Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Niemack, Judy

Niemack, Judy, vocalist, lyricist; b. Pasadena, CA, 11 March 1954. Her parents are Carl George Niemack (b. 1919) and Marian Blanche Salisbury (1919-1986). Her brother is Robert David Niemack (b. 1949), and her sisters are Margaret Lee Niemack (b. 1943) and Susan Lynne Skjei (b. 1952).

She began singing publicly at the age of 7 in a church choir. Throughout her school years, she sang in every type of ensemble: madrigals, chamber choir, musical theatre productions, folk and rock bands, and finally a vocal jazz quartet. When she was 17, she decided to make singing her life's work, and began to study classical voice with a teacher of "bel canto". At the age of 18, she heard and met the great tenor saxophonist Warne Marsh, and became fascinated by jazz improvisation. She attended Pasadena City College for three years, continuing to study classical voice, and also jazz improvisation with alto saxophonist Gary Foster. She continued to study classical voice for the next six years, while singing jazz in clubs at night. After studying at New England Conservatory in Boston, she attended the Cleveland Institute of Music for an Opera Workshop, and deciding that her true path lay in improvised music, she then returned to California to study vo cal improvisation with Warne Marsh, who taught her as he would teach a horn player. Her goal was to improvise as freely as a great jazz saxophonist, with all the technical possibilities of a classical singer. From 1970-74, she took private lessons in Classical Voice with Primo Lino Puccinelli in California. From 1972-74, at Pasadena City College she studied Classical Voice and Jazz Improvisation with Gary Foster. From 1974-75, she was at the New England Conservatory, studying Classical Voice with Bernard Barbeau and Jazz Big Band with Phil Wilson. In the summer of 1975, she attended an Opera Workshop at the Cleveland Institute of Music. From 1975-81, she studied Jazz Improvisation with saxophonist Warne Marsh. In 1977, Niemack moved to New York City to pursue her career as a jazz vocalist. She arrived with $700 and no contacts, and found an apartment in the Bronx. Her first major performance was a week at the Village Vanguard with Marsh in 1978. Since then she has performed in most of the major clubs in N.Y.C. including the Blue Note, Sweet Basil, Fat Tuesday's, Village Gate, Visiones and the Rainbow Room. She has toured the U.S. in concerts and festivals with a number of major jazz orchestras including those led by Larry Elagart, Peter Duchin (with whom she performed at the White House in 1986), and Sonny Costanzo (she was featured in his concert with Dave Brubeck). She has given concerts celebrating the songs of George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Irving Berlin.. Some of the musicians she has performed with are Toots Thielemans, David Byrne, George Benson, James Moody, Lee Konitz, Clark Terry, Dave Brubeck, Lew Tabackin, Warne Marsh, Kenny Barron, Billy Higgins, Ced ar Walton, Ray Drummond, Joey Baron, Fred Hersch, Billy Hart, Kenny Werner, Hein Van De Geyn, Jim Mc Neely, Joe Lovano, Adam Nussbaum, Jeanfranssois Prins, Kirk Nurock, Michel Herr, Steve Kuhn, Mark Feldman, Eddie Gomez, Harvie Swartz, Kirk Lightsey and The N.Y. Voices. Niemack has also written and recorded her own compositions, as well as her original lyrics on other musicians compositions, among which are: Thelonious Monk (Misterioso), Lee Konitz (Round & Round & Round, Chick Came Around), Don Grolnick (Talking To Myself),
Mike Stern (Choices), Larry Schneider (Tomato Kiss), Kirk Nurock (Rain, Silence Of My Soul), JeanfranssOis Prins (New York Stories, Love Will Grow), and Michel Herr (Thinking Of You). Internationally, Niemack began by singing in Italy at the Pisa Jazz Festival in 1982 and has since appeared in Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, Japan, The Phillipines, Spain and Poland. Recent performances include the "Jazzkaar" Festival (Estonia), "Jazz sous les Pommiers," Avignon Jazz Festival, Albi Jazz Le Mans Calvi Jazz Festival, and the Jazz Middelheim Festival, Antwerp. She's also done concerts with Toots Thielmans at the "Botanique," Brussels Jazz Rallye (Belgium), the "Save Venice Ball" (Italy), the W.D.R. Big Band with Jim McNeely, and the Hessicher Rundfunk Big Band (Germany). She also did touring of Japan with Albert Tootie Heath, Ronnie Mathews and Ray Drummond.

Judy is very active in the world of jazz education. In 1980, she began teaching privately in New York City. From 1980-82, she taught Vocal Jazz at New York School of Jazz in Port Washington. From 1982-86, she taught "Improvisation for Singers" clinics at New York City College, New York Network For Learning and at the Jazz Festival of Pisa, Italy. From 1984-87, she was an "Adjunct Professor, Vocal Jazz" at Long Island University, Brooklyn, New York, and also did teaching at William Paterson University. In 1989-92, she continued private teaching in N.Y.C., and gave workshops for singers in Holland, Germany, Belgium, Poland, Finland, and Denmark. Since 1990, she has taught every summer at Janice Borla's Vocal Jazz Camp, Lisle, Illinois, as well as workshops at The New School, N.Y.C., New York. In 1991, she recorded a "Jazz Singers' Practice Tape" in New York City. From September 1993 to June 1995, she was on the Jazz Faculty at the Royal Conservatory of Antwerp, Belgium, and a Guest Pr ofessor at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague, Holland. From September 1994 until June 1996, she was Professor of Vocal Jazz at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels, Belgium.

Her spouse is Belgian Guitarist Jeanfranssois Prins, b. 1967 with whom she records and performs. The two met in 1987 at a jam session in New York organized by mutual friends. They were married April 4, 1998 at St. Peter's Church, Manhattan; Lee Konitz was best man. In 1995, both found teaching jobs in Berlin and moved there. He teaches guitar at the University of the Arts, and since October 1995 she is the Professor leading the Vocal Dept. in the Jazz and Popular Dept. of the Hanns Eisler Hochschule fur Musik. Since 1994, she has also mbeen a Jazz voice and vocal-group teacher for Peter Herbolzheimer's Bujazz-o in Germany.

By Heart (1978); Blue Bop (featuring Cedar Walton, Curtis Fuller, Ray Drummond (1988); Long As You're Living (featuring Joe Lovano, Fred Hersch, Billy Hart)  (1990); Heart's Desire (duet with Kenny Barron); Straight Up (feat. Toots Thielemans) (1993); Mingus, Monk and Mal (duet with Mal Waldron) (1994); ...Night and the Music (1996)
As sideperson:
New Look Trio: Atmosphere (1992); Jeanfranssois Prins (featuring Fred Hersch): Beauty and the Prince (1993); Lee Konitz: Rhapsody vol. 1 and 2 (193); The Other Side Of Walter Boeykens (1994)

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