About 15 years ago while living in Chicago I came across an online article about fantasy occupations. In the men’s category on the top of the list were Airline Pilot and Professional Baseball Player. On the women’s list, the top fantasy occupation was Lounge Singer. I thought to myself, that’s what I do! There is a need here I could fulfill as I was already teaching jazz voice at the college level. I needed to design a simplified course to help adults (including men) fulfill their lounge singer/jazz singer fantasies with a top level band in hip music room (about that time, “The Fabulous Baker Boys” movie was out and I recall Michelle Pfeiffer’s character in a red sequin dress, stretched across a grand piano singing a torch song which may have inspired this too).
I moved to Lincoln three years ago and thought to recreate a similar course I’d created in Chicago (which was a huge success by the way). After convincing several new friends here to be the first students, I taught the first class out of my home and we had the first show at Zen’s Lounge on 11th St. with Tom Larson, piano and Hans Sturm, double bass, accompanying them up . It has just taken off, attracting both men and women. Last fall I was even invited to give Garrison Keillor on his show, A Prairie Home Companion, a Torch Singing “lesson” at the Lied Center. It was quite spontaneous and tongue-in-cheek. We had a blast!
The class is called Torch Singer 101 and its designed for the novice but anyone can take it. It’s taught out of my home in Lincoln’s Country Club District. Class is limited to 8 adults and meets once a week for 2 hours. Classes run 6 weeks, culminating in a free public performance at a local venue. We focus on songs from the “Great American Song Book” and jazz standards. We have fun with vocal improvisation to get singers loosened up and to get inside the harmony of a song. We discuss lyric interpretation, stage presence, stage fright and microphone technique along with vocal range and melody transposition. Singers perform one group song and 2 solo selections backed by professional rhythm section in front of friends, family and new fans!
Students get to explore singing beyond the written page with vocal improvisation in class and the thrill of doing it on stage.
Students get to explore singing beyond the written page with vocal improvisation in class and the thrill of doing it on stage. They solo with uniquely crafted arrangements with professional jazz musicians who, in addition to backing them up, follow and support them in the event a section is forgotten or beats are “dropped” in the heat of the moment. Singers experience a live, supportive and enthusiastic audience cheering them on, there’s nothing quite like it! In fact, classes usually include students who want to do it a second or third time.
For me, I learn new musical ideas from my students (who often don’t know the cliches yet) and I get to be the nervous mom in the front row, watching my students take risks, get over stage fright and entertain an audience with wit and poise. I get to know so many cool people in Lincoln as well.
Next Torch Singer 101 show:
Zen’s Lounge, 122 N. 11th St., Lincoln Tuesday, October 14, 7:30PM (402-475-2929).
No cover charge (donations for the band appreciated).
Jackie Allen, vocalist, songwriter, educator and recording artist, has toured the US, Europe, Morocco, Brazil, China and Taiwan. Last spring, 2014 she released her 10th album, My Favorite Color (Avant Bass). Her group includes guitar, piano, acoustic bass and percussion. “Allen’s greatest strength is her sheer musicality and the way in which she both frames and interprets her song.” (Los Angeles Times) “Utterly distinctive and even innovative…a masterpiece. “(Billboard Magazine) “This is four-hundred-dollar-a-bottle jazz” (Rolling Stone) “Musically sophisticated and artistically daring…” (Chicago Tribune).
Allen teaches voice and songwriting at Doane College (Crete) and has taught at UNL, Ball State University (IN), and Roosevelt University (IL). Allen was featured with the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic’s Ella Fitzgerald Celebration (Auditorium Theater). She has served on the Board and Jazz Committee for the Recording Academy (Grammy Awards). She’s married to bassist Hans Sturm with their son Wolfgang.