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Bio

Saundra Silliman

"For as long as I can remember, in my family, music has been as necessary as a balanced diet". Saundra grew up in the Oakland, California climate of Jazz, R & B, Funk and Gospel with a mom who was a very talented singer and pianist with very eclectic taste (from Debussy to Ellington, show tunes to opera) which served to broaden her daughter’s musical palette. Somewhat intimidated by her mother’s vocal ability, Saundra studied violin before finding her own voice as a singer citing Sarah Vaughn, Carmen McRae and Nancy Wilson as being the most influential in her later development. While in high school, with a little encouragement from a friend, she began to sing, first in the community gospel choir. A successful audition in her junior year of high school secured Saundra with a coveted spot in the alto section of the highly esteemed Castleers Vocal Ensemble in Oakland, which toured Europe in her senior year. A performance with the Oakland Symphony Chorus encouraged her further. After High School, torn between her love for music and science, Saundra majored in Biology with plans for medical school with a minor in music and studied voice with various classical teachers. Whenever the opportunity would arise Saundra "sat-in" at clubs in the San Francisco Bay area. Bitten by the performance bug, she went with her passion. Completing the requirements for a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Science at San Jose State University she immediately returned to complete a Bachelor of Arts degree in vocal music with a jazz concentration. She took advantage of the opportunities that the San Francisco Bay area had to give by way of its resident jazz artists and took a class with Bobby McFerrin (at SJSU), and studied with Patti Cathcart of "Tuck & Patti". While attending San Jose State University, Saundra received the Top Female Vocalist award at the Pacific Coast Collegiate Jazz Festival. The benefits of having performance roots deep in the musical traditions of Oakland, formal music instruction and her mothers’ eclectic musical taste began to come together. This combination of technique and experience, gave Saundra the tools she needed for coming into her own as a unique and versatile vocalist.

Giving in to her passion for singing and for jazz, Saundra moved to New York City in 1986. Among her credits: Town Hall appearance with Buster Williams Quintet, New York City; Cast member of the workshop production for the return of Don’t Bother Me I Can’t Cope directed by highly acclaimed director, producer Kenny Leon; Overseas appearances with jazz masters Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Buster Williams and Larry Coryell; Billie Holiday in Lady Day & Prez at Brooklyn Academy of Music; Ensemble member of the Barry Harris singers; Two Gentlemen of Verona with the San Jose Civic Light Opera, San Jose, California. Greater Metropolitan Area venues include Birdland and Danny’s Skylight Room in New York City, Ford Theatre in Washington D.C., Trumpets in Montclair, NJ and The Priory in Newark, NJ.
In addition to performing, Saundra is no stranger to music education. She has enjoyed teaching children from pre-school to High school in music enrichment programs, choral direction and Musical Theatre. She also serves as a vocal coach for singers and dialogue coach for actors.

Saundra Silliman