Jenna Monroe

Biography

A rock and a hard place

Jenna Monroe was born in Michigan and raised in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of north-eastern California. Of Cornish, Irish, English and Native American descent, she was raised in miners shacks and mountain cabins. The raw beauty and reality of Jenna's surroundings and circumstances, together with her father`s work in the local state prison, had a lasting influence on her. As did the Native Americans, living as a marginalized shadow population just beyond the town limits on the rancheria (reservation). Yet, from an early age, Jenna listened to folk songs and opera with her mother and it was this music that offered an alternative reality to her often brutal social and physical environment.

An ivory staircase

Jenna first learned piano and then fell in love with singing after hearing the Nevada Opera Company. Graduating a year early, she was offered a full scholarship to study piano at the Ghent Conservatory of Music in Belgium. Continuing her study at the Indiana School of Music, Jenna was offered a choral scholarship to train with the director of the Nevada Opera Company. While completing her degree at University of Nevada, Jenna sang in the Nevada Opera Chorus as well as performing minor roles.She also sang as a soloist with the Reno Chamber Orchestra and played with both the Reno Symphony and the Nevada Ballet Orchestra as an orchestral pianist. After graduating, she was offered a full academic scholarship to pursue a master`s degree in music theatre at Arizona State University.

Stepping out

But Jenna packed her bags after only one term of her M.A. and came to the UK to join her sister, an officer in the Air Force. Working for seven years as a liturgical musician, she continued to train privately in London, completing an eight-month opera course with I Commediante. During this time she gave recitals, did concert work and toured with London Opera Players. She also departed from her classical repertoire for the first time, singing a series of concerts that included show tunes. This proved a turning point as Jenna began exploring jazz, avant-garde shamanic improvisation, folk and blues-related music.

The Healing Power of Voice & Music

Jenna`s interests further broadened to include the healing power of music and the voice. Always with the voice as the central focus and motivational force, she has completed non-traditional movement studies, a foundation training in Buddhist-based core process psychotherapy, Reiki, and a post-graduate qualification as a music therapist from University of Bristol. Also with a training as a Steiner teacher, Jenna has practised yoga and movement with leading practitioners. Now she is a freelance workshop facilitator and teaches singing both privately and with performing arts students.. Having trained for four years with leading sound healer/music therapist, Peter Wright (exploring the psycho-spiritual application of the voice), she has also delivered voice and movement workshops to adults living with backgrounds of extreme abuse, trauma and neglect in an NHS therapeutic community.

A love of the Earth

Jenna`s Native American roots imbued her with a deep love and respect for the Earth and she was active in the Newbury Anti-Bypass Campaign, co-organising and coordinating the music and singing for the Multi-Faith Act of Witness to peacefully protest the destruction of ten thousand trees. As a result of this event, the only tree of ten thousand - Middle Oak - was spared. Jenna is also an exponent of shamanic improvisation, in both performance and recording, and was commissioned twice by Dance House East to create the music for avant-garde dance.

Beauty from ashes

In 1999, Jenna formed an eclectic roots-fusion ensemble Aanii performing music from all over the world. Since then she has recorded a collection of slave songs accompanying herself in unique and arresting arrangements. In performance, she combines them with jazz standards, ballads, and shamanic improvisation and continues to move and inspire her growing audience.

"Her vocal technique underpins the beauty of her delivery, but it is the soulful quality of her repertoire and willingness to sing with her whole being that brings her work to life in a unique way. This is someone who has lived and suffered, but turns life experience into an artistic offering for others to be changed by."

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