Joan has been teaching and performing in the Chicago area since the 1980's. She went to school at the University of Illinois in Champaign, and discovered jazz her senior year. Many outstanding musicians that had graduated were still there postponing a move to a big city. The result of this was a jazz scene rich with camaraderie and free from economic pressure.
I had no teachers or books, just the recordings. I learned the most by listening to others. People would have parties and I picked up a lot from their comments when we would sit around and listen to recordings. I was drawn to all the unique and sometimes outrageous personalities of the musicians. You could hear it in their playing. They shared a philosophy and aesthetic that taught a deep understanding of the essence of the music. Our aim was to honor the past masters, know what was to really swing, and to explore one’s own personality.
Joan immediately began working as a jazz musician when she moved back to Chicago. She played a number of solo and big band gigs, led a Blakey style sextet, and a group with vocalist Suzanne Palmer ( a singer with an enormous voice who's style was a cross between Nancy Wilson and Aretha Franklin) She played one of the Chicago Jazz Festivals with Cab Calloway, Milt Hinton, J.C. Heard, and Jonah Jones.
There have always been trio gigs, and after many years, she settled into a group with Dennis Carroll, bass and George Fludas, drums. After George came Dana Hall. She continues her work to this day with vocalists. I love the challenge of accompanying a vocalist, and it gives me a chance to be around some female energy!