“A Quick 5” with Vanessa Collier, blues saxophonist, singer and songwriter


Vanessa Collier, blues saxophonist, singer and songwriter
Photo by Jeff Fasano.

On October 15 and 16, 2021, the Columbia Festival of the Arts will present live performances at the Long Reach Village Center in Columbia in honor of the 50th anniversary of Long Reach Village. One of the acts presented will be the talented and renowned performer, Vanessa Collier. Ms. Collier, blues saxophonist, singer and songwriter, grew up in Colombia. Her performance is scheduled for October 16 at 7:30 p.m., the finale of a day of wonderful performances.

As a seven-time Blues Music Award (BMA) nominee and two-time winner of the BMA Award for Horn Player of the Year (2020 and 2019), Vanessa Collier is thrilled to launch her 2021 tour to celebrate her much anticipated and himself. -produced the fourth album, “Heart on the Line”. In addition to her BMA awards, Vanessa is also an award-winning songwriter, master musician and multi-instrumentalist known for seamlessly weaving funk, soul, rock and blues styles through soulful vocals, searing saxophone solos and witty writing. skills. While her career is still in its infancy, Vanessa has already turned many heads, earning huge accolades for her high-energy, powerful, fiery and passionate live shows.

Vanessa started playing the saxophone in fourth grade and was in every school, county, and band across the state possible. She also played AAU basketball, marking her four years in college basketball and graduating from high school with honors. After high school, Vanessa got a scholarship to attend the prestigious Berklee College of Music, where she earned a double degree in performance and music production and engineering. Since graduating from Berklee, Vanessa has toured extensively, both nationally and internationally, and released three critically acclaimed albums before “Heart on the Line” – “Heart, Soul & Saxophone” in 2014, “Meeting My Shadow” in 2017, and “Honey Up” in 2018. “Honey Up” spent nine weeks in the Top 15 Billboard Charts, three months in the Living Blues Report and is currently playing on Sirius XM radio .

As for Collier, she says she’s happy to perform on stages around the world, hoping she can make a difference to fans and followers along the way. “I am motivated to do it because I find it to be a total form of expression and connection,” she explains. “I love connecting with an audience and feeling their energy and I hope to inspire people to follow their dreams and passions, find what brings them joy, and then pursue them fiercely.” Vanessa is also carrying this message to young people as she runs clinics across the country and actively participates in Blues in the Schools programs. On a recent Blues in the School show, Vanessa invited a stage filled with elementary and middle-aged children to dance around her as she played a blues shuffle. Looking at the joy on the faces of Vanessa, the kids, and everyone in the auditorium, it’s no wonder Vanessa has become awe-inspiring to everyone who meets her. In addition to talent and hard work, Vanessa shares an amazing heart and a strong goal. To borrow the words from an article in “Blues Blast Magazine”, “Vanessa is an important part of the future of blues, and it would be cool to support her journey.”

Why did you choose the saxophone?

I used to watch this show called “Two of A Kind” after school and on one of the episodes the dad pulls out a tenor saxophone and starts playing in the attic. I immediately loved the sound of the instrument and begged my mother to rent me a saxophone for the school orchestra. Fortunately, the summer before 4th grade, she gave in and rented one from me, and I haven’t dropped it off since. It is such a beautiful and very expressive instrument, capable of subtlety, beauty, but also growl and power. The saxophone can encompass the full depth of human emotion, and it’s a pleasure to play with it every night.

Who have influenced your career the most?

I have two: my mentor, Chris Vadala, and my mother. Chris Vadala was the director of jazz studies at the University of Maryland, as well as a longtime wind artist on tour and recording with Chuck Mangione. He was my teacher from about grade seven until my first year in college. Mr. Vadala gave me a great foundation based on classical, jazz, funk, R&B, blues and more. He was the first to really show me that we could make a living from music. And I loved taking lessons with him. I would leave our classes feeling so excited and motivated to play (and teach) the way he did. I followed this passion and tried to pass it on to my own students.

My mother was also a huge influence on me as a person. I have always admired her and wanted to be like her. She is incredibly kind and extremely understanding with people. She is quietly powerful and draws people into her with her charisma and thoughtfulness. She also works incredibly hard and I’ve always admired that too. My mom raised me to believe that anything is possible if you work hard then you can do anything, which was important to me as I started on a path that was a little less defined than your typical path. My mom supported my journey and every turn he took too, which is an amazing thing. I am extremely lucky.

Which song (s) did you write made the most sense to you?

“When It Don’t Come Easy” is one of my favorites because it’s about getting ahead even when the going is tough. I wrote it about being like water and whatever it is in your path you keep heading downstream. I love the images in it as well as the message of just finding a way to make it happen.

Do you prefer to play the saxophone or sing and why?

I think it depends. Saxophone is how I first got to express myself, and it’s so good to start ripping in a solo with some ferocity. It’s like a kind of therapy every night to try and say something without words. But, there is a quiet power with the voice and with it, the lyrical content. If I play with the phrasing of the words, it can change the meaning of the whole line. Honestly, I’m not sure I can choose!

How many hours do you practice the saxophone per week?

If I’m on the road I can’t really practice in the hotel room because it’s such a loud instrument. But when I’m at home I try to work out for an hour or two a day. From my teaching experience, I think it is more important for students to think about How? ‘Or’ What they practice. If you train every day for 20 minutes very focused on technique, tone, timing and difficult parts of the music rather than practicing what you already play well for an hour, then you train more effectively and you will see greater progress towards your goal. A big part of a career in music is listening to as much music as possible! You will find inspiration and a starting point to help you find your own voice as you listen. The mix of all the genres you listen to and all your influences becomes your unique voice.

The Long Reach Village 50th Anniversary Celebration takes place on October 15, 2021 from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. and on October 16, 2021 from 11:00 a.m. to 8:15 p.m. in the Long Reach Village Center, located at 8775 Cloudleap Short in Colombia, Maryland. The program is all outdoors. In the event of bad weather, the performances will not be postponed. For more information on Long Reach’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, visit this connect. There will be parking and a shuttle service from Long Reach High School. For more information on the Columbia Festival of the Arts, check out their website.

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