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Lenora Zenzalai Helm

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New York City-based vocalist and composer Lenora Zenzalai-Helm was born in Chicago into a musical family. She started singing at eight, and went on to play the trumpet, organ, piano, and guitar while still a child, and was the first African-American woman to receive a B.A. in Film Music Composition/Voice. Zenzalai-Helm's versatile talents found a fertile home in New York City, where she moved in 1987. Recording and touring with Michael Franks, Freddie Jackson, Kenny Garrett, Antonio Hart, Branford Marsalis, Junior Mance, and many other high-profile pop, R&B, and jazz artists made her a fixture in the N.Y.C. music scene; in 1994, she won Best New Jazz Artist from the syndicated Jazz in the City radio program. Zenzalai-Helm's own musical projects include the R&B/jazz vocal group Sepia, who released several albums in Japan, and her jazz trio, the Zenzalai Project, which has played many jazz and women's festivals. She is also a music teacher and clinician for grades K-eight and lectures at various colleges and wrote a manual about artist residencies and after-school programs at public schools. 1998 saw Zenzalai-Helm chosen as a Jazz Ambassador for that year by the United States Information Agency and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. She and her duo partner Brandon McCune performed on the Millennium Stage of the Kennedy Center and toured Africa as part of that award. The Universal Jazz Coalition named her Major Young Artist of 1998, and that same year she was also named President of International Women in Jazz. As a solo performer, Zenzalai-Helm debuted with 1995's Awakenings, an independently released record, and followed it with Spirit Child for the J Curve label in 1999. ~ Heather Phares

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