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Rivaling New Orleans as the birthplace of jazz, Queens has been called the “home of jazz.” Ella Fitzgerald, Count Bassie, Fats Waller, and Lena Horne once lived in the borough neighborhood of St. Albans — as did singer-songwriter Stephanie Fisher, who now lives in Kew Gardens.
Recently, Fisher was the featured performer during a special night Dec. 3 of Harmony, a musical celebration hosted by York College Performing Arts Center in Jamaica. She dazzled the audience with her sultry vocal artistry and personal arrangements including, Natalie Cole’s “So Many Stars,” Vanessa Williams’s “October Sky,” Nancy Wilson’s “Guess Who I Saw Today” and Donnie Hathaway’s “This Christmas.”
More than 350 guests enjoyed the popular jazz selections comparable to those heard in the halls of jazz at Lincoln Center or the Blue Note, as well as rousing gospel and holiday classics. Along with a special tribute (video presentation) to the borough’s historical jazz roots, an all-star band performed an exciting jazz instrumental, and there was a reading by Laurelton poet Valerie Tanis.
“I’ve always loved the freedom and expression of jazz — the chord changes, the bluesy scales — and the elegance and sophistication of jazz vocalists,” said Fisher.
Co-produced by Mz. Director Entertainment, which was founded by Fisher, and YellaFella Entertainment, Harmony showcased top musicians and vocalists, including Melonie Daniels, award-winning pianist/musical director Eric Reed and musical director Shedrick Mitchell, who has performed with Stevie Wonder, Maxwell and Jay-Z.
Matthew Katz, director of the York College Performing Arts Center said, “We’re very proud to provide this magnificent venue and professional support to members of this community who are so passionate about their art.”
Broadway star Tshidi Manye (“The Lion King”), and Keith Harris, drummer/producer for the pop group Black Eyed Peas, were among notable audience members.
Highlights included performances by Fisher’s students (she’s also a music instructor) and Voices of Virtue, a community choir from Hempstead, L.I. When Fisher performed one of her original pieces, “Amazing,” the concert seemed to transform itself into a Sunday morning worship service.
“I wanted to present an upscale, affordable show in Queens, where no one had to cross any bridges or pay any tolls, and to demonstrate the power behind pursuing your dreams — even if you don’t have all the resources,” said Fisher. “Harmony has been a dream of mine for years — and dreams still do come true, and having trust in God still works. I feel honored and blessed to be able to give back to my community.”
That evening, many artists came together for one cause — the creative nurturing of young people. “We want to be examples to them of how successful and fulfilled you can be when you follow through with your calling, and work hard to develop your craft,” said Fisher.
A portion of the proceeds from the show will go to the Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning and Voices of Virtue.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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