Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Ross, Holli (Holli Susan Wassar)
Ross, Holli [Holli Susan Wassar], jazz vocalist, guitarist, educator, lyricist; b. Forest Hills, NY, 16 November 1956. While an infant, her family moved to Buffalo, NY where her father, Bernard Wasser, b. 1935, a bassoonist and Julliard graduate, performed with the Buffalo Philharmonic. By three years of age, they relocated to Roslyn Hts., NY where her father performed with the American Symphony under Leopold Stokowski and her mother, Kandi Wasser (b. Solna Kane, 1935) was a classical guitarist who studied under Albert Valdes Blane. Holli and her three siblings (Ron, b. 1959; Debra, b. 1961; Ed, b. 1964) were all given music lessons by the age of seven years.
Holli originally took up flute and guitar until the age of 13 when she switched her primary interests to bassoon. During this time Holli consistently sang with school choirs, specialized groups, NYSSMA and Allstate choruses. In 1967, at 11 years of age she was contracted to record children's albums for the ABC music book company. At thirteen, Holli was introduced to jazz in HS and although she continued to study bassoon and eventually major in it, she delved into the world of jazz and began to perform with local jazz groups. At 15, Holli attended the University of Vermont summer music session to study bassoon with William Polisi (NBC orchestra under Tosconinni). There she came to the attention of trombonist, Dennis Wilson, who by that fall, had her performing in his various ensembles around New York. In 1974, Holli entered New England Conservatory of Music as a bassoon major but quickly found herself singing in big b ands led by trombonist, Phil Wilson. A year later, Holli transferred to Mannes college of music where she received a scholarship to study with NY philharmonic principle bassoonist, Harold Goltzer, where she eventually earned her degree while supporting herself teaching guitar. During the following years, Holli still gravitated towards jazz studies with Jack Reiley (75-79) at Mannes and later with the great jazz saxophonist, Warne Marsh (80-83). She came to the attention of singing giant, Jon Hendricks who mentored her and had her sit in on his engagements though unable to give her any work. Holli maintained regular traditional vocal studies with NY greats as Anthony DiLeva, Maurice Jampol, and Joan Lader. She also supplemented her musical theater studies with Hal Holden at the Herbert Bergoff Studio (80-83). In 1984, Holli helped form the female vocal ensemble, String of Pearls, with whom she recorded and still performs with regularly. During this tenure, she also performed and recorded with Washington DC based quartet Mad Romance and NY based quintet 5 Steps Beyond (formerly Group Five made up of today's top jingle singers). In 1993 Holli came to the attention of pianist, Donald Johnston and Vibrophonist, Wolfgang Lackerschmid and was invited to record their compositions and later tour Europe. Holli's appearances as a solo singer and ensemble singer has brought her to New Orleans' Snug Harbor, California's Monterey Jazz Festival, NY's JVC, the Blue Note, Munich's Nachtcafe, Festival Lyrique in Belle Ile, France, the Philadelphia Pops Orchestra under Peter Nero, and the Mary Lou Williams' Women in Jazz Festival at the Kennedy Center to name a few.
Holli began teaching voice and directing vocal ensembles when asked to substitute at the Horace Mann School for one semester and City College in which she conducted a music performance workshop. Soon she was asked to run a performance workshop at Mannes College of Music and join the voice faculty at Hofstra University (Mannes since 92 and Hofstra since 94). She continues to hold these positions in addition to her current position teaching at the Port Washington Music House J (since 76). Holli is a member of and has been invited to perform for the International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE). She has conducted clinics in NY, Augsburg, Germany and Jan Jose, CA. She is presently working on her masters degree in Speech and Language Pathology with the intentions of specializing in voice disorders while continuing to perform and teach. As a published songwriter for ASCAP and GEMA, Holli has penned lyrics to compositions by Miles, Davis, Roger Kellaway, Harold Danko, Bill Mays, Mal Waldron, Ivan Lins, Roberto Menescal, and Wolfgang Lackerschmid. Her songs have been recorded by Mark Murphy, Meredith D'Ambrosio, Diane Hubka, String of Pearls and 5 Steps Beyond. In May 2000, Holli lyricized a composition by the late Sarah Vaughan that was performed at a special tribute by Carmen Bradford and the Count Basie Band, and later aired on National Public Radio.
In 1998, Holli married Assistant US Attourney, Daniel Gibbons and they have a daughter, Hannah Elizabeth (b. 1997).
String of Pearls: Gems (1996), New York - Brazil (1997), New York - Brazil 2 (1997), Brazilian Jewels (2000); 5 Steps Beyond: 5 Steps Beyond (1998)
Mad Romance: Mad Romance (1987); New Singers - New Songs: New York '93 (1993)
Bebop Lives (Boplicity) music by Miles Davis, Lyrics by Holli Ross &Ray Passman; Cliches: music by Harold Danko &Ray Passman, Lyrics by Holli Ross; Madalena: music by Ivan Lins, Lyrics by Holli Ross; Rio: music by Roberto Menescal, Lyrics by Holli Ross; Without Samba Life's a Bore: music by Wolfgang Lackerschmid, Lyrics by Holli Ross
Radio and television broadcasts:
Joe Franklin Show
Sunday Morning with Billy Talyor
New York Newsday: 12/28/88. A Standout, In and Out of a Crowd. By Stuart Troup.
New York Newsday: 4/11/90. Holli Ross: The Voice of Experience. By Stuart Troup.
The New York Times: 7/91. She Sings and Plays a Bassoon, Too. By Alvin Klein.
Cadence Magazine: 6/94. Johnston-Lackerschmid project.