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The Persistence of Joanna Nix Jewett

She’s a busy girl. Over the years, Joanna has shared her vocal talents with more than a handful of central New York’s artists; and she’s participated in numerous recording projects. ss-4 You remember her as the lead singer of Syracuse area party band, The Critics, who, during her tenure, opened shows for Eddie Money, The Turtles, and Three Dog Night. After nine-plus years with The Critics, Joanna then formed The Cat’s Pajamas, then J.A.K.K., and worked with The Cortini Brothers and other well-known groups.

By now, Joanna is one-third of acoustic trio, The Mix Tapes, and also the lead singer of Funkadelphia. With the help of promoter Julie Briggs, and her band Funkadelphia as the house band, Joanna further organizes “Ladies Night,” an event that showcases some of Syracuse’s top female talent playing familiar hits. The event, which will be held at the Palace Theater on November 12, 2016, is sure to be a success.

She took a little time with me to tell us more.

   Chuck Schiele: As one of the hardest working women in Syracuse music, how did it all start for you? How long have you been performing?

    Joanna Nix Jewett: I started when I was pretty young. I sang in chorus and school productions. I entered college as a Theater major. I started singing professionally during high school, singing at wedding ceremonies. In the early 90’s, I joined The Critics, a party/wedding band, and stayed for the next 9+ years.

CS: Tell us about your music and the folks with whom you make your music.

 JNJ: I love R&B and soul. Aretha, Chaka, Sade … I still can’t get enough of their music. Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” is part of my musical DNA. Since I was a kid in the 70’s, Donna Summer was definitely an influence. Later on, in high school and college, I listened to The Police, Pat Benatar, Heart, CSN&Y, U2, Genesis, and REM. It’s not surprising, I guess, that the music we do in my two current groups —The Mix Tapes, an acoustic trio, and Funkadelphia, a soul/dance band— is largely what I grew up listening to, with some newer artists, like Amy Winehouse and Bruno Mars mixed in. I’ve also been producing small shows lately, featuring the music I grew up listening to.  This month, “Crystal Visions” will showcase the music of Fleetwood Mac (no surprise there), and in October is the reprise of “Ruby Throated Sparrow,” which celebrates the gorgeous harmonies of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Both shows feature female voices —Donna Colton, Maureen Henesey, and I cover all the vocals, and although our voices are very different, the blend is sublime!

CS: You have pretty hefty event coming up in November. What’s that all about?

ss-3JNJ: “Ladies Night” will showcase female artists in a high-energy show that will get and keep people on their feet! It’s music that people know and love —some of the best dance/rock/pop songs ever, performed by many of CNY’s most diverse and gifted women.

CS: Who’s participating, musically?

JNJ: The lineup is killer! Anna Marie Lopez-White, Ashley Cox, Dessie Kelly, Donna Alford, Donna Colton, Jess Novak, Joanne Troy Perry, Kat Dooley-Wandersee, Kate Kolb, Letizia, Lisa Romano, Maureen Henesey, Moe Harrington, Robyn Stockdale, Tamaralee Shutt, Terry Bender, and yours truly. The ladies will be backed by the incredibly gifted members of Funkadelphia: Kristopher Heels, Chris Notarthomas, Frank Neubert, and special guest Jimmy Cox. We’ll have a few special guests on the bill, too.

CS: That’s a lot of cool talent you have participating. What inspired you to throw this show?

    JNJ:  I created an event called “Respect: CNY Celebrates Women in Music,” which was a fundraising event for The Centers at St. Camillus, where I used to work. When I left, they decided not to continue with the show. I loved the working with all these amazing women, and I love spotlighting the talents of female artists, so I figured we’d make some changes, and try something a little different. My partner Julie Briggs and I planned the show in an afternoon. “Respect” gave the ladies the opportunity to choose the songs they performed, to celebrate the music of the female artists who inspired them. We’re programming “Ladies Night” and the show will have a little something for everyone —music from the 1960’s through today. For more info, find Ladies Night on Facebook or visit www.ladiesnightcny.com

CS: Please share with us your thoughts on the Syracuse Music scene.

JNJ: I think it’s an exciting time for music in Syracuse. I came up through on the commercial side of music, singing in a 8-piece party band. Originals were never my thing —not by choice, just because The Critics kept me busy. I love all the original music that’s being created locally! Writing and recording are still on my “to do” list and I’ve done some writing this year.

CS: Well, being probably the biggest fan and encourager of original music around here, I can’t wait to hear your work. It is not as convenient of a musical path as is the cover stuff. It’s a harder path, and you have to confront yourself more. But, when it kicks in, it’s far more rewarding from my experiences. I hope you do write; and I’d love to hear the sum of your experience in what you write. When you do, please save me a copy. Speaking of experience, you’ve amassed an impressive amount. What’s your best advice for new musicians jumping into the circus of the music biz?

ss-2JNJ: Be open. Listen to a variety of genres and artists. Even though I love soul music, I learned a lot about phrasing by listening to Patsy Cline, Tony Bennett, and Natalie Cole.

CS: Where do you we stay in touch with your music?

JNJ: The Mix Tapes and Funkadelphia have Facebook and Reverbnation pages. I’m on Instagram  and Twitter (joannajewettcny) and Facebook (Joanna Nix Jewett).

CS: Okay, Joanna! Thanks for taking time to chat with us, here, at Table Hopping.

JNJ: Thanks, Chuck.

Chuck Schiele is an award-winning musician, art director, producer, editorialist, artist, activist, member of SaltCityChill.com and fan of the CNY music scene.
To be considered for this column, please write chuck.schiele@gmail.com.

Chuck Schiele
Chuck Schiele is a lifelong, award-winning musician, art director, producer, editorialist, artist, activist, member Quatrocollective.com and fan of the CNY music scene. To be considered for this column, please write chuck.schiele@gmail.com.