Tuesday, November 24, 2009
The Audition for Dreamgirls on Broadway
However, I did not know what I was getting myself into! The audition was at the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem, which I originally thought was cool, until I had to wait outside in the cold for 3 hours! It never got above 30 degrees outside! And the wind was vicious. Of course, silly me, I was trying to be cute for the audition, so I decided that I didn't need gloves or a hat. I did have enough wherewithal to wear a wool coat, but still! What was really funny about the audition was that a girl that I knew from college, who graduated before me, came right in the line after me! It was very unexpected because I hadn't talked to her for about two years, but I was so glad to see her there, and she was glad to see me. Had she not been there, I might have thought really hard about turning around and going home. But I didn't!
Not only was it freezing outside, the line was extremely long! It wrapped around the corner of the building. I was number 376 and I think there were more than 450 people there total! I had no idea that many people were going to show up. I had previously auditioned for the broadway show Rent and I literally walked in and walked out of the audition. As soon as I got there, I was able to audition because there was hardly any line. Apparently, though, the producers of Dreamgirls on Broadway advertised the auditions everywhere!
Now let me tell you about the demographics of the line. The auditions were supposed to be of women in their 20s, but seriously, there were women who were in their 40s and 50s auditioning too. I'm like, really? It was clearly written what ages the producers were looking for, but these women were in denial. It goes to show you that dreams never die! Not only were women way over their 20s, there were a good portion of women singing songs from the Dreamgirls soundtrack. Not that there's anything wrong with singing those songs, but it is too predictable. And the chances of someone else singing the same song is high. There were more "And I am telling you" renditions than I could count!
I ultimately auditioned with the song, "Never loved a man (the way that I love you)" sung by Aretha Franklin. Thankfully, they let us sing 16 bars, so that ended up being the first verse of the song, which was exactly what I wanted to sing. I love that song because it's got a lot of attitude, dynamics, and hits it hard at the end, in a short amount of time. We also had an accompanist which was nice because I didn't have to sing acapella. It was like deja vu because I had auditioned with the same song for the Amateur night and Showtime at the Apollo auditions. It was very cold when I auditioned for that as well and the line was extremely long. But this time felt different from then. The casting directors that I auditioned for seemed to really like me. They said I should definitely hear back from them is a week. Of course, I am to putting that much stock into those words. I definitely felt like I did great in the audition, but you never know about what these people really want. My look or voice may just not be what they are looking for, or it may be exactly what they are looking for. But it's got nothing to do with talent. So we'll see...maybe I'll hear something soon!
Monday, November 16, 2009
Jami Jackson is Presented the Rock Star Artist Award by LIFEbeat
For Halloween this year, I tried to dress up as a Dreamgirl. However, everyone swore I looked like Diana Ross, so I decided to tell everyone I dressed up as Diana Ross. A choir member from my church gave me a gold dress that she used to wear back in the day with gold shoes to match, so I thought it would be great to dress it up for Halloween. I had actually auditioned for the Dreamgirls Broadway show in this same outfit, with the wig and everything. It was a lot of fun wearing this outfit, because I would never have another opportunity to wear an outfit like it and not look wacky!
LIFEbeat had their annual Volunteer Appreciation Party on October 27th. I had a great time there! I went to it last year, but I didn't dress up then. When I went last year, a lot of other people were dressed up in really cool outfits. One couple was dressed up as Huggies Kisses, with full aluminum foil outfits. I felt really out of place, so I wanted to make sure that I dressed up this year. There was a really good turnout of people at this event. There must have been a least a hundred people. There were a lot less people who dressed up, but there were a couple of really good outfits. One couple dressed up as Marilyn Monroe and JFK. There was also really great free food served. There were hor d'oeuvres throughout the event: coconut shrimp, pigs in a blanket, and chicken sticks. I made sure to be first in line each time the waiters came out! There was also an open bar of champagne provided by Barefoot Bubbly and dance music provided by DJ Boo. We were all jammin' to Michael Jackson and some people were even breaking out the Thriller dance!
LIFEbeat also presented the Hearts and Voices Rock Star Artist award to me for this year. I was really happy to receive the award. They cited the work that I did with the NY AIDS Walk 2009 and with "Keep Walkin' On" as the reason why I won the award this year. It was nice getting recognized for doing something positive. I hope to continue to help others and make an impact in this way in the future.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Jami Jackson's First Solo Performance at the Broadway Baby Bistro
On November 10th, I had a great performance at the Broadway Baby Bistro!!! It was my first solo live performance at a night club. I have performed in shows all of my life, but this was the first of its kind for me. It was a wonderful experience preparing for the show and coming up with the music. I worked with a talented pianist named David Berry on the set. I originally wanted to do a show that would feature a full band, but I decided to make it simple this first time. David Berry is getting his Ph.D. degree in Classical Piano from Julliard. He is an excellent player. Even though the show only featured my voice with the piano and no background vocals, he was able to full up the songs with his playing. He would play solos for some of the songs and he would pick out some really cool licks to play in the songs. We worked really well together to prepare for the show. I also had to adjust how I sang the songs. Because I had no background vocalists, I had to sing the verses and hooks and ad lib, while still maintaining the chorus. It is definitely a lot harder doing these kinds of shows instead of singing to karaoke tracks! But I LOVED it!!!! I did not even spend a lot of time promoting the show, but I had a great turn-out of people. My friends, coworkers, piano teacher, members from my church, and even people that I never met, came to my show. My parents came up all the way from DC in a bus to see me perform. It is a great thing to be a part of such a great group of people. I realized that I had a real family in NYC. And that evening was beautiful outside. It was a mild night, not too cold, and thankfully, it wasn't raining. The music just filled up the room and my voice was strong all the way to the end. Everything went exactly as planned. I am still putting up the videos, but this video that I have is the opener selection of my show, "Keep Walkin' On". It was nice to sing it stripped down like this. Everyone had great things to say about the show. Some said it was inspirational, moving, some were brought to tears. I am so happy to give a gift that not only touched other people, but touched me as well. I have wanted to do a show like this for a long time; so I was able to release a part of myself to my audience. It was a liberating experience! I plan to do another show around the end of January or beginning of February. These shows are just the beginning!!!
Jami Jackson Performs at the ING NYC Marathon
Performing at the NYC Marathon on November 1st was a lot of fun!! The night before, I went to a Halloween party in Harlem, not too far from where I lived. Although I knew that I had to sing in the morning, I still wanted to take advantage of Halloween being on a Saturday. The Saturday night parties were bountiful! And it was even better to have an extra hour to party, since it was Daylight's Savings Time at 2pm on November 1st. So I had to take advantage. For Halloween this year, I was dressed up as Diana Ross. I had a gold dress and gold shoes and a cute wig. I'll post a picture of me in the next blog.
That Sunday morning, I had to wake up semi-early to get ready. I needed to be at the location at 125th and 1st avenue at 9:30am, but it wasn't far from where I lived. There was a forecast of rain in the morning, so the coodinators of the marathon said that we could come out after the rain ended to avoid destroying our equipment. I arrived at the location around 10am. However, it was so hard to get there! A lot of the streets were blocked off and as a result, there was a lot of traffic. We finally got on the FDR to the location. Once we got there, it was relatively easy to find parking and access the location. I had my volunteer badge and permit ready in case there was any trouble!
The location was basically the street where the runners were going to pass me. It wasn't a sectioned off area or nook. I set my equipment, an amplifier, microphone, and ipod, up behind where the onlookers were going to be. When I started performing, the people waiting for the runners started to get interested in me. One man who was part of the FDNY asked if I had auditioned for American Idol. I can't count the number of times people have asked me that!! It's a compliment though because they believe in my talent enough to make it on that show. A couple other people were interested in who I was as an artist, and some people were dancing to my music. I kept the show short, to about 30 minutes at a time. I would sing a couple of songs, and then pause, then a couple more. In the beginning of the marathon, a few people would run by at a time, so I sang when they were close to us. I decided not to sing for an extended period of time in the beginning. I was able to see the professional women and men athletes run in the morning. They were surrounded by cops and media. It was interesting seeing them and then seeing who actually won. There were so many runners who came after them! It seemed like a neverending number of runners. It was amazing seeing so many people run the 26.2 miles! I could never run that many miles at one time!
It was a great experience being at the marathon and being able to say that I performed for so many hardworking people. Running the marathon is a real feat, but performing there was even better for me!
Monday, November 9, 2009
Rehearsal for My First Show on November 10
David Berry and I have been working really hard to prepare for my show on November 10th! We've been rehearsing since October and have met for hours at a time preparing. David Berry is a talented pianist who will be accompanying me during the show. He is actually getting his Ph.D. in Classical Piano at Julliard. He has a great musical ear and he is very patient. He is also the musical director at All Angels Church in Manhattan. He has been a real blessing for me in this whole process. I actually found him through Craigslist (big-up to Craigslist! :) Although there are a lot of spam and crazies on Craigslists, sometimes you will find a real gem. David is exactly that.
I decided to do a show because I really wanted to have a chance to perform solo at a club. I have been performing all of my life and throughout NYC, but I have never performed my own set at a night club. I have mostly performed for other venues who were putting on their own productions and shows. I originally wanted to pull a whole band together to perform shows in the city, but it was too cumbersome to have a full band. Summer of 2007, I had tried to pull together a small band with a guitar player, bass player, and drummer, but even that fell through eventually. The bass player moved back to Israel and it was hard to replace him. I was trying to find band members who would play for me for free and split show money. However, when musicians are not getting paid, they are not as dedicated to the group and they have their own agenda and ideas for the group. It just got really messy and eventually I scrapped the idea.
The coordinator of LIFEbeat, Erika Banks, told me that she did a solo show with a pianist over the Summer. I wasn't even aware that there were many shows in NYC with solely piano and voice....I had just assumed that most shows consisted of a full band. Once I heard how successful her show was with just her singing and a pianist playing, I was convinced that I could do the same. So far, it has been a wonderful process. David is such a great player and in the spots where I am not singing, he makes up for it with the music. I picked songs that I could sing well without background vocals. I must say, that is the most difficult part of the process, singing songs with no background support. It really helps to take some of the work off the lead singer and have the background vocals pick up some of the slack. However, it is great practice to entertain a crowd with just my voice.
The picture above is the chord chart of my song, "I'll let you go" that we are going to perform on Tuesday. So that you can get a taste of what my show is going to sound like, I have uploaded the song "Greatest Love of All" from our rehearsal last week. I recorded the song on my mini recorder, so the quality is not the best, but you should be able to get a good idea of the song. I'm also going to post pictures and videos of the show after the show next week. If you're in NYC, I hope you can make it. If not, definitely look for pictures and videos next week!
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
The Battle is the Lords Solo
On Sunday, October 25, I sang "The Battle is the Lords", made famous by Yolanda Adams. I was actually singing the song in the place of another lead singer of our church. The other lead singer called out sick that morning with vocal issues and no one else in the choir knew how to sing the song. The speaker of the service had their whole sermon based on "The Battle is the Lords". So, I volunteered to sing the song and cover for the other singer. It turned out to be a really great selection! I didn't have a chance to practice the song, so I was hoping that I would be able to successfully deliver it. A lot of the church members came up to me after and said they enjoyed the song. I am glad that I was able to make a difference after such a short notice. My church makes CDs of the service, so I have an mp3 of the song.