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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! 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. what you love to do and enjoy it every second. 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. 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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