Danielle Kelly

Danielle Kelly
Danielle Kelly

Southern Oregon University Theatre Arts graduate, Danielle Kelly, is now performing with the Paul Schmeling Trio Monday nights at Martino’s, as well as acting in film and theater. One afternoon, we mulled over the nature of performance, jazz and theater while lunching on Martino’s minestrone.

DK: I’m feeling creatively fulfilled. I feel really fortunate to be in a band that gigs quite often and has a solid, steady show. It’s incredibly special. I’ve decided against moving to a bigger city for the moment. Ashland has something very special because you can do whatever you want.

EH: How is working in music, especially jazz, different than working in theater?

DK: Musicians and actors are the same sort of species, but it is very different. Music is so immediate; a song is a shorter story; the process is a lot quicker. When you get to performance, people can come and listen, then tune in and out of the music, be really captured by a song or get up and dance to it. It takes a little more attention to take in a theater performance. A play is a lot bigger production.

With theater, the rehearsal is more intensive and scripted and planned. The structure of what you do is different. Theater takes rehearsals every night. You start from the script, and, “what’s my body going to do?” And, “where am I going to go when I say this line? How do I say it when?” Stopping and pausing for the audience here, and collaborating and playing off other people. It’s a lot more involved.

Here, I’m listening. In the beginning it was terrifying, coming from theater. I wanted to rehearse way more than we did. I thought, “Well, it needs to be exact, and I need know exactly where this happens, and I need to know exactly how this ends. Wait, what’s my note? What’s the phrase that we want to end this on?”

Sitting in with musicians, they know how to do what they do. They can use this information and create whatever song happens. It’s more organic. We get together once every couple of weeks for an hour or two and it’s, “Is this in the right key? OK. Is that the right song? OK. What tempo? OK. Great, we’ve got it.” And we come to Martino’s, and we just do it. It’s never the same twice.

Within a play, the lines that you learn are within that piece. You can’t transfer a monologue anywhere else. But singing a song is more tangible and transferable. I work with another band, Park Place Jazz. It’s a totally different sound and totally rehearsed; it’s more scripted. And some of the tunes are the same. I can take different phrasing, and sing the same songs with this band, maybe slightly different, maybe in different keys. But with a live band, I could sing the same song anywhere.

Jazz is substantial, challenging, and different. It makes me feel special to sing it. This is where I feel comfortable, in front of a microphone singing. I can communicate and connect immediately with the audience. I find people wandering into Martino’s, people my age who haven’t been exposed to jazz, sharing their amazement at finding that it’s an eye-opener and beautiful. Jazz has a classic sophistication that is accessible and fun, moving, but not snooty and high-brow. I think jazz is cool, and I like exposing people to that.

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