Alison Crockett (aka MsDivaBlu) and KB riffing at Shenandoah CCM Institute, July 2023

We have the great joy this week of hosting Jazz Diva Alison Crockett, aka MsDivaBlu, at Laurier Music. Talk about sending out Black History Month with a bang! I first met Alison last summer at the Shenandoah CCM (Contemporary Commercial Music) Vocal Pedagogy Institute, where she gave me my first real lessons in jazz, riffing, vocal improvisation and more. I can honestly say that the impact of her work was life-changing. What it cemented in me more than anything was the understanding, the KNOWING, that singing is intimately connected to speech. That song is the universal human communication. That expression through the vocal instrument is the deepest manifestation of identity, the root of connection. (It’s not that I didn’t intuit or even know these things before, but working with her and watching her work with others made me see it in action and feel its truth).

What a gift, then, to have her amongst us this week, and to bring her knowledge and expertise in the legacy of Black American Music to our music program and its students. Today, I had the opportunity to sit in on a lesson she gave to a small group of my students where she emphasized for them, yet again, the importance of connecting singing to speech. Over and over, she reminded them to speak the text as if they meant it. To put full intention behind it. And then to commit to that intention. She called this speaking with intention and CONVICTION. I had used different words before; I had certainly said to them they needed to mean what they say, that they had to believe it. But for her to use the word conviction was new–it brought the importance of it to an almost spiritual level (and given that the idiom she was working in was a sort of country/gospel hybrid, that made total sense). In any event, when my student really examined what she wanted to say, and said, then sang it with that intention and full conviction, it sounded authentic, true, connected and free. And she said it “just felt like talking” and not at all like work. I rest my case.