Musical Artist, Producer, Vocalist, Spoken Word Artist, Publisher, Educator, Arranger, Composer, Fan
Tell us a little about your background...
I was born into a family of nine in Warrenton, Virginia. Music wafted through our home in some way every day - we either sang as a family a capella or sang loudly and enthusiastically along with the classical, blues, folk or bluegrass music which blared from the radio or the hi-fi. From the very beginning, I learned the value of telling the story behind the music and how powerfully that story can move the listener and impact one's life.
I had one year of formal piano lessons at the age of 9 and, after moving to Roanoke, Virginia a year later, another year of lessons when I was 13. It was during those lessons that I learned to read music. For a brief time, as a teenager, I sang in a few R&B bands at musical functions in my community. In one of these bands was a pianist, a sixteen-year-old boy who would later become my husband. I composed and sang my first piece in the band when I was 15.
Fast forward to 1996 when I was 41 and working full-time at a bank. My oldest son, Michael, convinced me to start singing again. I merged into the music scene tentatively, for months just singing one day a week in a smoky bar of a Ramada Inn for tips only. It would be several months more before I actually earned any money.
Despite my husband’s initial support, on December 31, 1997 he issued the ultimatum that I either stop singing or I would have to leave our home. Though for many years verbal and emotional abuse had been a daily occurrence, for the first time in our marriage domestic violence ensued over this issue.
After 23 years of marriage, I left that night; not because I just had to keep singing, but because living with someone who issued ultimatums and resorted to violence was NOT for me. Within 18 months, I had moved to Richmond, Virginia, divorced my husband, produced my first CD, quit my job at the bank, signed onto the MaxJazz label and played the leading role of Ella Fitzgerald in the world premiere of "Ella and her Fella, Frank" at the Barksdale Theatre in Richmond, VA.
Between 2000 and 2004, I lived in Atlanta, Georgia, recording four CDs on the MaxJazz label and winning several awards, both domestic and international, for those recordings. In 2005, I decided not to renew my contract with MaxJazz, but to make my own way, call my own shots. I moved to Denver, Colorado where I met my current husband and, shortly thereafter, began focusing on writing a one-woman show. Throughout all this time, I continued to tour in the U.S. and all over the world.
In 2006, I composed a song about homelessness, “This Is (Not) A Protest Song”, and released it as a single. Later that year, I co-produced, recorded and released my 6th full CD, "Experiment In Truth". In 2007, I composed and released a single about the Jena Six, “Three Nooses Hanging”.
In preparation for my one-woman show, I played the leading role in "Dinah Was", a musical play at the Shadow Theatre in Denver, CO. about the life of Dinah Washington.
In October 2009, I premiered in Denver my one-woman show, “Slut Energy Theory - U’Dean”; a play about incest and domestic abuse told through original music, spoken word and monologue. I produced, recorded and released in December 2009 the soundtrack from this same play.
In the summer of 2010, I’ve been conducting what I call Sing Like A Murderer (SLAM) vocal therapy group sessions. I’ve never been to college or received any “professional” training and so I feel a bit anxious about my ability to convey my personal approach to singing. However, I know what I know. And, I’ve always been up to a good challenge, although the thought of attempting to share my vocal philosophy often makes me wonder if I have completely lost touch with reality.
I have never forgotten the early lessons learned about the power of music. Today, I try to imbue that feeling of emotion into every song I write – every song I sing – every time. I am very happy to be alive today; singing, composing, writing, teaching and arranging.
How did you hear about the Jazz Network? Please give full name of contact
Encouraged to join by so many friends and artists that I respect and admire.
What Instrument do you play?
Vocalist, Piano, Percussion
What is your website address? Only websites that pertain to your business and how you can be contacted.
Jaijai, what a wonderful mission you've undertaken to create such a place for artistic minds to meet and share their hearts. A place to renew faded determinations, and revive lessened momentums. A place to display our wares and reconfirm to one another that we actually are on the right track.
I commend you, Jaijai, for caring so much that you created this castle of the heart for all of us. I want to share my praise for all of the new friends as well as old friends that I've met and will meet here in our castle. Here we can garnish the where-with-all, the strength, the conviction, and the selflessness through our symbiosis, to share our gift to the world with an unbiased agenda.
My mentor, Daisaku Ikeda says of art: "A beautiful flower delights and refreshes the hearts of all people equally, no matter what soil it grows in. That is the power of beauty. The same is true of great art. It is this spirit that the German poet Heinrich Heine sang of when he wrote that once the peapod bursts open, the sugar peas inside are for everyone to enjoy."
Let's be audacious, my friends!
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