city in the snow

traffic floats slowly down fluffy white streets lined with creamsicle traffic cones

high rises shoot up like spring crocuses

fur-trimmed hoods blow and swirl across crimson faces huddled together

bouncing and buzzing with electric charge

stoking embers from the last pub

restaurants crowned with neon glow red and yellow

their windows framing lovers

warm with wine and kisses


Jess' Favorite Music: 2018

I didn’t do my usual music zine best-of-list listen-thrus this year. I tried the more organic (read: less compulsive) approach of just letting Spotify and my friends recommend stuff. It felt a little lazy, but, man, Spotify really did a good job pointing me toward a bunch of great music, and my friends always have great taste. Here’s what played most:

Favorite Albums Released in 2018

  • Alina Engibaryan // We Are

  • Hablot Brown // Soulection Black Label: Hablot Brown

  • Louis Cole // Time

  • My Brightest Diamond // A Million and One

  • Parker Louis // All Good Things, Pt. 1 and 2

  • Snazzback // Hedge

  • Snowpoet // Thought You Knew

  • Tom Misch // Geography

  • Vulfpeck // Hill Climber

  • WILKES // Sam Wilkes

Favorite Albums Discovered in 2018 (Released Earlier)

  • Aaron Taylor // Better Days (2016)

  • Adult Jazz // Gist Is (2014)

  • Andrew Ashong // Andrew Ashong EP (2014)

  • Boom Clap Bachelors // Mellem Dine Laeber (2011)

  • Clarinet Factory & Alan Vitous // Out of Home (2010)

  • Dave Buker & The Historians // For Every Heartbreak (2015)

  • Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment // Surf (2017)

  • F.S. Blumm & Nils Frahm // Tag Eins Tag Zwei (2016)

  • Funkmammoth // Night Shift (2017)

  • Hobo Johnson // The Rise of Hobo Johnson (2017)

  • Joon Moon // Moonshine Corner (2017)

  • Kiefer // Kickinit Alone (2017)

  • Knxwledge // Hud Dreems (2015)

  • Lambchop // FLOTUS (2016)

  • Nico Muhly & Teitur // Confessions (2016)

  • Noam Pikelny // Universal Favorite (2017)

  • Nomo // Upside Down / Nocturne EP (2010)

  • Steve Hauschildt // Strands (2016)

  • Stoop Kids // Already Out of Time (2015)

  • Stro Elliot // Stro Elliot (2016)

  • WONK // Castor (2017)

CCM Institute 2018

The CCM Institute at Shenandoah University has become my home away from home. Since my first summer there in 2009, I've fallen in love with the people and the work. I went there to study contemporary vocal pedagogy, but I started my path as an artist there, too. 

On the surface, it is simply a place to learn how to teach popular music singing styles (the vast majority of academic programs don't touch them). But in the process of teaching how the voice works in these styles, the vast world of music is also being valued and affirmed as something beautiful and important and diverse and accessible. The teachers who attend are surprised to find themselves opening to the possibility that they've really wanted to sing this music all along, but weren't given the opportunity or the encouragement by their teachers. They open up. They try new sounds. They learn how to foster authenticity in singing and in artistic identity. They learn how to hold a safe space for developing artists, including themselves. By the end of the week, the connections are strong and plentiful. 

I was fortunate enough to be asked to join the faculty last summer. It's crazy to me that my name appears beside the vocal pedagogy giants on this team. They're so knowledgable AND so warm. After 10 years together, we're truly a family.  

The Faculty (L to R): Tom Arduini, Jackie Zito, Wendy LeBorgne, Julie Dean, me, Matt Edwards, Marcelle Gauvin, Edward Reisert, Kathryn Green, Marci Rosenberg, and Edrie Means Weekly. 

The Faculty (L to R): Tom Arduini, Jackie Zito, Wendy LeBorgne, Julie Dean, me, Matt Edwards, Marcelle Gauvin, Edward Reisert, Kathryn Green, Marci Rosenberg, and Edrie Means Weekly. 

Faculty Q&A

Faculty Q&A

Artistic Director Matt Edwards carries the bulk of the teaching for the week. Executive Director Kathryn Green works behind the scenes to make sure all of the logistics work. It's a gargantuan amount of work for both of them. I'm amazed by how they make it happen. 

The rest of the faculty teaches segments on their specialities (science, pedagogy, styles, improv, etc.) while also running breakout sessions and teaching private lessons. My responsibilities for the week included teaching breakout sessions on vocal function, giving private lessons, playing piano for all masterclasses and open mic nights, co-teaching a class on rock/pop styles, and co-teaching a session on commercial gigs, songwriting, and running a private studio. When we're not learning together, we're all hanging out, catching up, and getting to know each other, usually out by the pool at the hotel. It's a crazy, non-stop 9 days, but it's a blast from beginning to end. The collective energy keeps us going.

L to R: Julie Dean, me, Jackie Zito

L to R: Julie Dean, me, Jackie Zito

The Institute made a shift a few years ago to being a place where many contemporary singing approaches are recognized and discussed. Artistic Director Matt Edwards is passionate about the field being one where we learn from each other for the sake of the craft. The Institute began giving the Lifetime Achievement Award last year to people who've made major contributions to the contemporary vocal pedagogy field. 

This year, we honored the amazing Mary Saunders-Barton with that award. Mary teaches at Penn State, and started Bel Canto Can Belto, which was one of the first vocal cross training programs in the world. She also recently published a great book on vocal cross training with Plural Publishing. She was SO lovely in every way. Great teacher and wonderful person. Learned so much from her.

Mary led a wonderful master class with Institute participants.

Mary led a wonderful master class with Institute participants.

Happy faces after great dinner and conversation with Mary Saunders-Barton. 

Happy faces after great dinner and conversation with Mary Saunders-Barton. 

We also had Dr. Ysaye Barnwell of Sweet Honey in the Rock as our guest speaker on roots music. In addition to her great lecture, she led us in singing in African and African-American styles. 

For the first time, we had group singing as a part of each open mic night. It gives the participants a chance to just sing for fun. We're not always great about that in it was a breath of fresh air to do this with peers and colleagues. Thanks to colleague and dear friend Julie Dean for making that happen this year. Here's one of our group sings:

I was over the moon to meet vocal jazz composing/arranging/everything giant Greg Jasperse, who was a participant this year. The WV All-State Chamber Choir did one of his pieces a few years ago under the direction of Mike Engelhardt. The Institute got to experience Greg's amazing piano playing at the open mic nights and jazz masterclass, and he sang and played a beautiful reharm of Skylark at one of the open mic nights.

I also got to meet participant Carla Stickler, who plays Elphaba in Wicked on Broadway. Elphaba is always used as an example of extreme high belting in our videos, but this year we got to hear Elphaba in person, off-mic when Carla agreed to sing for usIt was eye-opening (ear-opening?) for everyone to hear what the voice is doing with and without amplification in "Defying Gravity."

And it's always a blast to serve as pianist for Sheri Sanders' master class. LOVE that woman. Her work in diversity and healing through the medium of musical theatre is astonishing.


It's tough to put into words all that makes that week great, but I hope that gives you a glimpse. The Institute is really special to me, so I wanted to make sure I shared it with you guys. :) Hope you're all having a great summer! 

Eric Gnezda & Jess Baldwin on NBC4 News in Columbus

Last year's Songs at the Center performance with Todd Burge, Bob Thompson, me, and host Eric Gnezda will air this summer! The 4th season premieres in just a few days on WOSU and around the country. Eric and Jess went on Columbus' NBC4 segment Columbus Music Makers this morning to talk about it.

WOSU airs Songs at the Center on Saturday nights at 11, right before Austin City Limits. WOUB just added it to their programming, so my Marietta fam can catch it, too!

Here's a direct link if the embed doesn't work for you.

Studio News: March 2018

Here's what our studio family has been up to so far in 2018!


All State Choirs


Charis Mace & Olivia Wilson

Charis and Olivia sang in the WVACDA Middle School / Jr. High All State Choir under the baton of Craig Dennison at the WVACDA Conference.


Philip Wilson

Philip sang in the WVACDA High School All State Chamber Choir under the direction of Dr. Marshall Haning at the WVACDA Conference. Only 8 singers are chosen for each voice part in this elite choir.




Anne O'Brien

Anne was cast in this summer's Peoples Bank Theatre production of Guys and Dolls.


Mary Rizzardi

Mary was accepted into the Ohio University Department of Music in the Vocal Performance and Pedagogy Master's program. Mary has been a music educator in the Cincinnati area for several years.



eric number ones.jpg

Eric Gnezda

Eric, creator and host of the nationally syndicated television program, Songs at the Center, has been recognized as “A National Number One” by The Columbus Foundation

Photo by Mitchell Multimedia



Mikhal Grueneberg

Mikhal was selected as a contestant in PBS's Celebration of Music. The winner will perform with Ethan Bortnick at Lincoln Theatre in Columbus. Vote for her here!

Jared Mahone

Jared has been nominated for "Best Local Solo Musician" in (614)'s ColumBEST. Click here to vote! You'll find him under People and Community.

Kenzie and Lyanna Smith

Kenzie and Lyanna were selected as contestants in PBS's Celebration of Music. The winner will perform with Ethan Bortnick at Lincoln Theatre in Columbus. Vote for them here!




Audrey Sundstrom, Emily Verdill, Olivia, Philip, and Samuel Wilson

All five participating studio members received superiors at the WV Region V Solo & Ensemble Festival: vocalists Sam Wilson, Olivia Wilson, Philip Wilson, and Emily Verdill, and pianist Audrey Sundstrom (not pictured...had to run to an equestrian event!).

Olivia and Sam were asked to submit recordings of their performances to the State Recital Committee, and Sam was chosen as a finalist. He'll perform on March 9 in Charleston, WV on at the WVMEA State Recital during their annual conference.

Philip will perform on the Marietta College High School Honors Recital as a result of receiving a superior rating.


Mikhal Grueneberg

Mikhal Grueneberg won 1st place in Level 1 of the Marietta College Piano Sonatina Festival. Pianists Audrey Sundstrom and Maggie Morris also participated and played beautifully.


Victoria Humphrey

Victoria Humphrey received a superior rating on her performance at the OMEA Solo & Ensemble Festival. Ahni Geogerian and Grace Tenney received excellent ratings.

Victoria will perform in the Marietta College Honors Recital in March as a result of receiving a superior rating.




Victoria Humphrey and Maeghan O'Neill

Victoria Humphrey (Fiona) and Maeghan O'Neill (Pinocchio) performed in Marietta High School's production of Shrek March 2-4.

Photo by Erin O'Neill


Edain Campbell, Charis Mace, and Sophia D'Eramo

Edain Campbell (Chava), Charis Mace (The Fiddler, Ensemble) and Sophia D'Eramo (Shprintze) are in the Actors Guild of Parkersburg's production of Fiddler on the Roof March 9-11 and 16-18. Get tickets here. 

Photo by Wayne Towner


Lyanna Smith, Kenzie Smith, Jerra Johnson, and Jack Tindall

Lyanna Smith (Annie), Kenzie Smith (Pepper), Jerra Johnson (Orphan), Maddie Graham (Orphan), and Jack Tindall (Ensemble) are in the Marietta College production of Annie, April 6-8 and 14. More info here.



Nicki and Chaz.jpg

Nicki Baker & Chaz Mechenbier

Nicki & Chaz traveled to Nashville to record originals with Grammy-winner Frank Myers as producer. You can hear one of those new tunes here. They're headed back into the studio this week and will have an EP release celebration on Saturday, March 24 at King Avenue 5 in Columbus.




Tony Alfano

Tony's most recent tour with Phil Dirt and the Dozers included a week performing on Royal Carribbean's Freedom of the Seas and lots of stops in Florida. You can catch Tony and the rest of the band in Ohio and surrounding areas in the coming months. 


Jared Mahone

Jared Mahone was a SOFAR (Songs from a Room) performer in Akron, Ohio. Here's his new tune "That Moment" from that performance.

Jared tours regularly on the national college and house concert circuits. He'll be one of the featured presenters at the Columbus Songwriting Workshop on March 24, teaching a class on house concerts and alternative ways to get your music heard. Grab your tickets here.



Jared TV.jpg

Jared Mahone

Jared Mahone was featured on an episode of American Public Television's Songs at the Center in January. 

Jess' Favorite Albums of 2017

Here's the playlist.

Here's the list in alphabetical order:

After Laughter // Paramore
All Flowers // Space Captain
Amar Y Vivir // La Santa Cecilia
Beyond the Years EP // Diggs Duke
Dayyyyyyy // Diggs Duke
December Avenue // Tomasz Stanko New York Quartet
Drunk // Thundercat
Echolocations: River // Andrew Bird
Elevate // 30/70
Everybody Works // Jay Som
French Kiwi Juice // FKJ
From Deewee // Soulwax
The Gold String // Devon Sproule
Good for You // Aminé
Halo // Juana Molina
I // Niia
Jardín // Gabriel Garzón-Montano
Joan Shelley // Joan Shelley
The Kid // Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith
Kõrvits: Moorland Elegies // Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
Ladilikan // Trio Da Kali and Kronos Quartet
Laila's Wisdom // Rapsody
Last Leaf // Danish String Quartet
The Lonely, The Lonesome, & The Gone // Lee Ann Womack
Métropole // Anomalie
Mr Finish Line // Vulfpeck
No Shape // Perfume Genius
Onism // Photay
Out of Land // Emile Parisien, Vincent Peirani, Andreas Schaerer, Michael Wollny
Painted Ruins // Grizzly Bear
Palabras Manuales // Danay Suáres
Passin' Thru // Charles Lloyd New Quartet
Planetarium // James McAlister, Bryce Dessner, Sufjan Stevens, Nico Muhly
Process // Sampha
Pure Comedy // Father John Misty
Remembrance // Diggs Duke
Twin Solitude // Leif Vollebekk
Villains // Queens of the Stone Age
Yes Lawd! // NxWorries

Heavy Rotation: Spring 2017

Hey guys! Here's what I listened to a lot this Spring. As always, songs on these playlists may be explicit. The link:


I heard "Slow Rider" live when Mountain Stage came to Peoples Bank Theatre here in Marietta. It was my favorite tune of the night. Bridget Kearney (member of Lake Street Dive and Joy Kills Sorrow) and Benjamin Lazar Davis pulled in some African influences, including a special African guitar and a great mid-song meter-perception shift.

Some of my favorite artist discoveries this Spring were Lawrence, Sarah Jarosz (who will be touring with Punch Brothers, another favorite), Sampha, and Shuggie Otis.

I love knowing what people are listening to, so please feel free to share a playlist of your current faves in the comments!

Also, if you want to join in, I'm doing the #30daymusicchallenge on Twitter. Follow me there @jesskbaldwin

Singing with the River Cities Symphony Orchestra

I was honored to be asked to sing as a guest artist with the River Cities Symphony Orchestra for their Spring Pops Concert. We put together some fun early musical theatre tunes from the 30's and 40's. There's absolutely nothing like singing these great standards with a full orchestra. I had a blast! Thanks to Maestro Bob Turizziani and the rest of the RCSO for a wonderful experience.

And a special thanks to audio engineer extraordinaire Paul Flaherty for recording and running sound that evening. 

on deck at rehearsal for tonight's gig with river cities symphony orchestra at @peoplesbanktheatre

A post shared by Jess Baldwin (@jesskbaldwin) on

#dressingroomselfie #onehourtoshowtime

A post shared by Jess Baldwin (@jesskbaldwin) on

Songs at the Center Taping Pics

The taping of Songs at the Center was such a great experience! What a fantastic opportunity. Congrats to Eric Gnezda, Todd Burge, and Bob Thompson on their great performances. What a trip to share the stage with people of their caliber. Thanks to Eric Gnezda, Jack Fitzgerald, Karen Claborn, and the rest of the wonderful crew at both Songs at the Center and Peoples Bank Theatre for their hard work in making this show happen.   

I'm not sure when or on what stations the taping will be aired, but I'll let you all know as soon as I do!

Finally, thanks to Dan Mitchell (Mitchell Multimedia) for these fantastic photos! Dan specializes in live music photography and is based in Columbus.