BAND PROFILE: EMMA SMITH
Having already shared the stage with the likes of Dame Cleo Laine, the late Sir John Dankworth and ‘BBC Jazz Vocalist of the Year’ winners Liane Carroll and Ian Shaw, nineteen year old Emma Smith is well on her way to her achieving her dream of being an accomplished jazz singer.
At age 14 she had her first taste of big band singing with the Glenn Miller outfit 'The String of Pearls Orchestra'. She began to tour frequently with the band and received practical training in being a jazz musician. Having come from a family of musicians and composers, Emma decided to follow in her father’s footsteps and join the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. At only 15 she was made NYJO’s female vocalist and vocal coach; a chair sponsored by Cleo Laine and the Wavendon Foundation.
In 2007, Emma was awarded a scholarship to study at the prestigious Purcell School of Music. She was the first ever jazz vocalist to do so. While at Purcell, she gained invaluable experience performing everything from choral chamber music in the Royal Festival Hall to contemporary jazz in the Wigmore Hall. She now continues her studies at the Royal Academy of Music under the likes of Gerard Presencer, Pete Churchill, Stan Sulzmann, Nia Lynn and Tim Garland.
At 16, Emma’s reputation as an up-and-coming talent led her to become increasingly in demand. She began playing extensively in many of London’s top jazz venues, including Ronnie Scott’s, The 606, The Vortex, Pizza Express Dean Street, The Spice of Life and Pizza on the Park. She has also played numerous jazz festivals, including the Oxford Jazz Festival, Cheltenham Jazz Festival and The London Jazz Festival. In 2009, she was invited to be part of the Vocal Summit at the London Jazz Festival, which featured Emma, Natalie Williams and Anita Wardell.
April 2009 saw Emma featured alongside Ian Shaw and Madeline Bell with the Guy Barker Big Band and the BBC Concert Orchestra. The show, entitled ‘The Billy Strayhorn Story,’ was aired on BBC Radio 2’s ‘Friday Night is Music Night.’ Emma prepared extensively for the broadcast in order to portray the personalities of Eartha Kitt, Rosemary Clooney and Ruth Ellington.
Emma has been privileged enough to have performed with some of her Idols. In June 2009, she received coaching from Sir John Dankworth and performed the notoriously difficult ‘Shakespeare Suite’ with John and his band.
Ensemble singing has recently become a major part of Emma’s singing and writing. Since attending the Academy, mentor Pete Churchill invited her to join the ‘London Vocal Project.’ She is delighted to be part of this extraordinary ensemble, and she was lucky enough to be involved in a project with renowned composer Roger Treece which resulted in a performance with Bobby Mcferrin at the Barbican Centre.
Emma is also a featured soloist with the Callum Au Big Band, with whom she actively performs.
Emma enjoys a wide range of music, and draws influences from sources as diverse as Norma Winstone, Seamus Blake, Joni Mitchell, Ella Fitzgerald, Wynton Marsalis, Dexter Gordon and Nick Drake.