Emily Wendorff came to me a few years ago as a trumpet major who wanted to sing jazz. I’m adjunct professor of jazz vocal technique at Lawrence University in Appleton Wi. and honored to be on staff with some amazing teachers in the jazz department.
Emily seemed a bit “closed” when we first met but as it turns out her demeanor had more to do with focus than anything else. She’s one of those students that applied what I taught each time we worked together. Her retention and trust in what I teach is unmatched. Rarely would I have to remind her of the basics.
She’s impressed me (as many of my students do), on so many levels. She’s a bit of a mystery but as it unfolds, we find a true artist with a bright future!
One of my favorite stories about Emily is when we first started working together about 2 years ago, she had not heard of the term “vocalese”. Vocalese is a style of jazz singing in where the singer transcribes instrumental solos and puts lyric to that solo. Often challenging rhythmically, intervallically and harmonically, it’s a study even for the seasoned singer. I shared some classic “Lambert, Hendricks and Ross” with her and said, “give this a try”. A week later she came back with a vocalese I had not heard of called “Samurai Cowboy”. Kurt Elling’s vocalese reworking of a composition by Marc Johnson called “Samurai Hee-Haw”. She said, “I’d like to do this one”. “O.k.! let’s do it”! A couple of weeks later she came back and nailed it! I said, “how did you learn this so quickly?!” she responded in her reserved way, “I don’t have time to practice”. WOW!
Since then, she’s continued to wow me with her regal stage presence and spot on intonation, nuanced phrasing and incredible tone. She’ll be submitting some of her material to the “Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition” and we wish her all the best of luck.
With the help of a hand-held digital recorder and the technical wizardry of Tom Washatka at Steel Moon Recording, I was able to capture Emily in her final recital. Her performance of the Charles Mingus piece “Goodbye Porkpie Hat” with lyric by Joni Mitchell, is elegant and seasoned.
Featured in this performance are: Emily Wendorff, voice, Matthew Blair, piano, Sam Genualdi, guitar, Jakob Heinemann, bass and Jeremiah Lemke-Rochon, percussion. Recorded May 28th, 2016 at Lawrence University’s Warch Center.
They say that the best teachers are the best students. Thank you Emily, for teaching me.