A band leader and music teacher for multitudes of young singers throughout the East Valley has died, but family and band members promise Vicki Reader’s vision for children’s music will continue on a high note.
For more than 30 years, Vicki, who had a special place in her heart for special needs children, taught the message of music and movement. More recently, she taught more than 600 young children on a weekly basis with her kid rock band, PK ROCKZ, at preschools throughout the Valley, including Tot Spots in Queen Creek, Watch Me Grow and Early Explorers, both in Gilbert. The band is on a campaign to keep music alive in schools, families and communities during a time when arts are struggling in public schools due to budget cuts.
Vicki, along with her husband of 21 months, Brett Reader, who plays bass, and the other three musicians in their band were scheduled to perform as part of the Chandler Ostrich Festival’s activities this weekend, but Vicki unexpectedly died from a brain tumor at age 52 on Feb. 13, 26 hours after being admitted to a local hospital for a severe headache. The tumor had grown to the size of grapefruit and had pressed on her brain, causing it to become herniated, her husband told the Tribune. She is also survived by five children and eight grandchildren.
Instead of PK ROCKZ performing a 35-minute show of children’s music at noon on Saturday at the Chandler Ostrich Festival at Tumbleweed Park, the city will hold a tribute for Vicki and members of her family who plan to be present on the community stage.
While PK ROCKZ won’t be performing at the tribute Saturday, the band will perform in Vicki’s memory at 6:30 p.m., April 12 in the Town of Gilbert’s Mini Concert Series at Freestone Park Amphitheater. Vicki’s daughter, Kami Kerby, of Gilbert, is fine-tuning her guitar skills and rehearsing songs her mother wrote and sang to be part of the show.
“It’s big shoes to fill, but I share her passion of music and singing children’s music,” Kami said. “My mother had a gift. Whenever she took the stage with kids to perform, it was magical. It’s always tricky to get a group of little kids to sing well together, and no matter how little the children were, they always sang loud and clear and were engaged. Everyone always loved Ms. Vicki.”
At one point, Vicki was teaching music to children at 17 Valley preschools, ranging in age from 2 to 5.
PK ROCKZ released its first CD, “Music All Around Me,” and music video, “Kiss Me,” both in August 2011.
The “Kiss Me” video features Kami, who now will front PK ROCKZ as the band moves forward without Vicki.
Kami not only has fond memories of her mother teaching her to play the guitar and sing, but also of how her musically-inclined grandparents, Sandra and Donovan Crandell, taught her mother and two aunts how to sing three-part harmony while growing up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Mesa. Vicki later started a children’s choir that performed at the LDS temple. She even made the children’s costumes.
“My grandparents would get frustrated because my mom couldn’t carry a tune when she was little,” Kami said. “But they kept working with her and she learned. Later on, if there was something my mother wanted to do, she’d get a vision and do it, no matter what it was. One time, when we lived in Portland, Oregon about 20 years ago, the roof of our house needed (to be) repaired. We all had to help by going up the ladder to hand her shingles so she could put them in place.”
Sadly, Vicki and Brett’s marriage was short-lived, but time well spent after she moved back to Mesa from Oregon about three years ago.
Vicki and Brett Reader, who attended Mesa’s Westwood High School in the 1970s, reunited and began dating 35 years after high school before forming PK ROCKZ last June.
Brett said, “Vicki’s passion was writing music and performing children’s music, and her dream isn’t going to stop. It’s hard to believe she’s gone. When you lose your best friend and your business partner, it’s devastating. She changed all of our lives and this has changed all of our lives again. It’s going to take us some time to get our bearings, but we will. We all miss her.”
The band also has played numerous concerts throughout the Valley including “Kidstock AZ” and several benefit concerts for local children’s charities. Vicki also had written a song for special needs children with plans to record it and donate proceeds to programs for children with special needs.
PK ROCKZ also had planned to go back into the studio on Feb. 16 to record three more music videos and two more CDs.
About 50 recording hours of Vicki Reader’s music remains unreleased, and what a shame that would be if it isn’t fine-tuned and used for what Vicki intended it: reaching larger audiences and providing upbeat music to children.
“She was an amazing teacher and musician,” Brett said. “Soon after we were married, I told her she needed to follow her dream. Now, her music will live on. We’ll take it to another level.”
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