Jazzmeia Horn's performance will be a moving addition to jazz history

by Elizabeth Garrison | 4/2/19 2:06am

On Wednesday, Grammy-nominated Jazz singer Jazzmeia Horn will be performing at the Hopkins Center of the Arts at 7 p.m. in Spaulding Auditorium. With her impressive vocal chops and irresistible stage presence, Horn’s performance promises to be memorable. 

Horn catapulted to international stardom after winning the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Competition in 2015. Her debut solo album, “A Social Call,” achieved critical success and received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Jazz Vocal Album. At the 2018 Grammy awards ceremony, Horn dazzled audiences with her show-stopping performance of “Moanin.” At only 28 years old, she is a musical force to be reckoned with. 

Hopkins Center for the Arts publicity coordinator Rebecca Bailey commented on Horn’s broad range of stylistic capabilities and said that she was “blown away that someone in their mid-twenties could have the depth of artistry that [Horn] has in jazz.” 

According to Dartmouth’s Barbary Coast Jazz Ensemble director Taylor Ho Bynum, Horn’s music exemplifies a historical tradition of improvisational jazz vocalists. He added that he hopes that Horn’s performance will inspire audiences to dive into this rich history. 

“I love [music] recordings ... but there is something about seeing improvised music live that is really crucial to understanding how [jazz] works ­falling in love with it, and appreciating it,” Bynum said. “My dream would be that someone goes to hear Jazzmeia Horn ... and goes back and listens to Betty Carter, Sarah Vaughan, Claudine Myers and other artists in this tradition.” 

Similarly, Bailey said that she hopes Horn’s performance will encourage a greater appreciation for jazz, a musical genre she feels people tend to shy away from. 

“People perceive jazz as being very cerebral, like poetry,” Bailey said. “[So] we try to look for artists who can jump over that misconception through their performance style or the material that they choose.” 

In an email statement, Horn described her personal connection with jazz music. 

“Jazzmeia is a name that was given to me by my grandmother who started a tradition of music also at an early age,” Horn wrote. “I like to think that I am continuing a legacy, a family tradition. I am not sure who I would be without my music.”

Horn added that she uses music as a form of self-expression and as a way to connect with others. 

“I use my art as a form of healing and bringing about social awareness,” she wrote. “While I am singing to my audiences, I am releasing tension and healing my own self and I hope that that, too, resonates with listeners and audiences.” 

According to Bailey, by bringing Horn to campus, the Hopkins Center hopes to expose students to diverse voices and foster an appreciation for African and African-American cultures. 

“We just want to make sure that we bring dynamic artists who represent who America is now, and American voices [in] its many facets,” Bailey said. “She is part of this very strong slate of artists who we’ve had this year who relate to the African diaspora or the African American experience.” 

Bynum added that African American artists are essential to American culture.  

“Without the contributions of black music and arts, there would not be American art, full stop,” Bynum said. “It is not a separate stream we need to bring or cultivate, it is an integral part of it.” 

Furthermore, Bynum said younger audiences only know jazz music “as almost exclusively a concert music, where it’s all cleaned up and proper and you’re supposed to sit in a chair and listen” rather than knowing the “risk, excitement and joy” of the genre, something he believes Horn could expose younger generations to. 

As for Horn’s hopes for her performance, she said she wants to encourage inspiring musicians to pursue their passion and find their voices. 

“Never give up,” Horn wrote. “Not everyone is going to care about your music in the same way that you might. [But] if you have an idea that you think is bad, stick with it and see it through! Take care of yourself as well as your music!” 

Finally, Horn reflected on her goals for her musical legacy. 

“I hope that my legacy would be one where I have used all of my creativity and art to raise awareness of injustice in the world and to encourage inner peace and self-love.”