Your music spans both the jazz and Christian contemporary genres. How do you find a balance between these two genres?
Donna: To keep things in perspective I have recorded 8 Jazz albums, 3 Christmas albums and 3 Christian singles. None of them overwhelms the other. It’s just who I am. I honestly go by feeling. Maybe I feel it would be good to do a Christmas Album, and then I feel it would be good to do a Jazz Album. In 2023, I actually sat down and figured out my next three albums and singles and I'm very excited to say all these genres will be represented.
What aspects of each genre do you incorporate into your music? Donna: I do not change my singing style with each genre, I just let the music speak and I sing. It's really very exciting. To each genre, I give joy and love. The Christmas CDs receive just as much attention from me as the Jazz.
It's fascinating that you were the piano player at the First Baptist Church of Monticello for seventeen years. How has your role as a music minister influenced your approach to music production and performance?
Donna: Before I retired as a music minister I knew deep down that my spirit guides me, and I follow that guidance completely. I enjoy playing the piano, especially the old-time hymns....because when the choir starts coming up the aisle you betta know!
You mentioned that you're equally fond of both Jazz and Christian contemporary music. Could you elaborate on the emotions or connections that draw you to each of these genres? Donna: Take God’s Hand was #1 on the contemporary Christian charts for 9 weeks. The phenomenal reaction to that Christian song was exhilarating, and it pushed me to move forward with two more songs. Take God's Hand was originally a jazz song on my Set Your Heart Free CD, called Make A Stand. When listening I kept hearing Take God's Hand. The words were perfect for self-realization and acceptance. Now the 4th song we are recording is 'I Got Faith’ written by my husband Roy Singer, music and Mitchell Uscher, lyrics. I would have to say that it’s my husband's songs that uplift me into doing more and more Christian songs. He keeps writing...I’ll keep recording.
Your husband is a writing partner and composer. How does your personal relationship with him influence the creative process when collaborating on music? Donna: It honestly doesn’t. I am not involved in the writing process and I hear the song when it's done and ready to be sung. Roy comes into the kitchen and says 'I got a good one!' That's nice dear. Eat your peas. We will listen after dinner [Laughs].
The Great American Songbook has had a significant impact on your musical style. How do you reinterpret or add your personal touch to these classic songs while staying true to their essence?
Donna: A journalist one time wrote, I sing Jazz with a touch of Gospel and I always felt that rang true. I do have a flare of gospel in my personality which translates to my singing and brings forth my best work.
Your album Dance Band Boogie is a Big Band Swing album. What led you to explore this genre, and what do you hope to achieve with this album that's different from your previous works? Donna: For 15 years I was the vocalist for the big band, Swing Shift Orchestra in New York. It took me a hot minute to get a big band in Florida, and when I realized the ones in the area were not a perfect match, I created the Diamond Jazz Orchestra under the direction of Carlos Pinera. And I’m fortunate to have the talented arranger Chaim Rubinov, arranging Roy and Mitch's wonderful songs for big band. Beautiful songs, great arrangements, and talented musicians....it's a winning combination. In my childhood dreams, I always wanted to sing with a big orchestra. Listening to Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson, and Dinah Washington taught me the essence and subtleties of performing with a 18-piece musical orchestra.
"I Can See Into Your Heart" is a ballad from your husband. Could you share more about the inspiration behind this song and the emotions you aim to convey through its lyrics and melody?
Donna: I enjoy performing love songs. To me, it’s a beautiful love ballad and a contrast to the other songs that I usually do. Besides joy and love I strive for beauty and this song allows me to touch hearts. 'I knew we'd be together for I can see into your heart' so simple and so perfect. It's how we probably would say it. Thank you Mitchel Uscher for the words and Roy for the music!
Recording the album live in concert sounds like an exhilarating experience.
Donna: It was!! The energy in the room was off the chart. The audience was excited, the Diamond Jazz Orchestra was excited, and I studied my words and lyrics so hard I knew we were ready to make magic.
How did performing in a live setting impact the overall energy and sound of the album?
Donna: It impacted me in a tremendously positive way. The energy from the audience and the love they shared with me was incredible!
As you've performed in various beautiful cities around Europe, what unique elements do you feel different audiences bring to your performances?
Donna: In Paris, we did a salon concert, with people surrounding me in the back, on the sides and in front, and it was fantastic. It was relaxed and intimate. In London, we sang in a theatre and I actually almost fell off the stage. I was so glad I hadn’t fallen, but I yelled to everyone in the audience that it was amazing I hadn’t fallen off. And they all clapped with joy. In Switzerland, the audience was packed inside, and those that couldn’t get in were by the windows outside listening to everything.
Your upcoming plans include performances in different parts of the world. How do you adapt your performance style to connect with audiences from diverse cultural backgrounds? Donna: There is uniqueness in the different cultures, but music is a universal language that pulls us all together.
Lastly, you've mentioned that you're happy to have a career doing what you love most - singing. Could you share a specific moment or experience that reaffirmed your love for music and singing throughout your career?
Donna: I was blessed to sing at the Jazz in June International Jazz Festival at the University of Nebraska. When 6,000 people are staring at you with love and joy, it affirms your love for music. Also after our Paris show, Roy and I went to the Eiffel Tower and renewed our wedding vows. Music and love, one and one.