If you haven’t seen award winning pianist Camilla Vaitaitis in person with such groups as The Sharp Five, or Specific Ocean, you might have heard her here on KUVO singing with the Ben Parrish Quintet (she has some mighty fine pipes).This graduate of the Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver holds a Bachelor’s degree in Jazz Studies & Commercial Music and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Jazz Composition also from Lamont.
Camilla has had the honor of playing piano for members of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Prince Harry. In 2016 & 2017, her group “The Vocal Jazz Messengers” received consecutive Downbeat awards for outstanding small vocal jazz ensemble. She was also selected as a featured musician in KUVO's 30 Under 30. I recently had a chance to interview her for our 31 Colorado Women who have helped to shape jazz. More info about Camilla is available at her website.
I wanted to find out from you who some of your Shero’s in Jazz are?
One of my biggest musical Shero's is Maria Schneider. I am currently getting my master’s degree in jazz composition and working on an album of all original big band music, so to have a role-model like Maria Schneider is a big deal to me. My biggest Shero's in jazz are my fellow jazz-women in the Denver community. This community of women is so supportive and encouraging, and I feel really grateful to know these strong, awesome people.
What got you interested in jazz?
I grew up with music and jazz around the house because my dad was a middle school band director. When I had the opportunity to participate in jazz band in middle school, I really loved it. This eventually led to participating in CCJA, which is when I got completely hooked at their summer "Jazz Bootcamp" and I realized that I wanted to pursue jazz in higher education and for my career. I can't speak highly enough of CCJA and the amazing work they do getting young musicians interested in jazz.
What inspires you about Jazz?
The biggest thing that inspires me about jazz is the freedom of the genre. As a composer, I love having the opportunity to write in so many different styles and instrumentations. Having so many options under the umbrella of "jazz" allows me not to ever feel limited by structure, tonality, rhythms, etc. I also love the community aspect that is inherent in jazz. Jazz generally demands that musicians all work together simultaneously to create something. I enjoy the freedom of improvising and the different roles played by members of the band to support the music that is happening in that moment. I am also very inspired by female musicians and educators in the jazz world who are making real changes and proving that women have a place and a voice in such a male-dominated genre.
What is your favorite jazz song and why?
It's very hard to pick just one song as a favorite, but my current favorite song to play/improvise on is Horace Silver's "Summer In Central Park". I love the harmony and 3/4 is my favorite time signature to play in. I love the beautiful laid-back melody as well.