Arts4All Blog

Get to Know Tiffany Austin

Posted October 15th, 2018  |  By A4A.admin

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CSMA welcomes Bay Area jazz vocalist Tiffany Austin for a free concert in Tateuchi Hall on Saturday, October 20 at 7:30pm. She will perform blues, soul and swing music, including selections from her recent release, “Unbroken.”

We spoke with Tiffany to learn more about her background and the impact that music education had on her life and career.

Tiffany Austin, Jazz Vocalist

How did you begin playing and performing music?

Music chose me! I have sung since I could speak, and so I was always seeking opportunities to do so. However, I thought the ‘sensible’ thing was to not to pursue my dreams professionally, so I ended up with a B.A. in Creative Writing from CSU Northridge and a J.D. from Berkeley Law. Once I had my law degree in hand I realized that my heart had always been in music, and so I decided to give myself permission to pursue my first love.

Did you have access to music education in school? If not, how did you find your way into music?

Yes, my parents enrolled me in arts schools (elementary, high school) because I was always singing, dancing and performing around the house. My initial vocal training was classical, and then I began performing outside of educational settings. I cut my teeth on soul, pop and swing music on the bandstand. It was really enlightening to explore different vocal approaches and timbres in different musical settings. My approach now is a synthesis of all that experience.

Tell us about a great music teacher you had.

I met my favorite teacher, Tommy Campbell, in Tokyo. He was actually the drummer on my first jazz gig. I really struggled with that performance because I didn’t understand the idiom and the intricacies of the harmony. He approached me afterwards and asked if I wanted private lessons. I jumped at the offer! I later found out that he had taught for many years at Berklee College of Music, and was also the nephew of the legendary Hammond organist Jimmy Smith. Tommy taught and inspired me so much, and continues to be a dear friend of mine.

How often do you practice and/or rehearse?

I try to practice every day—whether it’s on my primary instrument (voice), or on the instruments littering my living room (piano, electric bass, drums, ukulele, guitar, various percussion instruments). The goal for me is not just to be proficient, but really to have an embodied understanding of the music.

What advice do you have for young, aspiring musicians?

I suggest that you not only strive for technical mastery but also study the culture and history of the music. Look for the ineffable things that are beyond the page and beyond the classroom.  Seek apprenticeships with artists that move and inspire you on the deepest levels. Make practice a meditation, not rote exercise, and find the wellspring inside yourself that the music comes from. Embody and live the music.

What can the audience expect during your performance in Tateuchi Hall?

Lots of fun, lots of soul!

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