It Had to Be Music
Singer, Musician, Writer, Teacher
Below: Media Gallery and click-to-print PDFs.
Singing My family told me I climbed onto a tree stump at 3 to sing for them. My 4 older sisters were probably not my best audience, but I kept singing, occasionally brave enough to sing a solo in church or the high school choir and its small advanced ensembles that performed around town. We always won multiple categories in the state’s regional competitions, and my choir director gave me a lasting gift: experiencing a level of excellence that confirmed and deepened my love of music and music-making.
Directing, Producing As a college freshman, I was brazen enough to direct a small choir, drawing on the high standards and professional techniques of my High School director. On campus I sang folk, rock, soul, blues, jazz, and classical. Between jobs to augment my scholarships and loans, I produced jazz concerts, performing with band members from the campus and local communities.
Click images of documents for free PDFs.
New York During much of the last 2 years earning my B.A. I was in NYC, studying composition with Jimmie Giuffre, ushering at Carnegie Hall, and waitressing on Wall Street. But an announcement in the NYTimes about Urban Core led me to a job and some of the most influential musicians of my life. As assistant to director Bill Barron of the Brooklyn MUSE Jazz Program in Bedford Stuyvesant, I met a group of auspicious musicians including Bill, Chris White, Reggie Workman, Sam Rivers, Jimmie Owens, and Bill’s brother, soon to be world-famous, Kenny Barron. This staff and NYC constituted an invaluable school. My repertoire and appreciation of seminal jazz grew, but I longed to sing compelling original works from my expanding musical community. Since they were mostly instrumentals, my habit of trying lyrics soon began.
Advanced Degrees In response to my goal to be a college music teacher, my Antioch advisor explained that a few women, wives of male professors, did get part-time positions. He suggested a Master’s degree to compete with men with B.A.s. The few Jazz programs at the time seemed to have less promise than the chance to study with master musicians from Africa, Indonesia, and India to name a few, so from NYC I followed a colleague of mine to the new World Music program at Wesleyan University in nearby Connecticut. The value of my exposure to the world music traditions and their masters there is impossible to calculate. I took a variety of courses, but other than my field research abroad I was always in African Drumming and Dance, taught by the unparalleled master, Abraham Adzinyah.
Following my Master’s work on Feminine Symbolism and Music, I realized I might need an edge over men with Masters degrees and went on to research the ancient women’s tradition of moirologia, Greek lamentation, for my Ph.D. dissertation. On campus, I continued producing concerts. During that time I also toured in the US and abroad with new music composer Steve Reich’s ensemble and made two research trips to Greece. Click here for the detailed downloadable Academic Resume.
Professor Upon receiving my doctorate in Ethnomusicology, I became an assistant professor in Michigan, teaching survey, history, theory, and performance. I produced concerts and small festivals, integrating my students with professionals, and helping them find local gigs. I began to collaborate and perform with the late, dearly missed, pianist and composer Eddie Russ. I watched what I call his “funk and groove” music work magic on audiences. I remain ever grateful to have had the great fortune to work with him.
Lyricist/Arranger By the time I relocated to LA, I had accumulated enough original work to choose material for the book for Borrowed Time, the five-voice jazz group I created there. I still can’t believe the luck I had in the members of BT: Sunny Wilkinson, Leila Thigpen, Rocky Davis, and Bob Joyce.
Our rhythm sections were drawn from the large pool of exceptional talents in LA at the time. So many have become among the most sought-after musicians today. In our ten years together, in that west coast crucible, Borrowed Time became a respected part of the ‘musicians’ musicians’ category. Or as Leila once put it “internationally unknown” – but I believe locally appreciated. For more on the group, visit here.
Educator/ Writer/Speaker: Moving to Tucson in the early ’90s, my diverse background helped in starting over. I taught students, young to older, groups, large and small, in schools, for community organizations, and at the local university. I won a few grants to produce workshops in schools, performed in restaurants and private parties. On the side, I published reviews and profiles in the Arizona Daily Star, the Tucson Weekly, the Phoenix New Times, and the Desert Leaf. When a community school where I had close to 30 voice students suddenly closed, I opened my studio. Besides close to 10 years giving talks around the state as a scholar in the Speakers Bureau at the Arizona Humanities Council, I gave guest presentations on music topics for various organizations and classes. Topics included “Music and The Brain,” “Music and Healing”, “Jazz and the American Identity”, “Jazz History,” etc. Back at AHC for 2021-2022, my new talk is “The Science of Music, the Music of Science.”
Performer/Bandleader Over the years, like most cities, the number of viable jazz venues in Tucson fluctuates, but its vibrant arts community can boast more and more talented musicians as it continues to grow. When I moved to Tucson I found wonderful players to work with, including the former Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Arizona, Jeff Haskell. We enjoyed a series of duos at a local bookstore. My ensembles continue to vary in size and composition to play concerts, private parties, and fine restaurants. I drew on fantastic local talent for my CD, “Blue Nights and Sunshower,”
Vocal Technique Studio It’s more than 15 years since I opened my independent music studio. My offerings have expanded to include music theory, songwriting, and a variety of workshop series for small groups. For more information, and more printable PDFs on the range of teaching offerings, see my VTS pages.
Shop My latest challenge has been establishing this digital publishing Shop for my valued collaborations. The beauty that I heard in these songs compelled me to try and create worthy lyrics. From the first time I heard them, besides wanting to sing them, I also wanted them to be more available to others to appreciate and enjoy. The CD can be purchased through the Shop, and all the charts for the originals on the CD will soon be for sale there as well.