From the moment I first started singing, I knew it was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I had seen many pop stars and rock stars who inspired and influenced me – but I didn’t exactly know what else was out there. I had never thought about singing jazz or world music, or mixing the pop music I love with different styles and genres. Most importantly – I didn’t know how learning these new styles could help me as a singer AND a musician.

Everything changed when I started taking jazz classes with vocal faculty Tierney Sutton. I had previously thought that jazz was this really intimidating genre that I would never dare try singing, especially in front of someone who had been nominated for Grammys in jazz. Fortunately, myself and my classmates realized that we could accomplish anything by starting with the basics. I started off with a lot of mistakes, scatting blunders, and more – but with continued practice of learning jazz chord structure, song form, and beginning improvisation, I could actually get through a jazz standard! I ended up liking it so much that I even started my own jazz quartet, whom I perform with live frequently.

The same revelations occurred for me when I started singing world music in the realm of Brazilian and Afro-Cuban styles with musicians like Joey Heredia and Iris Cepeda. I was completely terrified of the possibility of singing in different languages like Portuguese and Spanish, but yet again, the excitement and fun of this new learning experience took me by surprise. I was not only learning about new genres that I had never explored before, but I was also learning about new rhythms, harmonies, and stylistic elements that I could incorporate into my own identity and work as an artist.

When it came time to put my junior recital together, the absolute realization of how much bigger my musical toolbox had gotten was astounding. I not only performed my original tunes, but also an a cappella arrangement of one of the Brazilian tunes I learned, a funky arrangement of a jazz standard from EW class, and even incorporated some musical theater! I never knew I could come this far as a vocalist and musician – and I’m not even done with the program yet.

By Kira Morrison