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.



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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

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#dressingroomselfie #onehourtoshowtime

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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.

This Week: TV Show Taping, Jess in the News


new #original on deck for taping Apr 22 at @peoplesbanktheatre #singersongwriter

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It's a big week. This Saturday is the (FREE!) taping of Songs at the Center TV. It's broadcast to over 150 public television stations, and it's being taped at Marietta's beautiful Peoples Bank Theatre. I'm so honored to share the stage with WV jazz legend and Mountain Stage pianist Bob Thompson, WV's favorite troubadour Todd Burge, and singer-songwriter host Eric Gnezda. I've worked up two new originals just for the occasion. Here's a sneak peek at one:

You can reserve a seat in advance here.

We just had a broadcast of Mountain Stage recorded here, too. I never imagined I'd get to walk a few blocks down from my small-town house to experience stuff like this. I get to end the weekend watching Kurt Elling and Branford Marsalis on the SAME STAGE the very next day. Front row. Is this real life?


I was also honored to be part of a series our local papers are doing on artists in the area. Here's the Parkersburg version. And here's the Marietta one.


If you want to get these posts in your email inbox, subscribe here!  

Hope you've all had a great week! See you Saturday!

Spring and Summer Preview

Here's what's on the docket so far for spring and summer:


Apr 22: Songs at the Center TV Taping

I'm so honored to be sharing the stage with Todd Burge, Bob Thompson, and Eric Gnezda for a taping of Songs at the Center, which is viewed on over 150 American Public Television stations. We'll be sharing originals in the round. This performance is free and open to the public, thanks to the Ohio Arts Council, and is part of the new Brick Street Arts Bash that's happening that weekend in Marietta. More info here.

May 20: Soloist with River Cities Symphony Orchestra

I'll be the guest soloist for the River Cities Symphony Orchestra Pops Concert, singing some hits from mid-century musical theatre.  

Aug 23: Jess Baldwin Quintet at Lakeside Chautauqua 

My quintet will be performing at lovely Lakeside Chautauqua! I'm excited to be performing again with Sean Parsons, Ryan Kennedy, Andy Hall, and our newest addition, John Inghram.


Columbus Sessions

I'll be in Columbus the second weekend of each month. If you're a gigging singer in the Columbus area, click here to schedule a spot.

May 16: 1 Year Anniversary of Commercial Voice Resources Launch

May 16 will mark a year since the launch of my website Commercial Voice Resources, which is for teachers who work with singers in commercial and popular styles. I'm excited about the great master teachers slated to write guest blogs and do interviews for the coming year. 

June 4: Presenting at Voice Foundation Symposium

The Voice Foundation is an international organization made up of voice scientists, doctors, therapists, teachers, and other professionals. At its annual Symposium, I'm presenting the results of two surveys I'm conducting with Kat Reinhert and Matt Edwards. Through this research, we hope to....

  • encourage the study and performance of popular genres of music.
  • help high school and private music educators better understand the programs when advising college-bound music students.
  • help post-secondary institutions better prepare future educators (particularly voice teachers) to teach in the programs.

June 14-17: Presenting at Association for Popular Music Education Conference

APME exists to empower music educators who include popular music in their curriculums. I'll present the two popular music program studies at this conference, and I'll also be giving a vocal technique workshop.

July 15-20: Teaching Assistant at The New CCM Vocal Pedagogy Institute

The CCM Institute provides a foundation of instruction for people who sing and teach voice in contemporary commercial genres of music (non-classical music). Most college programs only teach classical singing, and the CCM Institute is one of the few programs where the science and voice function behind other genres is taught. I've studied at this institute since 2009, and I'm thrilled to be a part of it this year.


Winter Review

Spring is right around the corner, and I have some big news to share about the upcoming months, but first I wanted to catch everyone up on how I spent my winter. For me, winter tends to be about resting, planning, and preparing for the rest of the year. I always have this fear that I'm not doing enough during those winter months, but as soon as March rolls around, I realize it's just the calm before the storm. :)

Dec 4: Ohio Music Award

My single El Scorcho brought home the 2016 Ohio Music Award for Best Cover Song! It's now sitting happily beside its sister 2014 OMA for "One Little Song."

Dec 9: Peoples Bank Theatre Gala

I was so honored to sing in the one-year anniversary gala for our beautiful Peoples Bank Theatre! Once again, Scott Kitchen did a great job leading the house band with guest singers from around the region. So proud of the PBT and all of the people who have made it a success!

Jan 7: Guest Blog

Our great local music zine Hold the Note featured me as guest blogger on the topic of keeping your voice healthy in the wintertime.

Feb 20-24: American Traditions Competition

I had a great week in Savannah competing and hanging out with 27 great singers from across America in the American Traditions Competition. My journey ended at the quarterfinals, but I enjoyed listening to such wonderful voices all week. Hearing Andrew Lippa in the judges' concert Monday evening was a particular treat.

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A unique feature of the competition is the opportunity to stay with a host family. I fell head over heels in love with mine. Quick-witted Wellesley girls Carol and Liz kept me and fellow contestant Missy Wise (winner of the 2016 NATS Musical Theatre Competition) in stitches. Sweet Ali was the definition of a gentle-man. They made sure our bellies and our wine glasses were always full. They have lived the most amazing and fascinating lives, which could easily have filled every conversation, but they kept the focus on me and Missy, showing genuine interest in our lives and making us feel supported and cared for the entire week. I couldn't have asked for more. 

Many of you have asked about what my song selections looked like. We had to choose 9 songs in 9 different categories/genres and space them over three rounds of competition. Here was my program:

  • Quarterfinals
    • Jazz: Quiet Whiskey (Wynonie Harris)
    • Johnny Mercer: Autumn Leaves (Johnny Mercer/Joseph Kosma)
    • Country/Folk: One Little Song (Gillian Welch)
  • Semifinals
    • Gospel: Road Trip (Kirk Franklin)
    • Blues: Crossroads Blues (Robert Johnson)
    • Hollywood: Go the Distance from Hercules (Alan Menken/David Zippel)
  • Finals
    • Pop/Rock: Best of My Love (Maurice White/Al McKay)
    • Cover Song: Over the Rainbow (Harold Arlen/E.Y. Harburg/arr. Baldwin)
    • Musical Theatre: Don't Rain on My Parade from Funny Girl (Jule Styne/Bob Merrill)

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Feb 23: On the Radio

I was so honored to have my cover of John Lennon's "Beautiful Boy" on WV Public Radio in February! Thanks to host Jim Lange for putting it on his wonderful show Eclectopia. And thanks again to Ryan Kennedy, Paul Flaherty, and Andy Hall for making it happen.

Mar 3: West Virginia Music Educators Association Conference

I led a workshop for choir directors on helping singers be more versatile. We had a great time making some crazy sounds together. I really love working with teachers! They're so passionate about learning and helping their students.

Mar 6: Show Choir Workshop

Had a great morning coaching singers in Ravenswood's Rave Revue Show Choir. We worked on getting more power and energy into their bodies and their sound. They won 1st place in their class the following weekend! Congrats Rave Revue!

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Spring is almost here!

Like I said, there are some really exciting things coming in the next few months, so stay tuned! Click here to subscribe to the blog!