acrylic Watch Hat A18, Black, One Size

Over the Moon for Actress Mouna Traoré

Mouna Traoré is a force — a fantastic actress, who takes her craft seriously and continues to make it fun! Mouna is currently starring on the popular legal drama, In Contempt on BET (www.bet.com) as “rookie” Public Defender Vanessa Hastings. Mouna also made an impact with her portrayal of Dr. Rebecca James on the series Murdoch Mysteries. Traoré is a very talented actress with a beautiful sense of style and a lovely screen presence. Mouna is also a producer and currently has a secret project in the works. She is definitely on the rise, and it was exciting to speak with her about her character roles, her acting ambitions, and her eclectic background.

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Mouna Traoré was born and raised in Toronto in a very diverse and multicultural community. Mouna has a big, blended family, with three sisters and one brother, who are all her best friends. “I’m so grateful to be from Toronto because it’s a city that deeply loves and supports the arts.” “I was fortunate enough to be exposed to a lot of art at an early age and given many opportunities to express myself in different mediums,” says Traoré. When she was not filming or traveling, she spoke with Gemma Magazine.

GM: Hi Mouna!! Thank you for joining us. Did you always know that you were interested in the arts and when did you decide to make it a career?

I knew I wanted to be a performer before I even knew what acting was. I must have been 3 or 4! I never also questioned whether or not to make being an actor my career. It was automatic – an inherent knowledge I had early on. I feel like most of the decisions I made as a child, and young adult was with the mindset that it was what I was going to do. I never considered anything else.

GM: You have such a striking presence as well as a beautiful sense of style. Are there specific fashion brands that you adore?

I love the simple elegance of French brands like Iro and Isabel Marant for day to day wear, and I like to mix things up with Japanese designers like Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake. I definitely can’t get enough Pleats Please! I am particularly obsessed with Loewe handbags…

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GM: In Murdoch Mysteries, you played Dr. Rebecca James. She’s a great character and develops so well throughout the series into such a rich and multi-dimensional character. How would you describe Rebecca?

Curious, determined, resourceful, and diligent. Rebecca is a humble girl that has an intense thirst for knowledge and genuinely wants to help and support the people around her, especially the constabulary.

GM: I also enjoy your character, Vanessa Hastings, on In Contempt. How has it been working on a legal drama and learning the courtroom jargon?

I think that working on a legal drama is so much fun because the stakes are always so high. Learning the courtroom jargon was a lot to get through, and I found it challenging at times. Playing Rebecca James somewhat prepared me, because medical language from the early 1900’s was also challenging to learn.

GM: Do you feel Vanessa likes her job as a public defender? She is known as “the rookie” and does seem surprised by what her job entails.

Vanessa learns to love her job by the end of the season. Since she starts out as the “rookie,” she learns as she goes along. It’s an entirely new world for her, which is why it seems like she’s a deer in headlights every episode.

GM: I know you travel a lot and are from Canada. However, how do you like LA?

LA is a great city. A little too much driving for me but I feel more and more at ease there. However, I’m very close with my family, and it’s pretty heartbreaking to have so much distance between us.

GM: You are a producer as well. Are you currently working on a project?

I am currently writing a script. It’s too secret (mainly because I’m super sensitive about the whole concept of the project!)

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GM: You have been described as having infectious energy on set and so much fun to work with. Is this just a natural part of your personality?

Yeah! I sometimes describe myself as an 8-year-old boy on drugs. I’m a very open, impulsive, energetic person and I’ve been that way my whole life. I’ve calmed down in the past few years, but I’m still a lot for some people to handle.

GM: Can you give us any clues regarding Vanessa in the upcoming season? 

Zero! … I’m still waiting to hear about Season 2 being picked up!

We cannot wait to see what is in store for Mouna Tratoré— Television, and Film!


All Photos by Lenard Smith

To follow Mouna on her social platforms:

https://www.facebook.com/mouna.traore

https://www.instagram.com/_mounatraore/

https://www.facebook.com/InContemptBET/