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Teacher Feature: Janet B.

Some of you may remember Janet from a couple years ago, an OCSA (then OCSHA) graduate in commercial voice and a Chapman University graduate with degrees in vocal performance and music education. In 2015, she left to complete a master’s degree through Berklee College of Music in Spain and came home with a brand new master’s degree and a husband! We’re absolutely thrilled to have her back with us, not only helping her private students improve in wonderful directions but also running our Studio M voice class on Thursday evenings in Costa Mesa.

MM: What instrument(s) do you play, how did you get started with each one, and how long have you played them?

JB: Voice is definitely my principal instrument. I love learning other instruments, namely piano and drums. I started singing seriously in high school, when I decided to go to an arts high school. Since then, I kept seeking out places to learn more about music and have studied a bunch of styles and instruments. I’ve been singing for about 10 years. Piano is an instrument I learned out of necessity to accompany myself and my students and help me be a better musician all around. Drums are my newest instrument. A friend of mine began teaching me during my graduate program and got me hooked! Even though I’ve only been playing for a little under a year, I’ve taken a great liking to drumming.

MM: Who has inspired you musically?

JB: I’m a jazz singer, so my chief inspirations come from the golden era of jazz (1930s and 40s). My number one inspiration is Ella Fitzgerald, who is just the pinnacle of musical dexterity and vocal beauty that we all aspire to. Some other inspirations include Sarah Vaughan and Carmen McRae. Some modern artists I am inspired by include Gregory Porter, Abigail Washburn and Diana Krall.

MM: What are your favorite musical genres and why?

JB: My favorite genre is jazz, but I enjoy all kinds of music. The reason jazz is so meaningful to me is the freedom of expression it provides. It gives you an opportunity to interpret a song your way and put your own unique spin on it. It is also a genre in which magic happens in the moment. Through improvisation, phrasing and collaboration, jazz musicians create special musical moments that will never be the same twice.

MM: What are your current musical projects?

JB: I just released my first EP called Finding the Words, which is a group of instrumental jazz songs that I wrote and sang my own lyrics to. I am also starting to get some gigs around town, including leading my own jazz jam session!

MM: How do you practice, and how do you balance music with some of your other life goals? How do you help your students practice?

JB: I try to do a little something each day, even if it’s just singing through one song. Consistency is really important; making music a part of your daily routine. That said, it is hard to get practice in every day with all the business of life, but I always feel better when I do. For my students, I encourage them to practice by giving them a goal to achieve.

MM: You taught for us and then took a break for a while. Tell us about your travels and what you were up to!

JB: I left last year to take a big step in my life and career- I was accepted to Berklee College of Music in Valencia, Spain for a Master’s Degree program. It was one of the most rewarding and enriching experiences of my life. I worked with musicians from all different countries, backgrounds and musical styles. When I got back to the states, I had another big milestone-I got married! My husband is a voice teacher as well and an incredible operatic tenor.

MM: What were some of the challenges you faced abroad? What about coming back?

JB: Language was an obvious challenge, but the people of Valencia were very kind and understanding and always willing to help me practice my Spanish. It was amazing getting to experience another culture and live in it! Academically, it was challenging but also amazingly rewarding to sing and perform in new styles like hip hop and acoustic pop. I learned the true value of collaboration and being a team player in music.

MM: If you were stranded on an island with only one album, what would it be?

JB: Wow, tough question! I think it would have to be Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong singing every song from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. Such a beautiful balance of orchestral work and jazz interpretation.

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