Friday, May 30, 2014

High School All-Stars: Vocalist Interviews

As May wraps up and we say goodbye to this year’s crop of SFJAZZ High School All-Stars, rather than interviewing an alumnus, we are highlighting the ensemble’s vocalists. Many of you saw them in their spring All-Stars performance or at our annual Gala just two weeks ago; now you have the chance to learn a bit more about these amazing young musicians.

Taking the Miner stage at this year's Gala

Jamie Zimmer, a student at San Francisco’s Ruth Asawa School of the Arts, is finishing up her sophomore year.

What’s the first jazz song you really clicked with? Do you still sing it now?

"The first song I really connected with was "That Old Feeling." This was the song that showed me the pathway into the jazz world. I was unfamiliar with jazz until then and with this song, I realized that jazz would soon become the biggest part of my life. I still sing this song today whether I am out performing at gigs or galas. It is my go-to standard and I take it everywhere I go."

What did it feel like to play Miner Auditorium?

"Performing in the Miner Auditorium for the first time was breathtaking. Realizing that I was standing where all the big shots have stood, I felt so encouraged to give my all so that I might someday become a star like them. Being surrounded by all these talented musicians and amazing instruments is what makes me fall in love with jazz music all over again, every day."

Josh Reinier singing "All of Me" with the All Stars big band this April

Josh Reinier, a freshman at Nueva High School, placed second last month in the Bay Area competition, Jazz Search West.

What are the different ways that you improve your craft? How often do you practice?

"I practice daily for an average of two hours. Because my views and ideas change so much, I am constantly reinventing my routine, but currently I am focusing on mastering my vocal technique, guitar work, and songwriting. I believe in deep practice, which is the act of repeating a small, simple exercise over and over until the true complexity of the thing is understood completely; in my vocal practice, this means that I take a short passage or exercise and practice it until I can do it without thinking. It comes slowly, but every day I can feel myself improving."

What are your plans for the future? What is your dream goal?

"My dream goal is to help lead the world in a better direction through writing my own music. I dream of helping the environment through my music."

A candid shot of the vocalists recording for the studio album

Isabel Ostroff is finishing up her junior year at Branson High School in the North Bay, and is spending her summer studying at Stanford University.

Does music run in your family?

"Music has always been an important part of my family and I feel so lucky to be part of a family who appreciates this incredible art form so much! Growing up, my parents were always exposing my brothers and I to different music genres from all the time periods (classical, jazz, rock, r&b, pop, metal… the list goes on!) and I feel like that really helped me to develop an appreciation for music as a universal form of expression, rather than as a particular appreciation for certain genres and not others. My household has been known for spontaneous jam sessions, with my parent, my three brothers, and I picking up different instruments and just having fun playing around. And when I was younger, these were the times when I learned to play the drums, piano, ukelele, or just have fun singing. It wasn't until about a year ago that I actually start studying voice, which I credit in part to my older brother who has always inspired me so much as a musician and taught me the great importance of genuineness and individuality as an artist."

Besides music, what are your other passions and how do they inform your art?

"Besides music, my passions include caring for my horse and improv. I've found that music relates to these passions because singing, being with my horse, and improv all require me to be present in each moment and are meditative practices for me."

Keep your eyes peeled for these names and faces as they become the young jazz voices of the Bay!

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