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January 25, 2021

January 25, 2021

Jazz Times Interview with Roseanna Vitro

from Jazz Times   June 13, 2012

Rhiannon: Total Improvisation
Roseanna Vitro interviews vocalist and educator about her life’s work
Rhiannon is a unique and extraordinary vocalist, performance artist, composer and master teacher whose musical vision embraces jazz, a cappella, improvisation, world music and storytelling. Rhiannon has a brand new recording just released titled Spontaneous. I felt this would be the perfect time to interview this gifted artist and mentor. I have attended three Rhiannon workshops in the New York City area, where she has accumulated a very large following of singers as well as around the world. Usually Rhiannon's workshop's run for a minimum of two days. One can expect to play improvisational exercises guided by Rhiannon that will enhance and enlighten a singer’s ability to hear and create harmony. We worked on various time feels with accuracy while improvising with lyrics and scat syllables. In general, she builds confidence and musicianship in the participants. Her classes usually breed a feeling of brother and sisterhood, a unity with a strong bond in spirituality that says: music is not simply fast chops and notes on a page.

Roseanna Vitro: What are your earliest memories of singing and music? Did you know you were a singer from an early age?

Rhiannon: I grew up on a farm on the banks of the Missouri River on the border of South Dakota and Nebraska. I went to a one room country school house for my first five grades. There were eighteen kids in the whole eight grades. That educational beginning was amazing. It served me well to be in that one room hearing everyone's lessons and having the open country as my real textbook.

I spent loads of time wandering the pastures in the neighborhood of our farm making up stories and playing all the characters. I sang out loud with no inhibition, lucky me. I don't know if I was singing songs my mom played on the piano or making them up or both. There was a period of years where I buried small dead animals that I found in my adventures. I would sing as I buried them some invented blessing for their safe journey and make up details of their animal lives. That was very important to me. I felt the power of singing as part of ceremony. I didn't tell anyone but kept it as my secret world. My mother studied piano and French in college there in Yankton, South Dakota. She had some dreams didn't she? She played throughout her life and encouraged all of us. She knew tons of songs from the American songbook and I learned many of them without realizing. There is no other reason I would know all the lyrics to those old songs because I don't remember studying them. She infused them into me. My father was a farmer and a beautiful dancer. He had some dreams too. Both of them ended up on the farm, so they did the best they could to pass those dreams on to me and my sisters. What I got from them was that improvisation was a life skill. There is nowhere better to learn that than on the farm; weather, animals, emergencies of equipment, banks, changing seasons, all of it and you need to roll with it and not resist. Just go with it the best you can.

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A History of Collaborative Vocal Improvisation interview w/  Briony Greenhill

A History of Collaborative Vocal Improvisation interview w/ Briony Greenhill


AUGUST 2019 
Brisbane Vocal Jazz Festival- Allan Smith 
Rhiannon and Laurence Hobgood – Saturday August 3rd, 2019  

It’s Saturday night. And it’s Day 3 of the2019 Brisbane Vocal Jazz Festival.  You have just parked your car.  And if I may offer a word of advice before you come in……just for tonight….leave all of the following in that car…  

Your preconceptions about what Jazz is.  
Your yearning for the familiar, in melody and lyric.  
Your desire to tap your feet to a defined, confined, comfortable musical form and structure.  

The Duke, Count Basie, Miles, Trane, Ella, Sarah, Carmen, Billie, Frank, Chet, Nat, Kurt Elling… Sammy Cahn, Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen, Hoagy Carmichael, Eden Ahbez….. You can get all of that tomorrow night.    Or next week.  

For on this night, what you will need is a willingness to try something new.  To let go.  To slip into the rare opportunity of experiencing and sharing something that is oh, so very different.  

As tonight, the Brisbane Jazz Club presents Laurence Hobgood and Rhiannon, as they present a totally spontaneous and free-form show, that they have never performed before.  And for your reviewer at least, this was indeed, something new and different. I have never experienced its like before.  

And now, as I wonder about just how to describe the night, I have considered the option of presenting my review in a form much like tonight’s performance; as a stream of consciousness; as a sequence of words and phrases from my ten pages of notes….  

Doo. Fah. Moo. Too.  And periwinkle blue.     Free. River. Sound.  I don’t have to hang around.  Shenandoah.  Baby eyes.   Your hair in the morning.   Wishes.  Wise.   And, if you had been here, that might actually be enough to capture the essence of the night.  

But these two outstanding performers and their unique performance, demand much more…  


JUNE 2018

Bobby McFerrin is spontaneously spot on at the Dakota

Review: Vocalist amazes with a cappella improv extraordinaire.
By Jon Bream Star Tribune

Wait! Was that really Bobby McFerrin holding open the door to the Dakota Jazz Club just before 7 p.m. Wednesday? Yes it was. Why not? McFerrin did just about everything else during his first show Wednesday at the Dakota. More