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tomshondra 6-1 (1).jpg Shondra Jepperson takes out the latest CD released by the progressive rock band Tool. She places it in a Sony Discman connected by wires to a set of massive woofers and tweeters.
By Nate Hansen
Larson Newspapers

Shondra Jepperson takes out the latest CD released by the progressive rock band Tool.  She places it in a Sony Discman connected by wires to a set of massive woofers and tweeters.

She hits play.

Reminiscent to her early days in music, Jepperson bites her lip and nods firmly. Her actions are ones of approval but look short of 1980s head-banging.

She remembers those days, she says.

Tom and Shondra Jepperson are two of the most well-known entertainers in Sedona.

Known simply as “Tom and Shondra,” people tend to overlook who they were before they came to Sedona five years ago.

“This is not karaoke,” Shondra Jepperson says.

Jepperson swings her chair beside an electric keyboard. As she fingers the keys, she admits a bassist, a drummer a brass player, she’s not.

She’s a guitarist, maybe a pianist at best, she says.

Behind her is a musical instrument digital interface — MIDI for short. Aside from their natural talents entertaining, the MIDI is their savior.

According to Jepperson, the MIDI holds over 1,400 sounds. Those sounds are downloaded and transferred to her keyboard, where she finds correct pitch and tone.

If she needs a drum’s snare, kick or high hat, it’s there. A tuba is a click away.

While she works, Tom Jepperson reclines in a loveseat with their two poodles, Harry and Kami.

The Jeppersons celebrate 30 years together this month and the reason is reflected in his eyes.

“Friendship,” they say in unison, explaining their longevity.

Shondra Jepperson removes the rock CD and plays a tune from a musical the couple often sings as a duet. After a few minutes, she stops the music and plays a recording of what she recreated from the MIDI.

The music is nearly identical.

The Jeppersons often hear through the grapevine, “They only sing with karaoke.” But, as proven, that is not the case.

Musical scores are orchestrated with an ensemble cast of five, 12, 30-piece bands. Jepperson’s music is recorded by one — the better half, so it’s said.

Spending dozens of hours laying tracks over one another is time consuming but cost efficient, Tom Jepperson says, supporting his wife.

In the same breath, they say they don’t want to take anything away from any musicians. They are respected but at the same time realize they aren’t working the same venues — nothing lost, nothing gained.

Before “Tom and Shondra,” there was Tom and Shondra Jepperson, thanks to Shondra’s mother.

She was a talent agent in California and just happened to sign Tom Jepperson as one of her newest all-around entertainers.

At the time, Shondra was studying acting at the Julliard School in New York.

When she returned from school, her mother suggested she make some money playing guitar and singing.

“She said, ‘Learn to play 25 good songs and get out there,’” Shondra Jepperson recalls.

At age 19, she did just that. Often she needed to be escorted out of clubs between sets because she was too young to be mingling.

“I was her biggest fan and her worst enemy,” Tom Jepperson says.

According to Jepperson, he followed his friend, the future entertainer, to nearly every venue to applaud and heckle.

“I wanted her to have the experience of what crowds can be like,” he says.

The Jeppersons’ backgrounds are completely opposite.

Tom Jepperson has an operatic voice. He can fill a room with octaves low and high.

His singing career allowed him to travel nationally performing not only in operas, but musicals. He also remembers the days working the Los Angeles club circuit before stepping in as a warm-up act in Las Vegas.

Though he admits he’s no Tom Jones, he says there was a similar type of fanfare.

Shondra Jepperson, on the other hand, was a rocker.

With long, blonde hair overshadowing a pouting, sometimes punk face, she sang lead for Shondra and the Source.

She recalls one time playing before a rally of 12,000 during Michael Dukakis’ presidential campaign in 1988.

“It was a trip,” she laughs.

Like chameleons, the Jeppersons can change to whatever the venue requires.

Musicals, no problem.

Rock, yes.

Country, been there, done that.

Standards and contemporary, of course.

“As Tom’s father says, ‘I don’t know how it works, but it works,’” Shondra Jepperson says.

The Jeppersons have a lot of irons in the fire at the moment, but their work completes them.

It’s paid off, too — the couple is booked most of March 2008 touring the Southwest.

Cuddled up on a loveseat in the makeshift studio of their West Sedona condo, Tom and Shondra Jepperson rest easy knowing people now have a better understanding of who they were — who they are.

It’s only a glimpse, they say. But it’s no different than old photo albums in their home and toe-tapping tunes they sing. After awhile, everyone opens up.

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