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Lenora Zenzalai Helm

Throughout her 40+-year span of musical achievements as a Jazz Vocal Musician specializing in Classic, Traditional standard jazz, Lenora (Zenzalai) Helm Hammonds has toured, recorded, and performed with her various groups, on international jazz stages, venues and festivals, as well as featured guest artist with renowned jazz icons. Her career as a vocal musician has encompassed time as a lyricist, guest artist, background singer, composer, and educator at North Carolina Central University. Dr. Lenora Z. Helm Hammonds is a Chicago IL native, Former U.S. Jazz Ambassador two-time Fulbright Senior Music Specialist, and a tenured, Associate Professor in the Department of Music and Jazz Studies Program at North Carolina Central University (NCCU).  She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in vocal jazz performance, jazz ear training, jazz pedagogy and songwriting, Director of NCCU Vocal Jazz Ensemble (NCCU’s Vocal Jazz Ensemble received the Best Choir 2018-19 award from HBCU Digest), and has authored several academic and student initiatives, including the planning, design, and coordination of an NEA-sponsored Teaching Artist Certificate program. Academic award highlights include a Duke University-NCCU John Hope Franklin Digital Humanities Fellowship, 2018 Javett Music Award International Jazz Scholar at University of Pretoria, South Africa, a 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award from Marquis Publishing, NCCU’s Excellence in Teaching Award, and receiving the highest faculty honor, the 2021 University of North Carolina Board of Governors Excellence in Teaching Award. Lenora’s dream for creating access to under-served global populations interested in vocal jazz education was realized in the creation of a library of online vocal training programs at www.LenoraHelm.online. Her research interests are at the intersection of digital humanities, intercultural competence, and Jazz, and is a published author with Routledge, Taylor & Francis, and Springer.A 2018 inaugural Javett International Scholar in Jazz for University of Pretoria, during her time as a musician, Helm Hammonds has earned recognition as: a quarter-finalist for the GRAMMY Music Educator of the Year Award, a Salzburg Global Citizenship Fellow, a UNC Global Educator Fellow, a Fulbright Senior Music Specialist, and the former US Jazz Ambassador under the State Department and Kennedy Center. Leadership roles in jazz include, Vice President, Area Unit Leadership, North Carolina, for Jazz Education Network (JEN). Additionally, she is a member of the esteemed Jazz Vocal Advisory Board for Juilliard Jazz, Juilliard, NYC, and is vocal jazz faculty during summers for Brevard Jazz Institute, Brevard, NC.

Her achievements in academia are in addition to more than three decades as a recording artist. Professionally known as Lenora Zenzalai Helm, Lenora Zenzalai (ZenZAYLay) Helm, she has also contributed to the music industry as a jazz clinician and vocal musicianship coach, with six solo recordings. Lenora’s  CD, I Love Myself When I’m Laughing, was listed on Independent Ear’s “30 recommended 2012 Record Releases.” Her seventh release, For the Love of Big Band was released March, 2020. 

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“The voice of her generation”… Alexander Gelfand, Jazziz Magazine “Lenora Zenzalai Helm is a highly imaginative, adventurous musician who likes to write lyrics and reconstruct familiar songs to reflect her thoughts and feelings. Singer, composer, arranger and lyricist, Ms. Helm uses all of her exceptional gifts to push the envelope and make very personal statements with her music.” Dr. Billy Taylor “With a unique style and the gift of creativity, Lenora Zenzalai Helm expands the boundary of jazz vocalists.” Mark F. Turner, AllAboutJazz.com “A multi-hued masterpiece” (about CD Voice Paintings) Christopher Loudon, JazzTimes Magazine “The most interesting singer I’ve heard in the last twenty years” Pianist/Composer, Andrew Hill “A talented songwriter/lyricist as well as a dramatic interpreter of standards… hauntingly beautiful soprano voice soars majestically and effortlessly….

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Primary Instrument

Voice / vocals

Willing to teach

Beginner to advanced



D.M.A. Music Education Boston University, Boston, MA projected 2016

M.M. Jazz Performance East Carolina University, Greenville, NC 2010

B.M. Film Music Composition/ Vocal Performance Berklee College of Music, Boston, MA 1982


U.S. Jazz Ambassador Southeastern Africa, State Department 1998-99

Fulbright Fellow Senior Music Specialist Roster 2013-18

WORK EXPERIENCE Present- 2013 NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL UNIVERSITY, Durham, NC Assistant Professor, Vocal Jazz, Department of Music Co-Director, Vocal Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Studies program 2013-2011 NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL UNIVERSITY, Durham, NC Lead Fellow, Collaborative Online Institute of Learning (COIL) Lead a 12-person team of educators, IT specialists and international programs staff to create a globally networked learning environment, authoring, planning and implemented Fall 2012, a ground-breaking distance education course, Jazz! Born in America, Created Internationally between NCCU, University of Pretoria, South Africa and Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus, Denmark. This course served 63 students internationally, and facilitated students’ cultural exchange and exploration around the subject of Jazz. The course required collaboration across Humanities coursework involving NCCU educators, faculty and staff in Music, History, Political Science, and Mass Communications. The research from this project will be presented at a Capstone Conference and COIL Institute in New York City in 2013. Present-2010 NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL UNIVERSITY, Durham, NC Community Director, College of Liberal Arts Cultivate relationships with and coordinate activities between community-based organizations and College of Liberal Arts departments. Create resources for under served members and non-traditional student body and faculty. Provide students, faculty and staff with information about community-based organizations to facilitate positive and successful experiences while matriculating and serving NCCU. Present - 2010 NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL UNIVERSITY, Durham, NC Online Course Instructor, Jazz, Music Industry & Ethnomusicology, Distance Education Department Author and instructor of online courses, Jazz and Contemporary Vocal Music, Vocal Jazz Online - An Introduction and Beyond, Seminar in the Music Industry, Songwriting and African-American Vocal Music. 2013 – 2005 NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL UNIVERSITY, Durham, NC Instructor, Music Department Co-Director, Vocal Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Studies program Provide jazz and classical private voice instruction and teach classes in graduate and undergraduate Applied Voice, Vocal Ensemble Performance, Rhythm Section & Vocal Combo Performance, Jazz Vocal Ear Training, Classroom Voice methods class, Twentieth Century Music (music appreciation). Lead ensembles with jazz instrumentalists and vocalists. Co-direct NCCU Vocal Jazz Ensemble; plan and coordinate performances, for bi-annual NCCU jazz festival concert series and tours with NCCU vocal majors. Lead and coordinate yearly faculty recital. Assist with marketing and publicity efforts for Jazz Studies program events, activities, recruiting. Write grants and solicit resources for music 2007 – 2003 HARMONY PROGRAM INC., New York, NY Co-founder and Artistic Director Created and implemented a non-profit youth music program which simultaneously serves children in under served communities and public housing in K – 9th grade to receive weekly beginning music instruction from college music instructors, and trains college music education and performance majors to teach those students. Coordinated through collaborations with Office of the Mayor of New York, local New York City based colleges and universities, New York City based cultural arts organization and community centers. 2006 - 2004 Brooklyn Philharmonic, Brooklyn, NY Teaching Artist Provide instruction in New York City Public Schools for grades 2 – 6 for short term residencies on classical composers and classical music history. 2006 - 2005 Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Harlem, NY Teaching Artist Provide instruction in voice, jazz history in Junior Scholars program fro grades 9 - 12. Created curriculum, implemented program, wrote and directed culminating performance each semester. Organized visiting guest artists and collaborated with teaching artists within program from Dance, Theater, and Writing areas. 2006 – 1999 Young Audiences, New York, NY Teaching Artist & Performance Artist/ Residencies and Performances Provide instruction in New York City Public Schools for grades K-12 on programs developed for YANY. History of Jazz, The Music Of the Harlem Renaissance, Jazz Giants, for short and long term residencies, and auditorium performances. 2003 - 2005 Def Dance Jam Workshop, Harlem, NY Teaching Artist Provide instruction in voice, vocal performance and songwriting to youth in a community-based non-profit serving deaf, hearing and mentally and/or physically challenged youth and teens. Instruction was both ongoing and culminating in seasonal performances. 1999 - 98 UNITED STATES JAZZ AMBASSADOR, Southeastern Africa Elected by international audition by United States State Department and John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to represent the United States abroad as an exemplary jazz musician. Provided jazz performance instruction in master classes and workshops to music students, local and regional musicians. Provided public and private jazz concerts. Present - 2000 Jazz Educator Clinics/Master Classes/Workshops Provide instruction to youth and adults in communities in conjunction with concert tour performances of Lenora Zenzalai Helm and The Zenzalai Project. Residencies are tailored for presenting organization in varying lengths to service grades K – 12, university, general audience and music student populations, as well as family workshops and professional staff development. Sample topics include Jazz is American History; The Vocal Legacy of Louis Armstrong; Vocal Jazz; Infusing Jazz in Classroom Curricula 2004 - 2000 Long Island Performing Arts High School (Nassau BOCES Cultural Arts Center) Vocal Jazz Instructor Provide instruction in jazz voice, jazz vocal history and jazz vocal performance to high school youth. Coordinate performances with students for public and private performances with jazz vocal ensemble and jazz vocal chorus. Arrange/compose for jazz vocal ensemble. 2003 - 1999 Carnegie Hall, New York, NY LinkUP! Teaching Artist Provide classical music appreciation, general music concepts and beginning instruction on recorder to grades 4, 5, 6 in New York City Public Schools. Curriculum design and development of cross curriculum activities in order to comply with New York State Learning Standards in the Arts and National Music Standards (Performance Standards for Music). Interaction and planning with teachers and administrative staff of schools. 1997 - 1994 Jacob Riis Settlement, Long Island City, NY, 1995 - 1996 Senior Citizens Choir Accompanist Accompanied choir of Senior Citizens program participants for performances and guest appearances. 1997 -1994 Music Coordinator/Piano Instructor Planned music curriculum and supervised implementation. Coordinated music recitals and presentations. Provided one-on-one and group instruction in piano and voice to youth and adults. 1994 - 1992 Center School, New York, NY Music Director, Theatre Arts Program Responsible for creating and implementing music curriculum for junior high school students. Co-coordinated bi-annual arts presentation and fundraising concert with students and staff. 1994 - 1991 Vocal & Piano Instructor Provided private instruction at studio and in clients’ homes for voice and beginning piano to children and adults. 1993 - 1991 Palomba Music, Portchester, NY Voice and Piano Instructor Provided voice and beginning piano instruction for children and adults of busy music school. Teaching load of 40 students per week. 1993 - 1992 Dance Cavise, Mammaroneck, NY Voice and Drama Instructor Private and group instruction for voice and drama students, ages 6 - adult. ARTS ADMINISTRATIVE EXPERIENCE Present - 2010 Classical Voice of North Carolina Board Member Serve to support mission of providing online journal, calendar and networking information to Triangle Area. Provide content for calendar, work on marketing and website committees. Present – 1987 Holly’s Hits Music Publishing President/Owner/ ASCAP writer/publisher Compositions available in recording and print. Compositions recorded by artists in jazz, R&B and pop genres. Management and administration of all publishing activities. Co-publishing with JCM (Japan Central Music Publishing) performing rights society of Japan. Present – 2000 1999- 1997 Baoule Music Records/ Baoule Works Publishing Company President/Owner/ SESAC writer/publisher

Clinic/Workshop Information

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Album Discography

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Puccini: A Walk In...

Arkadia Records


I Love Myself When...

Baoule Music



Baoule Music


Spirit Child

J Curve Records




Sarah Vaughan
voice / vocals
Ella Fitzgerald
voice / vocals
Dianne Reeves
voice / vocals
Abbey Lincoln
voice / vocals
Annie Ross
voice / vocals
Alexis Cole
voice / vocals
Katie Bull
voice / vocals
Josephine Livoti
voice / vocals
Karen Francis
voice / vocals
Lainie Cooke
voice / vocals
Julian Yeo
voice / vocals
Cynthia Scott
voice / vocals

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