Performing & Proliferating 

Almost a year of news to catch up on....

In 2018, I've been booked for 11 Ella Fitzgerald shows, and I've had an absolute blast teaching kids about her legacy and performing her music. I've had great response from kids and teachers and hope to market it to 2nd and 3rd grade this coming year! Also in the works is a new program with flute and drums. 

Young Audiences has also had me in a few unique residencies, one focusing on the military child, with a series of after-school workshops focused on storytelling, movement, and song; mine was the song part, and as a group, we wrote a fun song about unicorns. This residency has the potential for more bookings in the coming years, and I also may present our results with a fellow Young Audiences artist at YAV's Inspiring Teachers Conference this summer!

On April 16 I begin a residency in Norfolk middle schools with my co-teacher Manaah Blackwell, with whom I have had the pleasure working with on several Young Audiences events. We will be teaching about Romare Bearden and how strongly his work was influenced by jazz, and how he used jazz musicians as the subject of several of his works. Using those principles, I will play jazz music from the Harlem Renaissance period and following, while the students collage new works of art, to be displayed at MacArthur Mall at the end of May! I'm thrilled to be a part of this and can't wait to inspire and interact with the young artists.

This is a lot of Young Audience news (they're keeping me daytime-employed!), but I've also joined Artsong Trio this year, and we perform a program about friendship with myself and my good friend Kerri Hardwick on vocals and Allen Decipulo on piano. I continue to perform with American Jazz Ensemble also, and we've had a few bookings this year. 

Performance-wise, I've had the privilege of branching out to Varia, the new wine bar/restaurant at the Main (Hilton) in Norfolk, at the brand-new Cavalier, reimagined for 2018 but still holding the classic charm of the original Cav. For these gigs I have been performing with my friend Carl Olson, a fine piano player with a great stride piano, soulful feel, and ear. We hope to book more of these gigs as the year goes on. 

I still perform several times a month at Gershwin's, which has come under new ownership, and was a win-win for the previous and the new.

My original songs that I wrote about in my last post are FINALLY getting recorded this spring and summer. My teacher has urged me to be patient (not in my nature!!) to get the songs exactly where they need to be, have everything charted out, not just in music software, but who plays what, the feel and tempo of each song, and demos of each. In reward for my patience, however, I get to have my dream band for my rhythm section: Allan Farnham, smokin' jazz piano player, Jae Sinnett (my hero!) on drums, and Terry Burrell on bass. Basically it is Jae Sinnett's trio, and as he is helping me produce the album, he suggested and was able to pull in these players. It's been a blessing working so closely with him and becoming great friends through it. 

My first studio dates are May 14 and 15, and I am starting a GoFundMe campaign! https://www.gofundme.com/heart-soul-amp-fire You can contribute to recording costs, studio time expenses, mixing and editing costs, and duplication and distribution. I am so excited about this album, as it puts me on the map as a singer-songwriter/jazz artist, and it has the potential to be distributed to many rewarding outlets! 

I appreciate your support as I slowly climb this ladder of being a great musician, building my career, and being the best person I can be....cheers to great music ahead!! 

Summer Songwriter 

It's been a year of tremendous changes: so big, that it can be hard to decide where to draw the professional/personal line in sharing with the general public. Let's just say they are both personal and health-related. Message me, or better yet, come chat with me at a gig, and I'm happy to have a heart-to-heart about me. :) 

I'm swinging back to my singer-songwriter self. It never went away; I've been writing this whole time, just not as prolifically with the busyness of life and raising three young children. When I moved to jazz, I imagined that I would start writing jazz songs. I'm happy to say that it has deepened my knowledge of harmony, sense of melody, and the flow of a song, but when I create, it still comes out in lyrics and melodies that are closer to singer-songwriter style than jazz. But, many of the songs I've written are in bossa nova style or follow a Blues progression, and the harmonies and progressions are more jazz than my previous Sara Bareilles-esque-style. I think I would call it singer-songwriter with jazz sensibilities. Maybe some brilliant critic will come up with what my style is. Until then, you'll just have to listen and find out for yourself! 

Some of them I've been performing for a few years, like "Mojito," "Ran in the Rain," "Capitulation" (the only instrumental), and "Your Name is Music," which I wrote at the very beginning of my jazz education, and which Justin Kauflin harmonized for me, since my knowledge wasn't up to speed with my ear back then. I have finally charted almost all of them into Finale with some free time I've had this summer, so that my studio musicians can follow the progressions easily. Now I'm going to "scrub" them, both with my teacher (Jae Sinnett), and a fellow songwriter that I met recently and also has jazz roots. 

Yesterday I met with Jae and we went through the first of my songs together; he helped point out where I had some awkward chord resolutions and gave me some ideas for how to make that flow better. I'm adding 8 bars that I think really embellish the song! And he helped come up with a cool groove for the end of it. I'm blessed to learn under such a master. Sometimes he'll play chord voicings (and he's primarily a drummer!) that I can't even decipher while looking at his fingers on the piano. Cool cat he is!

Most likely I'll keep going through this process the rest of the summer, and I'll hopefully record in the fall -- look for a kickstarter campaign in the coming months. :) I'm going to need some funding for the project. I'm super excited about the product, as my quality as a musician, songwriter, flautist, and vocalist keeps improving. 

A performance highlight was being the guest performer for the Jae Sinnett Trio in May! Here is a clip. Visit my YouTube channel for more. 

I haven't been driving across the water (to Hampton and Williamsburg) as much for gigs this year, but Young Audiences has kept me teaching and gigging on that side of the water. 

This summer you can find me at Gershwin's, Town Center of Virginia Beach July 20 and September 1, and at Beach Street with the Doorway Singers. See my home page for performance details. 

Thank you for your support! Much love to all......

Young Audiences 

One of the most wonderful things to come my way this year is Young Audiences of Virginia. They both teach and inspire through workshops that underline SOL standards with different forms of art; so far, I have taught through theater, writing, history and theater, and words in motion. I swear I fall in love with the kids every time; they are beautiful and a joy to teach. Don't get me wrong, I do have my difficult, rambunctious groups! But the good makes the challenge worth it. And I surprisingly enjoy it much more than I did teaching private lessons. So for now, I am getting some steady, part-time work through them. 

And that's not all: they also engage students in live performances featuring a wide variety of subjects and programs. I brainstormed with the artistic director last year about what kind of program I could develop, and I mentioned Ella Fitzgerald, since being a jazz singer, she is my favorite one, and Ella was born in Newport News. This immediately interested the director, and as I researched, I found that she was born in 1917 - 100 years ago next year! So we were excited, and bookings already started coming from the Newport News school district. I have done 2 so far this winter, have some booked for this coming year, and hope to have many more to educate and pay tribute to such an amazing artist! 

I continue to do a lot of solo and ensemble jazz work. At Gershwin's I have moved to weekend nights, so I regularly play and sing to a full restaurant and bar. Doorway Singers has had a busy Christmas, and that is wonderful as always to be able to bring Christmas cheer through the simple beauty of a cappella voices. 

I will continue to be open to new opportunities; right now I am content to keep gigging as I am and keep improving my musicianship and craft as much as possible! 

Merriest of Christmases to you, and here's to a wonderful new year ahead!

Jazz Festival! 

My dreams are coming true: I just got booked for my first jazz festival, the Williamsburg Winter Blues Jazz Festival, on Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend this coming January! I'll be playing with live quartet for one of the jazz brunches on Sunday the 17th.   Festival Site

This has been a goal and dream of mine, to start playing local festivals and local jazz spots, and eventually to move into a wider area of where I play and perform - first Williamsburg (which is happening!), then Richmond/Charlottesville/DC, and then eventually (this might be in 10 years), performing in Boston, New York City, and Philly. I happen to have family in all three of those locations, so I would have a place to stay! That is, of course, when the kids are a little older and it is not as hard on them for me to travel for a weekend.

I am also booked for the Cabin Fever series at the Freight Shed in Yorktown on March 3, 2016. On that gig I have Jae Sinnett playing drums with me! I tell you, it is a real honor to have guys of this caliber playing with me. I've played a few gigs with Terry Burrell now, and he's so solid and with amazing solos, yet so encouraging and complimentary of my performing, that I feel even more fueled to become all that I can be as a jazz artist.
 
Lastly, I was booked for a wedding next September!! That is the first time I have been booked for something a year out from the event, but it is exciting because the couple saw me perform at Gershwin's and wanted me as their first choice for their wedding! So I'll be playing the ceremony on piano, then rocking it out with a jazz quartet for the reception. 
I'm just so floored that I'm seeing success! There were so many years of floundering and finding my way musically, where I had 3 people show up at a coffee shop where I was playing, when I gave away more CD's than I sold. But it seems those days are over, and I'm so glad I've found my niche. Here's to many more dream jazz gigs to come!  

Echoes 

It’s been a turbulent last few months with trying to work toward a work and home-life balance; now that the kids are getting older, there are kids’ activities to think about for which I want to be present. And it can be taxing for my husband to watch the kids as many nights as I’m out gigging. So this fall will be a little quieter than my busy summer. Don’t get me wrong; I loved performing at Beach Street both solo and with Doorway, at Gershwin’s, and even performed with a few live jazz trios, the highlight of which was playing at the Triangle in Williamsburg. It’s a new small plates, live music venue, and John Calisto joined me on guitar and Terry Burrell on bass. Terry is an amazing, experienced player - he regularly plays with the Jae Sinnett trio, so it was a huge treat to have him on the gig. And having musicians like that who encourage and inspire one another to greatness is truly a treasure. One of my favorite things is to vamp and scat at the end of a song and just let my musical expression loose. That’s where I feel the most free and most myself, doing exactly what I was created to do. I hope to do it again! We are booked at the Triangle again on October 29th.

 

So this fall I will buckle down with practicing - my youngest starts 2 mornings a week in preschool, which means PRACTICE TIME! I am really excited about this. Time to focus on harmony and arpeggios and scales, beefing up my repertoire, and my teacher now has me learning some bop tunes. Joy Spring I feel like I have down and have been performing it this summer. Confirmation and Donna Lee are new ones that he’s given me - Confirmation I almost have memorized, but I groaned when he gave me Donna Lee - it has lots of really fast notes. But, he says you have to learn the language of bop because it helps with your phrasing, and the modern jazz musician can’t function without it.

 

Probably the biggest news of the year is the release of my album “Echoes”! It’s a 5-song album with 2 songs that are light and ethereal, and three worship choruses that feature harp, flutes, and jazz pianist Justin Kauflin. I’m really proud of it and had the opportunity to record with Rob Ulsh, one of the top recording engineers in Virginia, if not in the country. (He recorded exclusively with Pharrell as producer for 7 years.) You can read more about it here, and watch the video below to hear me talk about it! 

 

 

Please pick up a copy - it’s available on CDbaby and iTunes. I’m also looking to book some churches to play and promote the album. 

 

Thanks so much for being a part of my musical journey. Your prayers are appreciated as I look to the future!

New Year, New Horizons 

Hi, all! It's been awhile since I've posted. Christmas season with the Doorway Singers was busy and rewarding, as always. As the new year has come, I'm focused on several things, and I'd like to share them with you! 

CD Recording: Ever since I recorded my hymn CD, I've wanted to do a follow-up of older choruses that were special to me in my childhood. I've come up with 3 choruses, a hymn, and a song my sister used to sing to me when we were kids. So, it will be an EP, but better to do the songs you feel really strongly about than recording more for the sake of making a full album. It will be acoustic with simple instrumentation, one with harp and flute, one with (Justin Kauflin on!) piano and me on vocals, one that I just finished arranging with multiple flutes, and one just vocals. The hymn will be just piano. I plan to begin recording in March, because.....

I WILL BE BUYING A A NEW FLUTE!! As we speak, two companies are preparing to ship 2 and 3 flutes, respectively, and I will get to try them out for a week before returning them at the Hampton Roads Flute Faire - but I will come home with one of them! I am beyond geeking-out-excited; I haven't had a new flute since I was 15, and it's only an upper immediate, and I'll be taking a huge step up with either a partially gold or all sterling silver professional flute. 

Speaking of the Flute Faire, Jim Walker is the featured artist: classical AND jazz flutist...so, naturally, I messaged him to see if I could get a lesson while he is here, and within FIVE MINUTES, he messaged back and said yes!! Another geek-out moment! Okay, I'm calm, I'm calm. But it's going to be awesome.

New Beach Street program: Okay, so my wheels are always turning, and I wanted to get away from my solo program for the summer, since it seems to be in such high demand these days (every week at Gershwin's and just got hired for a brunch at Cobalt Grille), and just became acquainted with a guy who sang with Doorway Singers for Christmas has a dancing and theater background, and we discovered our mutual love of jazz, Jamie Cullum, and Sara Bareilles. So, I got to thinking about putting together a program, and AJ said yes, he would love to perform with me! So we've just started working, and it's going to be awesome with vocal duets, flute improv and beatboxing, and real-live swing dancing.

So there's lots of exciting stuff going on. Working to get more booked with Candela, my live jazz trio (probably with a name change), and still studying with Jae Sinnett and maybe starting lessons with a jazz sax teacher in the area. 

Please stayed tuned! Come out to a show! Enjoy the music. :) 

<3 Jennifer

Moving Up 

Wow! What a blast this summer has been. I've never had my performing schedule so full, and I can honestly say I loved it. There were a few nights of tiredness, or wanting to be home, but most nights I was energized doing what I love, performing 4 and 5 nights a week.

I had great response on Beach Street and met people from all over the country and world, and the nice thing about playing year after year is seeing some of the same folks who come back to vacation in Virginia Beach. It's a blessing to be able to play there!
 

Gershwin's business has also picked up, so that it's usually steady, if not busy, all evening long! There, as well, I have met some great people and gotten some great feedback. Jason Black, a composer of Brazilian music, said this after hearing me at Gershwin's: "Heard a fantastic set by vocalist and flautist of extraordinary good taste and talent tonight, Jennifer Gammill. Musicians, you know that feeling when you hear the timbre, and direction of the sax and you're willing to let you ears follow the sax where the sax wants to take you? That's Jennifer!"

It's great to be at a place where I feel so good about what I'm putting out there - my voice has deepened and relaxed, and gets more "jazzy" in style all the time. I enjoy leaping up to the stratosphere for some scat notes, and then taking it down low for a song like "Fever." I also started adding flute to my Gershwin's set 
this summer, and people are loving that too. 

I'm still growing and learning, of course! While my confidence and skill with improv has grown greatly, I know I still have a lot to learn. I'm looking into how I can best do that in the months ahead. 

I attribute so much of my learning to my teacher and mentor, Jae Sinnett. People often ask, "How can a flute player study with a  drummer?" I like the question, because it says so much about jazz - that you don't have to study with your same instrument to learn so many of the fundamentals, and that because rhythm and feel are so important to jazz, and to playing at a top level, it's a bonus that I have the opportunity to study with a drummer of his caliber. We also talk a lot about the mental game of being a performer, which I appreciate so much, because that is another aspect of playing that is not addressed as much as the technique and execution. And he is not only a drummer, but a composer and arranger. His newest recording, Subject to Change, is amazing. It's one of those you can listen to over and over and still get new things. Even playing along with a simple line on it helps with my feel, and the solos inspire me every time. It's receiving national airplay and recognition, and I feel so proud of him and that I get to study with someone who has devoted so much to his craft and can write and teach from a season of experience. 


Lastly, my first gig with Candela, Latin Jazz Quartet, went extremely well. We played at Prime46forty, an upscale restaurant 
in Williamsburg. The guys, John Calisto and Jordan Ponzi, are extremely talented, and Ernesto Laboy played with us on percussion. It was so much fun! And we even threw in the flute beatboxing, did our own arrangement of Rockin' Robin, and of course, a good selection of Latin jazz tunes. I'll be singing my first song in Portuguese this Saturday at our second gig! This group promises some longevity and creativity, which I'm very excited about. Here are some cool shots from our gig, taken by a professional photographer! 



So what's next? I'm looking forward to some down time, sending my daughter off to kindergarten, and I have an insatiable desire to learn more jazz! 

Gig Season Approaching! 

In my last post, I was in the audition process for Beach Street, Town Center, and waiting on Gershwin's to open. Well, it has all finally arrived and a BUSY gig season is approaching soon! 

Gershwin's is a 1930's-style speakeasy in downtown Norfolk that features music of Gershwin (of course!), Cole Porter, and other Tin Pan Alley songs. The owner's idea was to feature vocalists with tracks rather than hiring bands in order to keep the costs down, and occasionally have a pianist to accompany the singer. Well, it just so happens I am a jazz vocalist and heard about the place opening up, so I auditioned in early March. Then we waited and waited while all the licenses were being approved. It finally opened in mid-April, and I have had the privilege of singing there 4 times now! The owners really like my singing, so I will be there regularly on Thursday nights at least for the summer! 

























When my Beach Street contract came in, I was floored. Instead of the usual one night a week to perform as a soloist, they wanted me for 2 nights! Since I already sing with Doorway Singers one night a week, this meant I would be singing 3 nights a week on Beach Street! Beach Street offers wonderful experience, but definitely requires a lot of energy since you perform until 11:00 pm and it can be hot. BUT, I am so grateful for the gigs and the opportunities to perform. 

So, put all those together and I will be gigging 3-4 nights a week. Add in a few dates at Town Center in Virginia Beach, where I'll be playing with my own live jazz trio (!!) with Woody Beckner and Chris Brydge, and a few gigs at Prime46forty in Williamsburg with Jordan Ponzi and John Calisto, and I've got myself a busy summer! But I'm so excited about these last couple I mentioned because I'm playing with professional local jazz guys; they are so good and very encouraging to me as a beginner improviser. On all these gigs I'll be mixing vocals and flute; I may throw in piano some nights at Gershwin's to keep things interesting. :)

Lastly, I'm preparing flute beatboxing for my Beach Street set! I really wanted to add it last year when I became aware of the skill (check out Greg Pattillo - amazing!), but with having a new baby it just wasn't happening last summer. But, I've been investing a lot of time in it, and have one song almost down, Ain't No Sunshine, and hope to have a few others in my pocket as the summer progresses. I plan to play one at the end of each set.

So, gigs start in full swing on June 17th! Check out my gig schedule on my home page, and I know I'll see you out there soon!

The Balancing Act 

This season of my life has been about balance: while faced with the extremely difficult task of raising 3 young children and studying to become a jazz musician, I have found this to be the answer. It is a challenge because I am an all-or-nothing person. I know what it is to fully devote myself to a worthy endeavor; at times during high school, I threw myself into my flute playing and loved it. Jazz can easily be an immersion. There is always more to learn; you can always be transcribing a solo, listening to jazz, reading more history, and, of course, practicing. And there's a certain high that comes with devoting oneself to that type of learning, and thus, high rewards to be reaped.

But I digress. It is not possible for me to devote myself fully to jazz study at this point; no one is paying me to do so and to provide full-time child care for my kids. :-) And neither would I want them in someone else's care all day. But, as I have been getting to know myself more these past few months, nor would I be happy as an exclusively SAH (stay-at-home) mom, as they say in mom lingo. And, in case you're wondering, home schooling is NOT for me. :) 

Thus, BALANCE is the key. I have had to learn how to be a mom and focus on time with my kids when I am with them, not distracted by what I could be doing or practicing. And, conversely, to have focused practice time where I am not distracted by the kids. We've been able to set a few practical things in place to make this happen: moving our oldest from 3 days a week of preschool to 5, and enrolling our middle child in 2 days a week. It's a huge relief for me to have 2 mornings a week with just our 1-year-old (yes, she turned 1 a few weeks ago! What a milestone!) Then, one day a week, I have almost 2 hours to practice at my friend's studio while our babysitter is with the kids. Now, this I love! I'd love to do it more, but patience is the key, because one day they will all be in school and I'll have that kind of consistent practice time, and it doesn't do to wish away the days now when they are young and precious.....and trying, LOL. 

 

 
To conclude these thoughts, a Bible verse I was reminded of the other day really spoke to me, and I felt it applied to jazz learning as well. Mark 4:26-29: "This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain - first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come." 

So...what encourages me so much is that whether awake or asleep - for me, insert "whether playing with kids or changing diapers, listening to Oscar Peterson while doing dishes, or - yes! - even sleeping," that seed is growing, and at the right time, will produce a harvest. :) Someday I'll be that professional jazz musician I aspire to be.

So, on a practical note, what is happening? I am in the audition and contract process for Beach Street and Town Center Virginia Beach entertainment for the summer of 2014. Woo hoo! Both are looking very promising, and I'm collaborating with other top jazz musicians for my Town Center gigs. It's going to be exciting! 

I continue to study with Jae Sinnett. It's so challenging to make your rhythm solid and swing legitimate, but he assures me I'm doing well and to keep working at it. 

I can't wait to see you all at some gigs! Thanks for letting me wax philosophical on this post! I'm sure other moms can relate - in America, we have the tools to fulfill the American dream, but still are charged with the honor and challenge of raising children, should we be blessed with them. 

Thanks and God bless!
 

Happy Holidays! 

The holiday season is in full swing! We've just spent time with my husband's family for Thanksgiving, and then I head home to a full Christmas schedule with the Doorway Singers for the next few weeks until we head to Pennsylvania to spend time with my side of the family for Christmas.

Check out my Doorway schedule on my home page. Also, Celtica will be playing at First Night in Williamsburg on New Year's Eve!  I'd love to see you at a gig or two!



Jazz learning continues, though at a much slower pace than my patience would like :), but I continue to learn on my own and, when I can, with professionals. I learned so much from the few lessons I had with John Toomey this summer, and now I've started with Jae Sinnett, jazz drummer, composer, and radio personality. Our first lesson was great as we focused on rhythm and swing feel, and I am looking forward to further study with him. 

The closing of Havana Nights continues to be a disappointment for all of us in the jazz community; I'm really missing being able to go see vibrant, live shows just minutes from my home. It was like musical food for me listening to so many outstanding jazz musicians, and I really enjoyed the community of the staff and musicians as I got to know them each time I went. I can only continue to hope to find these things elsewhere.

Come the new year, I plan to start looking for more jazz bookings, both solo and with other musicians I've started networking wtih. 

I hope you enjoy the Christmas season! Favorite holiday beverages of mine are Starbucks' peppermint mocha (double tall, with 2 pumps of peppermint) and eggnog. To close, here's a picture from my performance at Aromas Cafe in Williamsburg a few weeks ago!