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Take Five with Donna Singer

Donna Singer By

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In NYC, Bar Thalia in Symphony Space. On Monday nights Mr. D'Ambrose Boyd has a singer's open mic. There is always a great, warm crowd and most definitely always great jazz. Singers and their songs were treated with respect.

In Upstate New York, The Center for Discovery, which is Designated as a Center of Excellence in New York State, they have become a magnet institution where individuals from around the region and world travel to receive highly advanced care and access to groundbreaking research for a myriad of complex conditions. They offer residential, medical, clinical, and special education programs to over 1,200 children, adults and families annually. For the past six years I have performed concerts there. The crowds are larger and larger and the fun gets bigger and better. The Center for Discovery is special and I'll perform there November 13, 2019 at 8:00 p.m. That same weekend I'm performing at Carnegie Hall on November 17.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

Feeling the Jazz (2018) My favorite song from that album is "Have You Ever Had the Feeling," written by Karen Macklin, my sister in law. Karen and Savani (her daughter) plays violin on the track.

Another close favorite would have to be Kiss Me Beneath The Mistletoe. My favorite song is the title track, written by my husband Roy Singer and lyricist Mitchell Uscher. The Luis Camacho duet with me on "Kiss Me Beneath the Mistletoe" was great. See the video: "Kiss Me Beneath the Mistletoe."

You see, I love Christmas! I have a huge tree, with lots of decorations, different flavored candy canes, cookies and, wait for it, my many black angels. I collect them and some I keep out all year round.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?

I contribute my professionalism and having a ball myself. With my audience, this is really important. I'm a little bit of a comedienne on stage. My favorite class at the New York Academy of Theatrical Arts was stand-up comedy, so I have to admit a smile breaks in here and there all the time.

Did you know...

Roy and I each earned a master's degree in theology from the Newburgh Bible Institute, Newburgh New York.

The first jazz album I bought was

Boy Meets Girl, studio album by Carmen McRae and Sammy Davis Jr. "They Didn't Believe Me" was my favorite song from that recording.

Music you are listening to now:

I'm listening to American gospel musician Alvin Martin Slaughter. I performed in two concerts with Alvin and he holds a special place in my heart. His Revive Us, Again! album rocks, the title song is gold.

I'm also enjoying Legion Of Peace: Songs Inspired by Nobel Laureates. It was recorded by Lori Henriques Quintet featuring Joey Alexander. The CD was sent to us by our good friend and producer Kabir Sehgal.

Sehgal served as a producer of American Dreamers: Voices of Hope, Music of Freedom by the John Daversa Big Band, it won three Grammy Awards: Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album; Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Capella; and Best Improvised Jazz Solo. My favorite song/track is "Don't Fence Me In.""

I'm also listening to a Freddy Cole CD titled My Mood is You. It was Grammy nominated for Best Jazz Vocal Album. That CD was given to me as a gift from the producer, Todd Barkan. His wife Ilene Glick and my husband Roy are friends from the early seventies. Todd is co-owner of the exciting new jazz club Keystone Korner in Baltimore. My favorite song on that album is Temptation.

Todd Barkan also produced Cedar Walton, Charmed Circle: Live At the Keystone Korner on HIGHNOTE Records. Roy and I went to see Cedar and Todd at Jazz at Lincoln Center Dizzy's Club. Great night...great album...best song for me is "Jacob's Ladder."

Desert Island picks:

Céline Dion Let's Talk About Love (Columbia/Epic Records) Arthur Rubinstein -Chopin 19 Nocturnes (Vol. 49)  (Columbia Records) Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong accompanied by the Oscar Peterson Quartet (Verve Records) Ella and Louis (Verve Records) Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Parlophone) Thelonious Monk It´s Monk Time (Columbia Records)

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

Jazz is a maturing American musical art form. It continues to mold and hold me with it's constant depth of feeling. Will the state of jazz continue to grow and go forth? Yes, because it's enduring and adapts to each new generation.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?

I've thought about this question and feel the answer is our kids. We need to bring jazz to our younger generations. I have two school programs inspired for and by children.

The first project is a simple look at bullying, diversity and inclusion. In Jazz is the Key of Life, we talk about love and peace and use jazz to help get our message across.

The second project encourages a sense of self-trust, brotherhood and respect for all. In It's an Art to Follow Your Heart we discover that the heart is a mystical, magical, musical thing...a universal treasure! This program is designed with CD and coloring book created by Carole Belle.

What is in the near future?

New Jazz CD Release planned for November 2019 Carnegie Hall Christmas Show in November 2019 The Center for Discovery Jazz Concert in New York in November 2019

In June, one year from now, I'll be doing the Harmony Travel 2020 Scandinavia Tour (Musical Director Patsy Meiser). I'll be performing in Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm and Helsinki and as well as St. Petersburg, Russia. New Jazz Christmas CD Release, Florida November 2020

What is your greatest fear when you perform?

I worry that my voice will fail me. In Italy I could not hear the quartet and, wow, I was scared to death. That's when training and rehearsal come in. Practice so you cannot get it wrong.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

I'd like to have "When the Saints Go Marching In" and "His Eye is On the Sparrow."

What is your favorite song to whistle or sing in the shower

I'm a very strong, good whistler!!! I love to whistle and some people actually get upset with me for whistling. I always whistle "Things Ain't What They Use to Be" and "Two O'clock Jump."

By Day:

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would like to be a mediator. Let's get along people!

If I could have dinner with anyone from history, who would it be and why?

It would be Maya Angelou. She said, "When someone shows you who they are, believe them." Her quotes ring truth. I'd love to have time to talk with her.

What are your hobbies?
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