“Forgive me if I don’t have the words. Maybe I can sing it and you’ll understand.”
Whether on stage or in the classroom, these are words that vocalist Jamie Shew seeks to achieve – to be able to project personal emotions and experiences through song.
Jamie grew up in the Tri-Cities, a group of towns located in south central Washington State. She began her musical training at the age of four, when she was first introduced to the piano. The desire to sing was very strong for Jamie throughout her childhood; however, she was always needed as an accompanist. It was during her senior year in high school that her choir director gave her the opportunity to sing a Karen Carpenter solo. This was a pivotal moment – she was hooked.
Jamie earned a Bachelor's Degree in Music Education from Washington State University and a Master’s Degree in Vocal Performance/Jazz Studies at Western Michigan University. As a graduate assistant at WMU, she had the opportunity to study privately with one of her favorite jazz vocalists, Sunny Wilkinson, and perform and record with the renowned vocal jazz ensemble, Gold Company.
As a jazz vocalist, Jamie continues to enjoy a dynamic performance career among many internationally recognized jazz musicians such as Larry Koonse, Darek Oles, Royce Campbell, Chuck Manning, Bruce Babad, Joe Jewell, Kendall Kay, Mike Scott, Matt Politano, Michele Weir, Joe Bagg, Steve Cotter, Jason Harnell, Dan Schnelle, and Josh Nelson.
In her newest CD project, Eyes Wide Open, released May 2018, Jamie uses song to tell the story of her 20-year relationship with her husband, bass player Roger Shew, and the loss she experienced when he succumbed to cancer. The music follows the arc of her life from the early days of their relationship through Roger's illness and beyond. Jamie's extensive musical training informs her singing. Her timbre is warm and inviting, while her timing, phrasing, and ability to interact so well with the band reflects her years of study. Of course, it doesn't hurt that she's playing with some of the finest musicians in Southern California including guitarist Larry Koonse, pianist and Hammond B3 player Joe Bagg, bass player Darek Oles, and drummer Jason Harnell, who are all leaders in their own right. Jamie chose songs she had considered recording in the past, but now they took on new meanings for her. She wrote two original compositions and selected and arranged the rest with a lot of deliberation. Each song became a metaphor for her journey. Eyes Wide Open is a project imbued with love and loss but eschews mere sentimentality. Jamie doesn't just perform moving interpretations of these songs, she opens her heart and exposes the genuine, raw feelings that have propelled her to make this CD. Her innate musicality is showcased in her phrasing and tone, but it's how she reveals the depth of the human condition that sets this project apart.
In addition to a rich performance career, Jamie is Coordinator of Vocal Jazz Studies at Fullerton College in Fullerton, California, where she teaches two levels of Vocal Jazz Styling and Improvisation courses, Music Theory, History of Rock and Roll, directs two groups in the award-winning vocal jazz ensemble program, and is the vocalist for the Faculty Jazz Cadre high school educational outreach program. She is also an in-demand adjudicator and clinician for jazz festivals throughout the country, has served as the past Vocal Jazz Chair of the Southern California Vocal Association, and has directed the California All-State Vocal Jazz Ensemble.