Posted by on July 24, 2013 in Blog
By: Margaret Lowry
Summer 2013 Intern
Lena Seikaly, a Palestinian American classical and jazz vocalist, has emerged as a rising star on the DC jazz scene. Hailed by the Washington City Paper as “one of the contenders for D.C.'s best singer,” and praised by the Washington Post, Lena has played sold out performances at DC staples such as Blues Alley, the Strathmore Mansion, the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, Twins Jazz, and several Smithsonian venues.
Native to Falls Church, VA, Lena is a graduate of the University of Maryland with a degree in classical vocal performance. Now living out her childhood dream of becoming a professional musician, Lena is a jazz vocalist, classical vocalist, recording artist, private instructor, and vocal coach in the DC area. Lena has released three independent albums, “Written in the Stars” in 2009, “Lovely Changes” in 2011, and, this past May, “Looking Back.”
While in college, Lena began to explore the jazz scene, performing in some of her first jazz gigs in DC. Moved by the musicians she met, Lena immersed herself in the works of jazz vocalists and instrumentalists along with the history and different styles of the genre. “As much as I loved -- and still love -- listening to the singers, it was the late 1950s-late '60s recordings of instrumentalists like Charles Mingus, Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter (among many others) that I really fell in love with on a musical level.” As her exploration of the genre evolved, so did the inspiration for her own music. “Since then, my stylistic inspirations have quite literally gone backwards through time -- from modal jazz to bebop to swing to "hot" jazz -- and now my main focus is the music of the '20s and '30s.”
Lena’s Palestinian American heritage was another influence on the development of her musical taste. “My identity as both an Arab and an American meant listening to a variety of music growing up -- from the Beatles to Antonio Carlos Jobim to Fairouz -- and all of it has influenced my musical tastes and artistic choices.” Lena has studied Arabic classical singing and collaborated on several jazz-Arabic fusion projects.
Reflecting upon the influence of her Arab American identity, Lena noted “Though my heritage hasn't had much direct influence on my artistic/musical choices, being a '30s style jazz singer of Palestinian descent is rather unique, and I have kind of embraced that minority status. I hope that my presence on the national jazz scene is making someone somewhere rethink their image of Arabs or Palestinians, and reinforcing that jazz is, indeed, for everyone.”
Lena will be performing at a fundraising concert for the DC Palestinian Film and Arts Festival on Thursday July 25 at 8pm at Bossa Bistro and Lounge. To find more performance dates and to hear tracks from Lena’s albums and live performances click here.
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