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Up Close and Personal with Dena DeRose

Dena DeRose is a remarkable talent! She sings, she composes, and she plays a fine jazz piano! Her two CD collections, I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW, and ANOTHER WORLD are showcases for her amazing jazz gifts! Dena DeRose is a unique performer who gives the audience a memorable performance every time! She is a new voice in the jazz vocals world, and one that will capture the attention of a large audience!

JazzReview.com: Who is Dena DeRose?

Dena DeRose: Dena DeRose is a dreamer, a realist, and a pianist/vocalist/arranger/composer/teacher, all wrapped in one. I shoot for the stars, but know how much hard work, dedication and perseverance it takes to get there.

JazzReview.com: What were your inspirations for your two CD's, ANOTHER WORLD, and I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW?

Dena DeRose: With each CD that I've recorded, or for that matter, tunes that I perform, I tend to reflect my life experience, whether it's what is happening in my life at that time (performances or what is going on at the time recording projects. I see recordings as a way to document a person's life musically and emotionally.

JazzReview.com: Could you please share your musical background with our jazz listeners? How did you begin? What are your memories of getting started in jazz?

Dena DeRose: I started playing the piano at age three with formal lessons at 3 1/2. Switched to classical/popular organ at age 7. When I was 10, I started taking piano in the spring/summer and organ in the fall/winter. When I was 13, though, I joined a wedding band with some school friends. We played 3-4 times a weekend for almost 5 years. I was playing in the stage band in junior high school. Reading all those Sammy Nestico charts with the chord changes written out. I could do that. What I didn't know was the difference between a major seventh and a dominant seventh! Ugh! I wanted to understand so badly, but didn't know where to go to learn. At 15, I auditioned for a jazz program at S.U.N.Y. at Binghamton. It was a one-weekend program with a rehearsal of some charts and a concert in the mall. It was really fun, but scary. I really wanted to understand more about this music. I found out about a teacher named Doug Beardsley. I studied with him for a few years on and off again. He taught me a lot about chords, scales, harmony of standards and left hand voicings. I still teach my students what he taught me. I quit college and took off for the road with a pop band at 20. At 21, I came home, frustrated with the popular music scene, and decided to really sit down and learn jazz piano. I wanted to move to NYC, as I had always wanted to do from the age of about 5.

JazzReview.com: Could you share with us how you were nearly forced to give up playing the piano, and how you overcame it?

Dena DeRose: As I was practicing 8-10 hours a day, teaching 20-30 students per week, trying to finish my college degree, and playing every imaginable gig in town, I started to develop pain in my right hand. I tried to ignore it for about 6-8 months. I didn't tell to many people until it got so bad I had to cancel work. I saw a hand surgeon. He said it was carpal tunnel syndrome. I believed him and in a few months decided to have an operation. After some recovery, I still had a lot of pain. The same pain I had before the operation. I denied it for about 8 months again, thinking it would get better. It never did. I saw a hand surgeon in NYC and he diagnosed the problem as arthritis. Had an operation about 2 or 3 months after that and recovered fully. During the time of my first operation, I started to sing. I was hanging out worth some friends listening to my piano teachers' trio one night and was asked to sing a tune. I enjoyed it. So did the crowd. They asked for another and from that point on I started booking singing gigs around the Binghamton area with the Doug Beardsley Trio. We worked 5-7 nights a week for over a 1 1/2 or 2 . At that point I had gone through the second operation, started to play and sing a few solo gigs, then duo, then trio. And now I've lived in NYC for 10 years primarily honing my craft, as a pianist/vocalist.alot of what happened during this time frame wasn't conscious. I didn't decide to start singing. I just did it. It was a creative outlet for me. It was, I think, out of desperation and longing to be a part of the music.

JazzReview.com: Who are your favorite jazz pianists?

Dena DeRose: I have many favorites. From the start, I loved Red Garland, Bobby Timmons, Wynton Kelly, Bud Powell, Barry Harris, Art Tatum, Ahmad Jamal, Bill Evans, early Herbie Hancock, Mary Lou Williams, and I always listened to Marian McPartlands' "Piano Jazz" on NPR. Then, later I got into Joe Sample, Chick Corea, Elain Elias, and Kieth Jarrett. I have so many favorites at this point, I couldn't name them all.

JazzReview.com: Who are some of your favorite composers?

Dena DeRose: Bach, Scriabin, Debussy, Billy Stayhorn, Duke Ellington, Cole Porter, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Horace Silver, Cedar Walton, Burt Bacharach, and John Lennon, just to name a few.

JazzReview.com: Do you see yourself as a role model for aspiring jazz vocalists just starting their careers? What advice would you suggest to them?

Dena DeRose: My hopes are that I am an inspiration. Advice...do what you love to do and enjoy it every second.

JazzReview.com: Where do you wee yourself career wise in five years, what goals do you envision for yourself?

Dena DeRose: I really want to travel more whether it is in the U.S. or abroad. I want to reach people through live performance. I think that is one very important aspect of music that is lost today. The connection you cannot get from a CD. Young people need to see live music in schools, parks, theaters, and in there own homes. Some goals I have are to record some original music, to work with a full orchestra, and to continue enjoying myself as much as I have so far on this life-long road.

JazzReview.com: What do you see as the future for jazz vocalists?

Dena DeRose: Creative, well educated in theory, history, and pianistic skills, and individual sounding instruments. Again, Lee, thank you, all the best, and take care.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Dena DeRose
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