A: Perhaps it’s in my blood–my paternal grandfather was a big-band drummer, and his father played trumpet and led a swing band. Growing up, I didn’t get to spend much time with my grandfather, and I never met my great-grandfather, but I’ve followed in their footsteps.
The moment I recall being taken in by jazz, I was in a neighbor’s dim livingroom, watching a commercial for a Nat King Cole collection. I loved the 10 second snippets of songs and told my mother I wanted to hear more. We went to the record store in the mall, but I couldn’t find Nat King Cole. Luckily, I purchased “Unforgettable with Love”, by Natalie Cole. I absorbed that album and sang along with Natalie, with the string section, with the horn solos. That is when I became hooked.
Q: When did you start singing?
A: I was one of those children who always sang, who was singing before I was speaking (like an angel, according to my grandmother, but I was the only granddaughter, and she spoiled me, so take that praise with a grain of salt). To answer the nature of the question, I’d say that I really started performing jazz when I was 13, when by my band director invited me to perform “Misty” with our junior high school big band. Before that, I’d been in choirs, had a few solos during recitals and talent shows (including “Route 66”,during the 3rd grade talent show, sung along with Natalie Cole’s track on the aforementioned “Unforgettable” album) BUT, performing with the big band was a whole new thing all together, and set me on the path that I’m still following now.
Q: Who do you listen to/Who’s your favorite?
A: Long answer: every vocalist I listened to as an avid young fan of vocal jazz performance and vocal improvisation influenced me in a way that I’m probably never going to be able to fully grasp, and is connecting me through my ears that took all of those albums in and out my throat that still quotes those singers today, to a rich tradition of music and artistry. They are women and men who I could not possibly rank from “FAVORITE” to Favorite-est, to All-time best, etc. etc.
Short answer: Ella Fitzgerald.
Q: Where did you study?
A: I am a graduate of Kansas State University. I did not study music, but I participated in the jazz program as a vocalist for the Concert Jazz Ensemble, and as a member of small jazz combos, led by Dr. Wayne Goins.
Q: How do you whistle like that? Who taught you? Will you teach me?
A: I’m not sure how, other than by looking pretty silly–maybe that’s the trick. My maternal grandfather taught me by whistling in front of me. I remember riding next to him in his red truck on the way to the donut shop early one morning. He was driving and alternating grins with whistling while I watched–I was fascinated. Once I figured out how to make the basic sound, I just kept at it until I could do the trills, slurs, and other tricks I’d heard grandpa do.
Yes, I’d be happy to teach you, as soon as I figure out what I’m doing. I’ll not hold back that knowledge from any that want to learn. I’d love it if Kansas City became the home of a citizen whistling movement! Dream Come True.
Q: Where have you been all my life?
A: I can really only say for sure where I’ve been all MY life, but here goes. Born: in Topeka-temporary resident (4 days); Early Childhood: Belleville, KS; Years K-12: Wichita, KS; College: Manhattan KS; Wild youth: San Cristobal, the jazz hot-spot of southern Mexico; The lean years: Chicago; The best years of my life (so far): Kansas City