Faith Alacar interviews Deborah Massa, a performer whose career is “multidirectional.” Cross trained in jazz, classical, rock and musical theater, Deborah has made a name for herself both on the theater and concert stage. She stresses the importance of embodying every aspect of the music one performs, for one must know the “language of music” to be able to truly say they “know the tunes.”
For more information about Deborah Massa, visit http://www.deborah-massa.com/
- 0:00: With her grandmother being a professional musician (stride piano for silent films), and her father an audiophile, she experienced jazz music at a young age, first performing it in high school.
- 3:21: Besides her love of jazz, she studied classically in college and played rock music during the summer: “crossing genres helps you no matter what genre you’re in!”
- 4:44: Deborah worked as an Equity musical theater performer post college, but once children entered the picture she needed something more flexible, so she began working with jazz musicians based in Philadelphia.
- 5:56: Deborah’s first job: Senior year of college she got called in to audition for the Broadway show Dance With Me, so networking and type casting helped her break into the business. During her time on stage she was still musically inclined with her work in jazz music and her job as a cantor for church.
- 7:46: Mostly made a living in music and theater , but outside of that she gives workshops on the business side of the performance world and on the mental health world as her son has Tourette’s Syndrome.
- 8:54: Monday Blues Jazz Orchestra—all about sight reading! “Having the language of music has really helped me in many ways.” Deborah says that you don’t need to be classically trained—you just need basic music theory so you can feel comfortable reading.
- 11:46: For jazz improvisation, Deborah thinks of the vocalist as an instrument, where horizontal (chord structure) and vertical (lyrical structure) knowledge is needed to improv. She listens to instrumental versions to internalize the song, not copying others. “Think harmonically and think lyrically at the same time… and then letting it go and not thinking about it.” Like muscle memory, scatting has to be in the moment!
- 14:02: Monday Blues Jazz Orchestra rehearses weekly, which is out of the norm for jazz, but with such a big group it is necessary. “There has to be structure before you can let it go.” She chooses a tune, works on the chart at home, brings it into rehearsal, and when it’s ready it goes into the rotation.
- 15:30: Choir versus solo singing—different realms of singing. You must know how to use a unique voice in a choir setting for blending purposes. Choir gives you a foundation—once again, cross training!
- 17:45: Deborah’s fondest memory as a musician: “your personhood comes through in your music and that guarantees your success.” Look at the subtext of music, details off why a piece of music was written. Like acting, it’s all about the subtext.
- 19:37: Deborah was most influenced by Late 50s Instrumentalists(Chet Baker, Jerry Mulligan, Annie Ross) who created the “Cool Jazz” Movement, which was classically based
- 20:55: Deborah is a Jersey woman in Jazz (Hamilton, NJ) but she has performances all over the area (NY NJ PA etc). Performances that have had impact—her New York theater experiences were at such a high level that they pushed her to join them.