Sandra Dudley is a versatile jazz vocalist who performs standards, bebop and original songs with a "pristine, horn-like clarity", writes Tim Carman, former writer of the Houston Post. "There's a husky resonance that gives her music a blue spirit, a kind of honest, lived-in quality that is both inviting and heartbreakingly human." "Jazz opens my heart to a spiritual experience. When I sing, I want to speak to the soul," says Dudley of her art.
Dudley, a native of Buffalo, New York, grew up with jazz all around her. Her father, an amateur singer, exposed her to some of the music of the great jazz singers and big band leaders. Her early childhood music studies included lessons on pop organ, piano and voice. Following high school, Sandra attended Fredonia State University where she studied classical voice and opera. While at Fredonia, she placed in the regional finals of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and finished with high merit in the NATS Competition at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Sandra was performing jazz along with classical in performances with the Fredonia Jazz Ensemble and the Fredonia Symphony Orchestra. "I felt I had the best of both worlds learning about classical and commercial. I was lucky to have hip teachers who would allow it. Both idioms feed off each other in so many ways." Upon graduation from Fredonia, Dudley attended Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York where she studied with world-renowned mezzo-soprano Jan DeGaetani. There she studied classical and twentieth century music, including jazz. "I took jazz history with pianist Bill Dobbins and learned so much about jazz from his stories and experiences." Upon graduation with her Masters in Voice Performance, Sandra performed jazz with the Eastman School of Music Studio Orchestra and began to sing in jazz clubs throughout New York. Teaching was equally important, and in the following years Sandra taught classical and jazz voice at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, Canada and music at the University of Houston in Texas. She is currently Assistant Professor of Commercial Voice at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee where she has taught applied voice, master classes and jazz vocal styles since 1995. She was the director of the jazz vocal ensemble "Jazzmin" from 1995-2008. She is the coordinator of undergraduate commercial voice and teaches applied voice as well as her own course in graduate commercial vocal pedagogy at Belmont as part of the Masters in Commercial Music program.
In 1994, Dudley made her national recording debut singing "Little Prayer" on an album entitled “Last Night When We Were Young: The Ballad Album” on the Classical Action label, produced by Fred Hersch. "All proceeds went to AIDS research. It was one of the warmest and most endearing experiences of my life thus far". The project also featured performances by George Shearing, Phil Woods, Toots Thielemans, Mark Murphy, and Gary Burton, among others. Dudley won a jazz songwriting contest sponsored by Jazziz magazine with her composition "Billie". She can be heard singing it on a compilation CD "Vocals on Fire", which was released in the February 1998 issue of Jazziz.
Sandra Dudley has been performing jazz for nearly three decades. While in Canada, she performed on CBC Radio and Television and in concert halls and clubs across the Atlantic Provinces. In 1993 Dudley became the feature vocalist for the Nelson Riddle Orchestra under the direction of Chris Riddle. "To sing the same arrangements that Frank Sinatra and Ella sang was a real thrill!" Dudley has performed at the Moncton Jazz Festival, Jazz at the Albright Knox in Buffalo, the Houston International Festival, the Texas Jazz Festival in Corpus Christi, the Tennessee Jazz and Blues Society's summer concert series, the Franklin Jazz Festival, and many others. Dudley was heard on National Public Radio in 1996 when her performance at "Jazz in June" from Oklahoma City was broadcast. She has performed with, among others, legendary guitarist Barney Kessel, Canadian pianist Oliver Jones, New York pianist Fred Hersch, saxophonist/flutist Bobby Militello, trumpeter Marvin Stamm, pianist/husband Bruce Dudley, Houston pianist Dave Catney, and Houston drummer Sebastian Whittaker. Sandra has been the featured singer with The Jazz Orchestra of the Delta under the direction of Dr. Jack Cooper. A CD with the Memphis based band called “Big Band Reflections of Cole Porter” was released June, 2003 on the Summit Label and received critical acclaim. Her first solo CD, “Close To You” was released independently on Bella Records also in 2003.
Sandra joined the jazz vocal quartet 3rd Coast Vocals in 2010; a Nashville based group under the direction of tenor/arranger, Jeff Hall. The group released their first self titled recording in 2011. The CD was one of the top recordings in Nashville that year according to the "Nashville Scene" publication. Since then they have entertained audiences in the south and was featured on the Jazz Educator's Network Conference in 2012.
Sandra's latest project with jazz pianist Lori Mechem entitled "All of My Life" was released in 2013 and can be heard on jazz radio stations across the country. This project is a tribute to the great lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman.
Sandra is currently writing a book on Vocal Pedagogy, as well as working on a new recording project of original music with her husband/pianist, Bruce Dudley.
Sandra Dudley is a dedicated jazz musician who believes in staying true to the art form. Her exuberant stage presence, sophisticated scatting ability, and tender ballad interpretations make her one of the most captivating performers on the scene today.