From both straight-ahead jazz and free improvisation to the centuries-old tradition of circle singing, Virginia Schenck has proven herself to be a singer of enormous range. But it’s jazz that makes her soul soar. Give her a Leonard Cohen tune or Bonnie Raitt ballad, and she’ll mix up the rhythms or add a vocal twist, and the song becomes her own.
A nationally recognized music therapist and educator, Virginia has returned to her jazz roots with a CD that showcases her crystal clear voice and easy swing style. Titled “VA,” it features an original composition plus a collection of jazz standards. And just as she likes to do from the stage, Virginia pays homage to women composers, including groundbreaking vocalist and civil rights leader Abbey Lincoln. Joining her on the recording are accomplished musicians Kevin Bales on piano, Rodney Jordan on bass, Marlon Patton on drums, and Melvin Jones on trumpet.
Based in Atlanta, Virginia has brought her smooth and elegant voice to numerous local jazz venues. Fronting her own quartet and sitting in with various artists, she has gained a reputation as a singer who is having a major impact on the local scene, nationwide, and stretching internationally. Known also for her free improvisation, Virginia has created vocal sound scapes for such events as “The Gift”, a play with music, in New York for the Drama Leauge, at the ACT Theatre in Seattle, a 24-hour multi-art celebration called “Singing Darwin” at Virginia Tech, and with aerial dancers at The Robert Mondavi Center/UC-Davis.
In recent years, Virginia has drawn inspiration from circle singing, an ancient tribal technique based on repetition and rhythm in a choral style made contemporary by Bobby McFerrin. Her studies with this legendary vocalist, improviser, and conductor led her to dig more deeply into her jazz roots at its most elemental forms, bringing both primal tones and a greater scope to her current work.
Through circle singing she met mentor and friend, Rhiannon, an innovative jazz singer, Berklee College of Music artist-in-residence, and member of McFerrin’s Voicestra. Virginia also has trained with such jazz stalwarts as Karrin Allyson, Sheila Jordan, and Lisa Sokolov.
Among the many musicians she’s met along the way, Virginia counts drummer Jaimoe among one of her most influential. She met the Allman Brothers Band drummer in Macon, GA, where she sat in with him in a jazz ensemble. The two became lifelong friends, spending hours at his home listening to such jazz greats as Nancy Wilson, Dinah Washington and Nina Simone. Virginia has since performed with Jaimoe on several occasions.
Virginia takes listeners on a pilgrimage with music that is authentic and soul-inspiring.