Sarah is a singer, multi-instrumentalist, and music teacher from Paris, living in NYC.
Josette asked Sarah a few questions
What is your background in terms of music?
I did the Paris Conservatory first as a classical double bass player then as a jazz singer before coming to NYC for my master degree in jazz performance. I also studied piano and trumpet at the Conservatory - that I started at age 6 before getting into an artistic program in a specialized high school.
Aside from my musical background, I graduated from La Sorbonne university in Paris in philosophy and in music business. Hence the "eclectic" quality of my journey.
What inspires you?
Words, languages - I speak 3 of those (French/English/Spanish) - metaphors, scents, memories, relationships, people, traveling and being in between spaces, in between times, in between lives.
Are there recurring themes in your work?
Jazz and classical music (harmony colors, melodies' structure) are definitely very present in my musical writing and interpretation. I am currently working on a new album of original compositions in which I explore the journey that is a love relationship from beginning to end - metaphorically and literally as this relationship was long distance - so I think loving someone is a recurrent theme in those songs.
This and again being suspended in between places - which is very much something I feel in my daily life, living in another country since 3 years and traveling as much as I can.
How did you get started?
My parents put my sister and me in the city Conservatory in Paris when we were 6 years old. My dad is a teacher and a semi-pro musician who plays a lot in different bands and is an autodidact multi-instrumentalist. His father, my grand-father, was a jazz pianist and vibraphonist, and my grand mother a ballet teacher. None of them got to make their living solely from their artistic practice, but they never stopped playing and they encouraged me to give it a try as soon as I expressed the desire for it and they have been my greatest support since then.
How has your style evolved since you started?
I am learning new things every day and I hope to keep doing so, so my work is in constant evolution. I've gone from classical to jazz music, from bass player to singer, from Paris to Brooklyn. The language I express myself in shifted from French to English - with a Spanish phase in between where I recorded with great Mexican players and did a tour in Mexico. It keeps changing and that is what I need and love about it.
One thing I can pinpoint more precisely would be the fact that I started writing my own songs two years ago, something I tried to do before but never felt right, never really felt as my own before.
I'm also going towards more of an indie folk style with these songs which would be a new genre for me to explore now.
Due to my music teacher position at Musibambino - music studio for kids on the Upper West Side - I also got to practice and learn how to play a bit of almost all the instruments from the western world, which is a pretty amazing experience that I am really enjoying and believe to be very unique, interesting, and stimulating for our students as I present them different instruments every week during my classes.
Which work of yours is a good introduction?
My first album called "Patchwork - SC5tet" (available on iTunes)! Recorded in Paris 3 years ago with my quintet there. It is representative of where I come from musically speaking and the very start of my collaborations and researches in the music world. There are jazz tunes from the standard repertoire that my musicians and I arranged for our quintet. I wrote some lyrics in French and in English on some of the songs that didn't have lyrics already - because they were instrumental tunes at first more than singing tunes. We also explored a more contemporary idea of what jazz can be today and the space and dynamics that improvisation can give to it.
How do you stay motivated?
I am incredibly lucky to have a very caring and supportive family behind me every day, as well as very close and good friends here in Brooklyn and back in Paris who are always here to give me support, love, exchange ideas and inspire me. Those people are what keeps me going no matter what. Them and blue skies.
Tell us something you wish you had known early on.
Only you can know what is actually you.
Meaning: I heard a lot during my studies - and afterwards - from people telling me what I was supposed to do, or what I should be doing either to fit in what was expected of me, or expected in this particular art world I've chosen, what made sense for artists to be doing right now or even people telling me "it wasn't me" without that much more explanation or without them really knowing who I was. Sometimes it is a legitimate comment but most of the time I didn't understand it quite well and it hurt me and kept me from expressing what I actually did want to express.
We are all going through different journeys, taking different steps on different paths at different times and I think the best way to judge if you're actually doing what you want to do is to see if you're enjoying doing it! There's no better way to convey a feeling as an artist, to have people relate to you, than to feel happy when you're performing. If it makes you happy then maybe it will make others too and that to me is the greatest achievement you can get.
It takes a long time, and I am still only at the beginning of it, to know yourself, to know what it is that makes you special and that you want to tell the world. It's okay to take that time. It's necessary. I've been rushing too much trying to be what was expected of me, missing out on just enjoying and having fun with what I wanted and could do right now. So I don't think trying to be someone you're not, to fit to standards that don't fit you in order to please others or their expectations is ever helpful.
You got to want to know yourself but remember it's a journey and we're all still on it. Meanwhile it's still okay to be an artist in process. Aren't we always anyway?
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Or where would you like to be in 10 years? Is there a difference?
I am going to be an optimistic and hope that there is no difference but if there is, then maybe it will be for the best cos life would have surprised me once more and that might be the greatest gift not to know where I'll be in ten years.
I would like to still be performing as much as I can with whatever bands and in whatever styles make sense for me then. I'd like to have learned so much more, to have achieved new projects, maybe recorded new albums, formed different bands, write and play different instruments in different kinds of music. I'd like to keep traveling as much as I can and if possible touring especially in South America, and of course in Europe, which are both places very dear to my heart. I'd like to build more and more bridges between my music and my love for dancing, for yoga, meditation and self care in general, collaborating with my friends who are all talented artists too. I would love to find the place that makes me want to settle down and have my own studio where I could offer classes and concerts and mix up all those arts with a social approach to make it accessible to everybody. Keep working with children cause I do love that and they give me so much every day. Maybe having my own too but that's another type of project!
Have your priorities changed since you started?
Yes. As lots of people I think, I have been fooled by what the media tell us about success. I have been unconsciously looking for recognition before even working for it. I've been expecting things to happen without making them happen for myself first. I've been thinking that succeeding was making money, if not a lot of money, through one thing that would be one's art. And being famous for it of course . This kind of thinking is unfortunately the source of great delusion in our generation and of great disappointment, even depression for more and more young people. After working a lot, I think success as defined by western society is not my priority anymore. If it comes, good, but I'd rather learn first how to be okay without it. What matters for me now is to be happy in my daily life. To do a job that makes me and other people happy, that brings joy to my days and that I'm glad to go to in the morning. To share no matter with whom, where or when, or how many people, but to share with those you did touch, to hear them out. Maybe numbers don't matter as much, as long as you touched one soul.
How do you deal with judgment and criticism?
I'm still working on it ! Haha! I do feel way better accepting them for what they are from wherever they come and not let them overwhelm me or hurt me too much. I am myself a very critical minded person (or maybe just a French one!) so that's the least I can do.
I do think there's a difference between criticism and judgement though. Criticism can be very constructive and should be as honest and impartial as possible. It's having the other's best interest in mind so this kind is necessary and helpful to learn and to grow. Judgement is a morality matter or a liking matter that involve as much the other person as yourself so it's not always helpful nor kind minded.