Professor Latonya Wrenn
Professor of Music, Concert Pianist, Singer, Songwriter
Professor Latonya Wrenn is the daughter of William and Joann Wrenn of Birmingham, AL. Latonya Wrenn was born in Birmingham, AL on June 2, 1973. She started piano lessons at the early age of 7 under the late Patricia Ard Williams of Roosevelt City, AL. At the age of 10, Miss Wrenn started to progress in the area of piano playing for the Sunday School at the Green Liberty Missionary Baptist Church. This was the training ground for her music career. As she entered grammar school, Miss Wrenn performed in various piano recitals and received numerous awards.
During her high school years, Miss Wrenn attended Jackson-Olin High School where she was the accompanist for the Concert Choir under the late Mr. Melvin Cunningham. She also continued her classical training under the Dr. Witold Turkiewicz at Samford University in Birmingham, AL where she continued to develop her technique in classical music. She was the accompanist for the Concert Choir at Jackson-Olin High School, the world renowned choir that traveled all over the United States and Europe and was about 90 voices strong.
Upon graduation from high school, Miss Latonya Wrenn attended The University of Montevallo in Montevallo, AL where she received a full piano scholarship to study with the world renowned Dr. Anthony Pattin. She excelled and received numerous awards for piano. She was the accompanist and also the director for the Inspirational Voices of Christ on the campus.
Professor Latonya Wrenn was also a member of the Birmingham Community Mass Choir under the late Mrs. Mary K. Elsaw. As a member of the Birmingham Community Mass Choir, Latonya went on to the Gospel Music Workshop of America in 1994, competed and won the Thurston Frazier Memorial Scholarship. From this opportunity, she met Dr. Joan Hillsman, and upon graduation from The University of Montevallo, Professor Wrenn went on to matriculate at Howard University in Washington, DC to work on her Master’s Degree in Piano Performance in 1998.
Professor Wrenn is currently the Professor of Music at Bowie State University in Bowie, MD where she is also the director of the Bowie State University Gospel Choir and the Applied Piano Instructor. In 2007, Professor Wrenn became the accompanist for the Three Melodic Divas + 1 and performed at the Piccolo Spoleto Festival in Charleston, SC in 2008. Professor Latonya Wrenn released a CD titled in 2008 From My Heart To God’s Heart, Vol. I, which consists of arrangements of hymns on the piano and is available for purchase on CDBaby.com.
Professor Wrenn has also had the honor of performing for President Barack Obama at the Historic Metropolitan AME Church in Washington, DC on Sunday January 13, 2013 at the Inaugural Service, along with Dr. Lester Green, Minister of Music and organist and the Mass Choir of the Metropolitan AME Church.
Professor Latonya Wrenn and The Bowie State Gospel Choir released their new CD titled The Live Experience in April 2013 produced by Stellar Award Winner, Phillip Carter which is currently being played on WHUR 96.3 and 1340AM Radio 1 on Wednesday evenings. Professor Wrenn also performed in Dallas, TX in March 2013 as a guest pianist at the Gospel Music Workshop of America Board Meeting. Professor Wrenn is also currently working on a classical piano CD to be titled Classical with Latonya to be released in 2016 and a gospel music CD to be released in Spring 2017 on the Musicproof Entertainment Label. Professor Wrenn also performed in October 2014 for The Coalition for African American Performing Artists. If you would like more information on Professor Latonya Wrenn, you may contact her firstname.lastname@example.org or www.facebook.com/LatonyaWrenn. Professor Latonya Wrenn gives all the glory to God for her musical gifts.
D.C. based jazz vocalist and vocal instructor
Darden Purcell is a Washington D.C. based jazz vocalist. A multi-faceted musician, Ms. Purcell is an active featured soloist with symphony orchestras, big bands and small ensembles, band leader and vocal instructor. Ms. Purcell has shared the stage with many of the world’s top jazz artists including Eric Alexander, Terell Stafford, Jim Pugh, Chip McNeill, Chuchito Valdes, Dana Hall, Don Heitler, Glenn Wilson, Chip Stephens, Stockton Helbing, Byron Stripling, Bobby Watson, Joel Spencer, Darmon Meader, Jeff Helgesen, Jim Carroll, Charlie Young, Chris Vadala, Kenny Rittenhouse, Shawn Purcell, Steve Fidyk, Matt Niess, Dave Detwiler, Joe McCarthy, Wade Beach, Harold Summey, Tom Williams, The Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra, the United States Navy Commodores, Naval Academy Big Band, Next Wave, The Airmen of Note and the American Festival Pops Orchestra (Tony Maiello) performed at concert halls and clubs throughout the nation, including Blues Alley (Washington DC), Pops for Champagne (Chicago), The Jazz Kitchen (Indianapolis), The Blue Wisp (Cincinnati), Sandler Center (back-up vocals for Ben Folds) Meyerhoff Center (Baltimore Symphony Orchestra), Wolf Trap for the Performing Arts (National Symphony Orchestra) and The Kennedy Center (back-up vocals for Mr. George Benson). Dr. Purcell is the Director of Jazz Studies, Jazz Voice Instructor and Director of the Mason Jazz Vocal Ensemble at George Mason University.
Dr. Purcell is a former Washington DC Air Force Band vocalist, with the groups High Flight and the Airmen of Note, performing nationally and internationally, including Germany, Italy, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Purcell performed back-up vocals for nationally renowned recording artists, Chaka Khan, BeBe Winans, Bryan White, Lari White, Janie Frickie, Freda Payne, Sherrie Payne, Gloria Loring, Melba Moore and Rita Coolidge as well as a televised performance behind Darlene Love on “The Late Show with David Letterman.”
In addition to her active performing schedule, Dr. Purcell is a sought-after jazz vocal educator and clinician. Dr. Purcell was the Jazz Voice Instructor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and founder/director of the University of Illinois Jazz Vocal Ensemble. She is now the founder/director of the Mason Jazz Vocal Ensemble. Her groups have been invited to perform at the New York Voices Jazz Festival (Chicago), Western Michigan’s Gold Company Jazz Vocal Invitational (Kalamazoo, MI) the 2012 Jazz Education Network (JEN) conference (Louisville, KY) and the Kansas City Jazz Summit (Kansas City, MO). Dr. Purcell has served on the faculty of the W.O. Smith Music School camp (Nashville), Illinois Summer Youth Music, George Mason Summer Jazz Workshop, National Jazz Workshop and Music/Arts/Theatre Camp (Evanston, WY). She has been a guest artist with the Texas Tech University Jazz Faculty and Virginia Tech Jazz Ensemble and guest conductor/clinician for the Southern Nazarene University Vocal Jazz Festival and Harford County All-County Jazz choir. Her students have won “Outstanding soloist” and “Outstanding Musicianship” awards at collegiate festivals as well as Downbeat Student Music Awards. Spring 2016, the Mason Jazz Vocal Ensemble was one of two groups honored with “Outstanding Ensemble” at the Kansas City Jazz Summit and will perform at the JENerations Jazz Festival, January 2017 in New Orleans, LA.
Dr. Purcell received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Vocal Jazz Performance at Virginia Tech, a Master of Music and a Doctor of Musical Arts in Jazz Performance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Ms. Purcell’s CD, Easy Living, released on Dallas based record label Armored Records, features Grammy Award-winning saxophonist Chip McNeill, Shawn Purcell, Chip Stephens, Dennis Carroll and Stockton Helbing. Easy Living can be purchased from Amazon.com, CDBaby.com and iTunes. Darden’s upcoming CD, produced by Stockton Helbing with arrangements by Shawn Purcell, is scheduled for release, November 2016.
Jazz vocalist and teacher
Connaitre Miller, Associate Professor, is Jazz Voice Coordinator at Howard University in Washington, D.C., where she teaches vocal jazz improvisation, vocal jazz arranging, jazz voice lessons and directs the award-winning vocal jazz ensemble, Afro Blue. A native of Kansas, Connaitre received a B.M. in Music Education and a M.M. in Piano Performance from Kansas State University in Manhattan. Her post-graduate study was undertaken at The University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, where she majored in Choral Conducting with a secondary emphasis in Jazz Pedagogy. Preceding her tenure at Howard University, Connaitre taught at The Elder Conservatorium of Music (University of Adelaide) in South Australia; at Cypress Community College and Cal State Long Beach in California; Kansas State University, Junction City Senior High School, Junction City Middle School, Morris Hill Elementary School and Grandview Plaza Elementary School in Kansas. In addition to her work at Howard University, Ms. Miller performs as a jazz vocalist, having performed at many jazz festivals throughout the US and abroad. She also conducts workshops and master classes on jazz singing, improvisation and jazz choir techniques; has appeared as an artist-in-residence at several institutions; and has served as conductor for numerous All-State Vocal Jazz Ensembles throughout the U.S.
In 2013, Connaitre was honored with the prestigious Jazz Education Achievement Award by Downbeat Magazine.
THE TINY WOMAN WITH THE HUGE VOICE
Alison Crockett has paid her musical “dues” in full. On seminal recordings by King Britt, Blue Six, Us3, and a host of others, Alison’s voice has provided a velvety, sensual finishing touch for cutting edge beats. Her voice dripping soul with generous helpings of jazz, gospel and blues, she has taken the baton from divas of the present and past such as Rachelle Farrelle, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Donna Summer and Sarah Vaughn and forged a uniquely personal and singular musical vision.
Alison decided early in her life to pursue a music career and began playing the piano at 5 years old. After winning several talent contests during her high school years, though, it quickly became apparent that her voice was a rare gift. After college, Alison settled in Philadelphia, where she met DJ King Britt, of Digable Planets fame. King gave Alison the nickname “Diva Blue” and together they recorded the classic, “Season’s Change” for his groundbreaking Sylk 130 album, “When the Funk Hits the Fan”.
Only months after she’d completed her first world tour with Sylk 130, she was approached by Geoff Wilkenson, founder of pioneering UK based acid-jazz group Us3 — best known for their hit “Flip Fantasia (Biddy Biddy Bop)” — who having heard “Season’s Change” became convinced he was hearing a young Shirley Bassey and embarked upon a feverish search to track Alison down to request she become Us3’s first lead singer. Alison moved to London to write and sing on Us3’s album “An Ordinary Day in an Unusual Place”. The first single, “Get Out”, immediately shot to the top 10 on the charts within weeks of its release in Japan in 2001.
Alison’s debut solo album, “On Becoming A Woman”, was released to wide acclaim in Japan in June 2003 and in the US and Europe in April 2004. Her epic ballad “Like Rain” reached number 3 on Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide Winner’s 2003 chart on his legendary BBC Radio 1 program.
In 2006, Alison released a collection of remixes based on tracks from “On Becoming A Woman” entitled “The Return Of Diva Blue: On Becoming A Woman Redux”. Featuring mixes by a who’s who of top flight DJ producers: DJ Spinna, Yam Who, Phil Asher, Mark De Clive-Lowe and more, the album became a treasure trove for lovers of deep house music, with Spinna’s take on the song “Crossroads” becoming a signature classic for Alison.
In the spring of 2007, Alison released her “love letter to my fans”, the stripped down, acoustic based “Bare”. Much of the album consisted of Alison simply sitting at the piano and singing songs from a backlog of her compositions from a particularly prolific period of writing.
After taking an extended break from her career to focus on mothering her two children, in 2012 Alison returned to the recording studio to work on what would become, “Mommy, What’s A Depression?”, her third solo album of original material. A mixture of jazz, soul and electronica, the album seeks to capture the weight of tumultuous times. By far her most ambitious project to date, the album embodies the very essence of who Alison Crockett is as an artist: a fearless musical traveler boldly projecting her inimitable voice into the sonic future.