Talented Daniels shares her gift at jazz clinic

By Murf Raquet, Staff Writer, Moscow-Pullman Daily News MOSCOW -

The term clinic is, well, too clinical for what Dee Daniels has to offer. Her "clinic" was more a celebration of life itself.

More than 100 aspiring jazz singers, fans and the curious filled the Borah Theatre at the University of Idaho’s Student Union Building early today to learn from one of the best.

She gave of herself and the audience took as much as it could handle. Daniels, a headline at Wednesday’s Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival concert, showed her roots as a public school teacher by foregoing a formal approach to the hour-long session. Instead she started by taking questions from the audience.
The first hand in the air requested a song to familiarize some with her style and, perhaps, inspire questions.

"Let’s try to wake the voice up and come up with something on the piano," she said.

She obliged with flair by singing "God Bless the Child." Her voice worked the notes up and down her four-octave range as effortlessly as a figure skater flows across a rink.

Daniels grew up in Oakland, Calif. Her stepfather was a Baptist minister and with music as much a part of life she learned to play the piano and sing.
"If a preacher has kids one will sing and play," she said. " I was the oldest and elected. I enjoyed it."

It wasn’t until she was teaching in the Seattle school system that the thought of a music career entered her head. She was talked into singing with a rock n’ roll band. Working six nights a week and teaching in the day took a toll after seven weeks. She made a decision and quit the day job.

Her vocal stylings emerged as a result of boredom born out of the repetition of the band’s songs. She started toying with the melodies and soon grew into a jazz format.

Over the years of hard work she has toured half the world, emerging as one of the top jazz singers in the United States and Canada.

Amy Sanders, a sophomore at Brigham Young University at Provo, Utah, was there to pick up some tips and to listen.

"I heard her last night and I wanted to hear what she had to say," Sanders said. "I loved her."

Sanders, a native of Snohomish, Wash., has been a jazz singer since her sophomore year in high school.

She entered in the solo competition and is part of an ensemble from BYU. Is she nervous about the competitions?

"Not yet, but I am going to be," she said.

Sanders asked how Daniels has bridged the several registers of vocal range when singing without straining the voice or causing a break.

Daniels’ advise was to visualize the voice. Seeing it happen in the mind and the brain tells the body what to do.

For Amy, Daniels and her answer were "awesome." Sanders will put the advice to practical use as soon as possible, she said.

Daniels stressed practice in many of her answers. You have to learn a song thoroughly before you can start playing with it, she said.

"You would be surprised what the mind will do when it has all the information at its disposal." She added. "Don’t get into bad habits. If you tell yourself you can’t do it, you won’t. But if you tell yourself you can, you will."

Time ran our before she was able to give an example of her scat singing, but no one seemed to mind. The came away with a lot more than the echo of notes in their ears. They sat at the feet of one of the masters and soaked it up like a sponge.