...Interview Musician Sara Jones

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A few years ago I was at the Baltimore Book Festival and I was literally, just like the cliché, stopped in my tracks by someone’s voice. That someone was Sara Jones, and she was singing at the festival just after winning the Billie Holiday Vocal Competition. I listened to her performance, then promptly went home and Internet-stalked her. At that time, she was finishing up her time with the U.S. Army Field Band Soldier’s Chorus and just starting her solo career. She and I exchanged a few e-mails, my wife and I went to see her in concert, and we soon became friends. That was really nice for me, especially because my “friend bucket list” included a musician, and I was able to check that off (next up, local celebrity chef). The fact that Sara sings jazz, has a stunning voice and is actually a terrific friend just makes it better. I have the fortune of knowing a few artists so talented it annoys me off that they don’t have a larger audience. Sara is one of them.

What led you to jazz?

I took piano lessons and with that came the ability to sight-read music. My grandmother had TONS of music in her piano bench and I read through a lot of her old pop tunes. Most of those pop tunes of her time became jazz standards, so I learned a lot about jazz that way. I remember my grandmother playing the "Boogie Woogie" and I wanted to be able to play it too.

In the days of old, people often learned an instrument in order to entertain themselves, so if they wanted to sing a song that was popular they had to learn to play it. I think that is so cool. Nowadays, anyone can download a song for 99 cents and that's it….very little thought or participation goes into that.

Technically I got into singing jazz at CCM (University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music), where I went to grad school. I wanted to take jazz piano, but they were full, so I took jazz voice instead because they had an opening. It was fun, and once I got the gig at the Army Field Band, I sang a lot of jazz and pop repertoire because it fit my voice the best. Opera arias….NOOOOO!

What's been the highlight of your career?

That's a tough one. Even though it wasn't a jazz gig, probably one of the coolest experiences was singing as a soloist with Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops on a televised Fourth of July Concert. That was while I was still in the Army, and it was pretty cool to sing for such a large crowd with a world class orchestra. I don't imagine they will be calling me anytime soon, so that memory will have to live in my head for a while.  

Deserted island, three albums. They are..?

Vince Guaraldi's "A Charlie Brown Christmas," Robert Casadesus's "Complete Piano Music of Maurice Ravel," and the Getz/Gilberto Album.

(Ed. Note: You can buy Sara’s debut album, Daydream a Little, here. Personally, I’m in love with her rendition of I’ll Take Romance.)

Are there any works of art in other genres (movies, books, etc.) that influence your music?

Movies influence me a lot, mostly because I sing songs from a different era and I watch a lot of old movies. A lot of times I might see an old musical on TCM and hear a song I like and learn it. As for books, I love, love, love to read, but mostly for my own selfish entertainment, so those stories don't really have much to do with my music and how I interpret it. I am strongly influenced by the visual arts, especially in my classical performing. I am a huge fan of both late19th century French painters and French composers. Sometimes when I play the piano, I visualize the scenes from famous paintings to help me set a mood. Not sure if that actually does anything to enhance the listener's experience, but it helps me a lot and makes it more fun for me!

What's your favorite way to unwind/relax?

One of my favorite ways to unwind is to sit on the couch with a good dinner and watch an episode of Law and Order. Pasta and Lenny Briscoe is always a good idea.

When you listen to music, what do you listen for? What tends to attract you to a piece or musician?

That's a tricky question because there are lots of different levels of listening. I "listen" to Maroon 5 when I clean so I can have energy, but I am not actively listening. It's mood, background music to give me a general feeling.

But when I am really listening to something, I listen for things like technique and facility. More importantly, I listen to hear the push and pull of an artist's phrasing and how they add color to their instrument. If I really like a piece or a musician, it has a lot to do with how it makes me feel physically and emotionally.

What would you like listeners to take from one of your shows?

Some people might disagree with me on this, but sometimes shopping gives me a certain peaceful, Zen feeling. Just walking around and looking at pretty things gives me great joy. When I was on the road, a lot of time was spent checking out different little downtown areas of the country. Going into little boutiques, bookstores, and shops with funny knick knacks was fun.

When someone comes to hear me sing, I just want them to walk away happy and refreshed. People go out to experience something pleasurable, so I have high hopes that after a show, they walk out feeling good about their day and maybe even life in general. I am a pretty happy person, so I Ike for everyone else to feel that way too. That's why I don't sing too many sad songs.

(Ed. Note: Sara performs locally in the DC-NOVA-Baltimore area, so you can see her perform at any number of locations. Her show schedule is here.)

Thanks, Sara! I recommend that everybody reading this interview check out Sara’s site, album and see her perform locally. And spread the word about her – she’s good, and your friends will thank you, and probably even like you better afterward.

And, if you know a local celebrity chef, hook me up.

Next Week: An Interview with Abby Mott

Follow me on Facebook here and Twitter here (and do the same with Sara Jones on Facebook and Twitter). Why? Because, dude.

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INTERVIEW ROLL CALL:

Michelle Davidson Argyle (writer)

Cathrina Constantine (writer)

Jenny Drummey (writer)

Kristen Elise (writer)

Sunny Frazier (writer, publisher)

Chris F. Holm (writer)

Maxim Jakubowski (writer, editor)

Sara Jones (musician)

Nik Korpon (writer)

Barry Lancet (writer)

Sommer Marsden (writer)

K.D. McCrite (writer)

Abby Mott (musician)

Alan Orloff (writer)

Alice Peck (editor)

Lucie Smoker (writer)

Ellie Ann Soderstrom (writer, editor)

Art Taylor (writer, critic)

Steve Weddle (writer)

Sarah Weinman (writer, critic)

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