Singers: Are you interested in singing jazz? (St. Johns)

I've just relocated to Portland from the San Francisco Bay Area. During my long musical life there, I was a professional singer and singing teacher. Most of my performance life and much of my teaching was in the local jazz community. I worked with jazz musicians in countless clubs and concert venues, and taught for 10 years at the Jazzschool in Berkeley. I have released three albums of original songs and jazz interpretations of a broad variety of material. I love teaching singing and especially working with singers who are jazz curious.

Portland has a vibrant jazz scene, and many very talented and accomplished vocalists who sing in a jazz style with jazz accompaniment. However, if you are a singer who is new to vocal jazz, perhaps you would enjoy and benefit from some instruction specific to the approach of the jazz icons who established this style of singing, like the great Ella Fitzgerald, and the incomparable Mark Murphy. Or perhaps you are a fan of some of the stellar jazz vocalists currently in the national performance spotlight, like the wonderful Samara Joy, Cecile McLorin Salvant, and Kurt Elling. What makes a vocal performance identify as jazz? There is no clear and undisputed definition, but most would agree that it involves an understanding of rhythmic phrasing, melodic freedom, a sense of swing, and the ability to improvise. These are skills that singers can acquire by listening to good vocal jazz. And working with an experienced teacher can deepen understanding of rhythmic, harmonic, and melodic structures, as well as common practice when sharing the bandstand with jazz musicians. Through the study and practice of established stylistic choices, the ultimate intention is to find your own personal sound and expression.

Most singers begin the study of jazz through learning a repertoire of standards - the classic tunes written by the master songwriters of the Tin Pan Alley period. This music is still popular for singers and instrumentalists, and these wonderful songs, seasoned with Bossa Nova, blues, ballads and swing, are great vehicles for learning the principles of improvisational jazz singing. But the style has opened up considerably in the past few decades and many jazz singers are sampling material from a variety of contemporary genres, like funk, R&B, and folk songs, adapting them to perform in a jazz context. What styles of singing appeal to you? It's all about being creatively open to experimentation and interpretation.

In addition to the musical considerations in singing jazz, there are many things to learn about sharing the bandstand with the instrumentalists in a jazz performance. Singers should have their "book" of legible charts in the right keys. Do you know how to count off a tempo? Do you understand what it means to lay out while the instrumentalists solo, and how to come back in at the right time? How about intros and endings? The etiquette of jazz is not the same as performing other styles of music, and it helps to know in advance how to fit in with everyone else involved in the performance. The singer participates as part of the band. If you are new to this information, you will definitely be glad you have a teacher who can clearly explain how it all works.

I look forward to hearing from you. Let's discuss your goals and interests. I have a great intro rate for a first lesson and package rates for continuing students. Meanwhile, get out there and avail yourself of the great music being performed in the Portland area.

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