"...always with a sparkle in her voice." - David Nathan, All Music Guide
"Esther Haynes has a powerful yet playful approach, one that puts the listener on edge and at ease all at once. " - Chesapeake Bay Music Guide
"Esther Haynes sings with the same kind of feeling that characterized those seminal blues singers of years gone past." - All About Jazz
A native of Virginia, Esther grew up hearing the sounds of bluegrass music. She learned finger-style folk guitar from her sixth grade teacher and started studying bluegrass banjo at age 15, which she continued playing seriously until age 21. During her college years at Virginia Tech, she attended jam sessions and fiddler’s conventions in southwestern Virginia, the heart of Appalachian music culture. She played in a folk guitar/voice duo at coffeehouses, crafts fairs and outdoor events, and had her first paying gig with a bluegrass band in Beaufort, SC. During a group voice class, her professor encouraged her to take private lessons, telling her, "Music is your element," although she was majoring in English at the time.
On a drive to college with her brother, the unique quality of Billie Holiday singing "Violets for Her Furs" made a distinct impression on her, piquing her curiousity about vocal jazz. Later, she enrolled at Berklee College of Music, where she had the opportunity to study professional music and voice under Bob Stoloff, Maggie Scott, and Mili Bermejo. There she met Flying Fish (now Rounder) artists Hiro Arita, Howie Tarnower, Matt Glaser, Eric Levinson, and Ruthie Dornfeld, who played in Boston City Limits, an acoustic bluegrass/swing band. When their singer Chris Jones left for Nashville, Esther was invited to join them as vocalist and rhythm guitarist. In Boston she also worked with ragtime/blues guitarist Larry Unger, playing swing dances and benefits in the area, and was invited to perform on a cable television program, "The Routes of American Music."
Other experiences include performing in a quartet in Tel Aviv, recording standards in New York, Cape Cod, and Vermont with jazz guitarist John Dirac (of Either Orchestra), and working in the D.C. area with The Resonators, an acoustic blues group. She sang the title track on Eddie McGee’s cd entitled "Who Will Sing for Me?" which placed 9th on Durham’s radio rating in April of 1999, and was selected to perform as local talent in the Chesapeake Bay Blues festival in May of 2000. Since then, she has performed in a jazz duo with guitarist Phil Mathieu and in Hokum Jazz, a hot jazz/swing group that includes members of the Resonators, J.C. Veve and Nevada Newman (now in Austin's "Spankers").