Interview with Jeannine Otis: The art is best used to build constructive community: Video

- in INTERVIEWS, Woman in Jazz & Blues

Jazz interview with jazz singer Jeannine Otis. An interview by email in writing.

JazzBluesNews.Space: – Where did I grow up?

Jeannine Otis: – In the Palmer Park section of Detroit Michigan. I loved music probably before I was born, My Mother, Adrienne, directed choirs in addition to being an accountant. She organized wonderful events lije community groups singing BEETHOVEN’S NINTH … and she presented NUMEROUS emerging.

Artists in concert….she always bought four season tickets to the MET OPERA when it came to the city and treated various people from groups she was working with to the performances. There is a seat with her name dedicated by her colleagues at OLD SYMPHONY HALL in Downtown Detroit.

JBN.S: – How did my sound evolve?

JO: – Definitely over time and thank the universe I feel it is still evolving. Funny story … when I was still in graduate school after already singing on various projects with all kinds of people, I did my first original song recording, my Mother shared it with THAD JONES, my cousin ( he was married to my cousin Elaine) … so Thad tells my

Mother..’ Tell her not to quit her day-job just yet’…

Of course I continue to keep working on my everything related to music and look forward to continued growth…

JBN.S: – What practice routine etc…

JO: – I think I am blessed to be involved in so many diverse projects, I am always being challenged to learn and to explore rhythms … from every genre ….

I work a lot with young people ..that work helps to keep me on the path to being ‘current’…

I love smooth rhythms that are related to Brazil … rhythms influenced by all kinds of Latin music as well as soulful rhythm and blues. In my private musical … ’after the day is over mode’ I find these rhythms comforting…

I have had such an eclectic musical life…from Nouveau Classical music to HIP-HOP…

Love harmonies … although as I mentioned earlier I have even sung a tonal music … and enjoyed it … This recording is just a collection of songs over time that touch my heart and relate to my life’s journey …

I chose them in an order that suggest some kind of journey…

JBN.S: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what I am doing… 

JO: – Not hard for me … for this one, I just focused in a very sentimental way on my journey to understand what love is and how it carries us through life…

INTO MY HEART is a collection of songs that are close to my heart …. some collected over time… some done very recently … expresses my journey on the road to self-love as well as finding the love of someone else…

Each song has a story related to production, what I was felling at the time, what the lyrics mean etc etc … JOY OF LIFE crafted by ONAJE ALLAN GUMBS back awhile ago for me sums it up … LOVE IS NOW THE JOY OF LOVE TO ME …

I am a cancer survivor and have experienced some challenging times emotionally in my life … my friends tease me often about really having lived through some of the ‘classic’ challenges some singers seem to encounter … even attempted “this “… living through “that” … but if it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger … smile … I have the loving support of a great artistic community … I AM REALLY GRATEFUL…

Balance between music and intellect…. Well for me one drives the other … I am a ‘lyric’ person … and I LOVE poetry and writing … My favorite is THE PROPHET…. 

I am the Director of Music at SAINT MARKS CHURCH … I was so thrilled to know that one of the first readings of the PROPHET was at a vespers service at SAINT MARKS…there is so much history with the arts and spirituality there … you can feel it in the space … so it feels my intellectual / spirit connect to music and community constantly …

JBN.S: – Giving people what they want…

JO: – YES … well it is always my goal to have the audience go on a journey with me … I enjoy it when everyone is having a good time … that includes me … hope we both leave with something …

JBN.S: – Memories from gigs etc…

I worked for 20 years with VISHNU WOOD, Bassist … we travelled everywhere and worked with young people as well …

I just love the energy that comes about from working with an ensemble that really loves what their doing and just goes with it … LOVE singing CARAVAN with VISHNU … his bass solos are always SO amazing!!!

I have worked with so many fantastic musicians, the late Freddie Waits was a GREAT friend of mine … I worked with KOOL and the GANG..who started out wanting to play jazz …

The best story about me and music come from my childhood … my Mother took me over to Elaine’s house … (my cousin who was married to Thad) … we were visiting her Mother … Alvina … (I was born very late in life to my family so my cousins could be Aunts etc etc…).

Any way they were listening to one of Thad’s new recordings … those were the days when the stereo was in a big cabinet etc etc … so I was very small not five years old yet … I crawled up under the cabinet and stayed there … my Mom and everyone realized it was because I loved the vibrations from the music … Melvin, Elaine’s father said..’oh–oh … another musician …

Those musical moments when I am in sync with other to create and perform music, theater, etc etc for me are times when I feel connected in a positive way with the whole Universe … I can feel it. ‘in my heart’ … smile …

I have worked for many years, designing, performing, and coordinating programs that expose young people to music, theatre, and dance, … some program that are immediately crafted to use the arts as a catalyst for building community …

JBN.S: – Message of music-art?

JO: – I believe art is best used to build constructive community and as a tool for personal growth… To enjoy, to express ourselves, to dream, to go on a journey, to bring comfort, to act as a catalyst for thought, … to bring us closer to understanding our connection to God and the Universe …

I think I have answered most of the questions you asked. I am always honored to share my thoughts about my life and the love of my life, music and the performing arts/ writing!!!

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