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Written by Lindsay Westley   
Published on Monday, 19 November 2012 11:15

Jen CreedNovember 19, 2012 - Philadelphia native Jen Creed, in concert on November 28 with pianist Svetlana Smolina, has sung on Broadway stages and at 76ers games, but says her first concert venue was her front porch. “I was one of those kids who was belting out songs from Annie at age 3 around the house,” Creed says. “Since I was Italian and didn’t have the fair skin and red curls, it was pretty unlikely that I’d ever play Annie, but my mom told me that if I kept singing and dancing, my other dreams might come true.”

Creed never nabbed the role of the curly-headed orphan, but she started studying voice at the early age of 5. Years later, she still “absolutely loves to sing” everything from the original songs on her new CD, Goodnight is not Goodbye, to the Rachmaninoff “Vocalise” she had Smolina will perform on November 28. We sat down with Creed to hear a little more about her vocal background, her love for fellow Philly musicians and why this full-time musician double-majored in music — and math.

You’ve been studying voice since the age of 5; how did you land in lessons at such an early age?
My dance teacher actually set me up with my first voice teacher. I guess I started singing in the dance studio and she told my mom after my lesson that I had a gift and should be in voice lessons. She gave my mom $100 — back then, lessons were $10 for a half hour — and told her that she wanted to treat me to 10 lessons. I loved it — loved it.

But you ended up with a math degree — how did that come about?
I had gotten into Princeton and thought I wanted to be a doctor, but then I realized that voice was my true calling, not just my passion. So I told my parents that I wasn’t going to go to Princeton and that I was majoring in voice, and my dad basically said no. I happened to get a full scholarship to the Catholic University of America, where they had a great music school. My dad said ok, you can do that if you major in something practical at the same time. I’ve never actually used that degree, but it’s there just in case!

You were performing on Broadway stages and in cabarets all over New York and Philadelphia when you had a vocal-chord injury. How did that affect your career?
There were some really low times when I didn’t know if I’d ever sing again and I spoke with a rasp in my voice, but I think those moments of despair really set the foundation for where I am now, singing my own songs and involved with the Voice Foundation. When I was singing on Broadway, I wasn’t that happy. I’m happy now, creating music the way I am.

Like Svetlana, you’re a classically trained musician, even though you’ve been performing more musical theater and jazz/pop. How did that affect your program for November 28?
I have a classical and opera background, so I love making music with Svetlana. She is truly a master of her art, and it’s really so cool to dip into that world again. What I love most about this concert is that it redefines our concept of genres. It’s really fun to do that at Svetlana’s level of playing.

Did it require moving out of your comfort zone?
We absolutely pushed each other. I’m picking up material that I haven’t sung in years and polishing it up for classical performance. And as a classically trained pianist, Svetlana is not as accustomed to improvising as she is to interpreting. We both definitely work on each other’s strengths and push each other. It’s really fun to do that at her level.

Favorite Philadelphia musicians?
Melody Gardot, Amos Lee, Lizanne Knott and Matt Duke.


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