Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Witowski, Deanna (Danielle)

Witowski, Deanna (Danielle), pianist, composer, vocalist; b. Exter, New Hampshire, 20 March 1972.  Her father is Michael Joseph Witkowski (b. 1938; Boston, Massachusetts). Her mother is Dale Virginia (Welch) Witkowski (b. 1947; Buffalo, New York). Her brothers are Eric Michael Witkowski (b. 1977; Jamestown, New York) and Stephen Joseph Witkowski (b. 1986; Rochester, New York). Her sister is Bethany Marie Witkowski (b. 1989; Rochester, New York). From 1985-88, she did private studies with Michael Landrum, Rochester, New York. From 1988-89, she did private studies with Stephen Mathis, Rochester, New York. From 1989-93, she did undergraduate studies at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois; principal teachers Daniel Paul Horn and Bradley Williams. From 1993-94, she did graduate studies at DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois; principal teachers Larry Novak and Larry Gray. From 1998-2000, she studied with Vanderlei Pereira; New York, New York.

Trained as a classical pianist and flutist, Witkowski didn't discover jazz until attending Wheaton College where she studied with pianist Brad Williams and tenor saxophonist Larry Panella. Upon graduating she attended DePaul University in Chicago, continued her studies with bassist Larry Gray and pianist Larry Novak, and learned on the job in William Russo's Chicago Jazz Ensemble, Rob Parton's Jazztech Big Band, and Orquesta Libertad.

In 1994, while still a graduate student at DePaul, Witkowski formed her own quintet. After a four month sojourn teaching piano in Kenya in 1996, she returned to Chicago and received a city grant to record a demo of original latin jazz. Witkowski then chose to focus on Cuban music by studying with Chucho Valdes and Hilario Duran while working on her own compositions.

In 1997 Witkowski relocated from Chicago to New York where she served as music director of All Angels' Episcopal Church for two years. Her growing body of compositions now includes two jazz masses as well as a multitude of arrangements and original works for gospel choir, brass/organ, jazz trio, and mixed choir. In the midst of composing for the church she continued to expand her musical curiosities by studying with Brazilian drummer Vanderlei Pereira as well as with pianists Fred Hersch and Sonny Bravo. Since leaving her church position in 2000, Witkowski has taken much of her sacred music into churches and concert venues around the country. Some of her congregational music has just been published in a new jazz hymnal, Swing a New Song: Resources for Jazz Worship (Presbybop Music).

Witkowski's recent accomplishments include performing at the 2003 International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE) conference in Toronto, performing in a duo piano series with Fred Hersch at New York's Jazz Gallery, and leading her quintet at the Kennedy Center's Mary Lou Williams Festival in May 2000. She's also performed in places ranging from the Lake George Jazz Weekend to the Tel Aviv Opera House.

Recordings:
Having to Ask (1997); Wide Open Window (2000, 2001)

As sideperson: 
Linda Tate: We Belong Together (1993); Rob Parton's JazzTech Big Band: Fascinatin' Rhythm (1997)

Radio broadcasts:
NPR's JazzSet (2002); Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz (2003); NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday (2003)

Bibliography:
Profiles: Jazz Improv (2000), Christianity Today (2000)
Awards:
Winner of the 2002 Great American Jazz Piano Competition
Finalist in the Great American Jazz Piano Competition (2000, 1997)
Finalist in the Montreux Jazz Festival Solo Piano Competition (1999)

Websites:
nprjazz.org; christianitytoday.com

Contact information:
deannawitkowski.com; hello@deannawitkowski.com or deannawit@earthlink.net

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