Phyllis Blanford

I came back to this country in Oct. of 2000. Iíd been traveling the world, making my living as a performer. But I was lost. I hit bottom with drugs and poor choices. My mother had to pull me out of a hell hole in Guyana, South America, and bring me home.

Even though I had sung at Lincoln Center and on many major stages in Europe, when I came home without a pot, a penny or clothes to put on my back, the shame devastated my already damaged spirit. So I did the only thing I could at that time: I decided to play it safe. I recreated myself, putting the performer inside me aside. I began a career in education, and did what it took to make money and survive in America. In the process I became more and more fearful of living my dream: music and acting.

Through every open window, in every church on any given Sunday, I heard voices from the soul that could lift you up beyond the clouds and set you down in a field of hope. And I cringed. My achievements became nothing. I buried my desire to sing, to perform, to step on a stage and be the guiding light

However you canít hide from who you are. Step by step, guided by the Source, Oldumare, Allah, God or whatever name you choose to call that something bigger than us, I began to try and sing again.

I remember the night it all came to a head. I think it was in 2006 I went to hear Carrie Jackson sing at Trumpets, which is a jazz club in Montclair, New Jersey. I was mesmerized by her ability to tell a story without all of the runs that you hear in top 40 songs. She told the story and a light bulb went off.

I guess you can say I began to stalk her! I went to her concerts. I made a very strong connection to a wonderful pianist, Lou Rainone, who was working with her. I sent him an email and set up a session to jam with them. I was so scared that I was crying on the train from Newark, NJ into New York. When I got to his studio my music was all disorganized, but I had music. Because even though I didnít have a penny to my name when I came home somehow Iíd held on to my sheet music.

Well, I sang a song. I think it was ďBlack CoffeeĒ. When I was finished he just looked at me and said, ďI thought you said you couldnít sing and then you come in here and take the roof off!Ē

So itís taken me from that moment until now to have the confidence to record a CD. I want my authentic self back. I want to tour Europe. I want to work in Jazz festivals. Iíve invested every dime that I donít have in the realization that I was born to perform.

Carrie Jackson was instrumental in helping me to get my chops back. She started a Jazz Vocal Collective that gave me a safe place to sing. It has been a very long road with numerous pitfalls, and Iím still climbing over obstacles, tortured with self-doubt, but Iím being reborn again an again, everyday, as I get closer to my ultimate goal.

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