endure just as long people hear it through their feet instead of
their brains. "~ John Philip Sousa ~
Born January 9, 1967 in
Occasionally there comes along
an artist that commands your attention. A sound that seems to
transcends any particular genre. One that causes the listener to
pause and take notice. For the modern Jazz world that artist is
without question Michelle Walker. Her sound breathes a sense of
unexpected familiarity to the listener. Not knowing what pleasures
she will bring next to the microphone leaves you with anticipation.
Her deep and stirring voice has won the acclaim of a broad audience
in the local music scene in the Washington, DC area. She can be seen
regularly at some of DC’s local jazz venues like Fino’s and La
Porta’s as well as her old stomping ground Dean and Deluca’s
outdoor café in Georgetown.
You could say that singing is
in her blood. Her grandmother, Ruby Mae Wright, was an amateur jazz
and blues singer from Alabama. Daughter of an Army Captain and busy
housewife, Michelle was born the fifth child of six. Being a part of
a large family during the 1970’s who fashioned themselves as the
next family group like The Jackson Five or The Osmonds, she
developed finely tuned ears for notes and rhythm. According to her
sister Lynnise Rivers, “Michelle stood out from us for her ability
to take songs apart, developing each vocal part and learning to
reproduce the sounds she heard.” Michelle spent a large part of
her childhood in community musical theatre. At the age of 12 she
auditioned and was accepted into a school that concentrated on the
Arts. ARTAG (Artistically Talented and Gifted Students) opened up to
her a world of drama, dance and music for half the school day and
the other half academics.
The diverse musicians of
1970’s generation were teachers and their music an avenue of
discovery. From the soulful LTD, Al Green and Gladys Knight to the
stirringly melodic Karen Carpenter, Jim Croce and Barry Manilow as
well as other groups like the Eagles, Earth-Wind-and-Fire, Doobie
Brothers and Chicago engaged her to sing everyday of her life.
“There hasn’t been a day since I was 5 years old that I
haven’t sung a note. My family got use to me answering their
questions with a line from famous standards that my dad always
played on the record player.” It is very clear in her tone and
delivery of song that Michelle carries within her the lessons
learned long ago. This is why her sound is so warm and familiar.
After high school, Michelle
spent some time in London, England pursuing a singing career. She
spent two years on the singers circuit and learned a great deal
about performing live with bands. As a promise to her parents, she
returned to the United States in order to finish college. While at
the University of Maryland, Michelle began to study voice as a music
minor. In the spring of 1996 she took a jazz class with Ronnie Wells
and Ron Elliston and knew that her life had changed. During graduate
school at American University, Michelle studied privately with D.C.
jazz vocalist Pam Bricker and pianist Wayne Wilentz. In the spring
of 2001, she formed her own Trio and began working steadily in clubs
and festivals around the city. The Michelle Walker Trio will be
touring and promoting her debut release "Slow Down" in the
spring and summer of 2002.