By Erica Meus-Saunders
I first met and interviewed Anuschka back in the summer of 2009. I had gone to the Oyster Bar on this particular Sunday to listen to some Jazz music. Accompanying me were my cousin Tanya and my youngest sister Sophie who also enjoyed Jazz. We were in for a treat: Ronnie Butler was in the house, he got up and sang a few of his songs, following him was a young lady by the name of Anuschka. I was completely caught off guard by her voice; it was a strong, trained voiced and I was totally blown away. I decided then and there that she would have to be featured in Nu Woman magazine, and made contact shortly after her performance. She was featured in Nu Woman’s Fall 2009 issue.
Four years later, I got an opportunity to sit and talk with this young rising star who is hosting her first full Jazz concert this June in aid of schooling abroad to pursue her talents further.
Photography. ScharadL Photography. Hair. Aline Charles (Hair & Now). Make-up. Torkel Dawkins (Ts Artistry). Styling. Conesha Knowles.
Anuschka talks about her upcoming concert:
“Jazz in Bloom is my first Jazz concert attempt – a self-promoted event where I would be the headliner. It’s in conjunction with the fact that I’ll be going off to school this year and I wanted to do something different, and of course you are always looking for that support and monetary aid. I felt like doing a concert would be ideal and one of the best ways to show why I need support as an artist. It’s also a way to track my growth. I’m starting off and you get to see me, there is a reference point and I’m kind of selling myself at the same time. I feel comfortable in my art now. I can headline something; it’s kind of like taking people on this journey with me now.
NW: So what are you going off to study? Music?
NW: Where are you going?
A: There are a few schools I’m looking at. I’m applying to a school in New York; which is a hub for music, and I also found a school in Canada (Montreal), again a hub for music and they have one of the biggest Jazz festivals in the world. So it will be either New York or Montreal, so I’m very excited. With both schools come different opportunities. When I chose schools, where to go, the environment, as well as the program was a big part in my choices. I didn’t want to study music in a place where I didn’t have a place to practice it. So living somewhere in Oklahoma where you kind of have to search for a club (laughter) would not work. I’m done with my applications, they are already out and all my auditions are in. I’m excited!
NW: So how long was the application process?
A: The application was not that bad; I’ve been applying to schools before so a lot of the information that they needed I already had.
NW: Generally, what are they looking for?
A: Generally, they need references, some of the schools depending would ask about your musical background and work that you have done. But the application process is normally basic like any university; it’s only when you get into the music part of it, you have to worry about the auditions, but they give you a basic run down as to how the auditions should go. Some require video and some require just audio. So you have to be prepared for that.
NW: Is it a four year program or two year program?
A: It’s a four year program. It’s actually a Bachelor’s in Music.
NW: So just music in general?
A: Well, the first year is basically general information. But when it comes to specialization, I’m looking at going into the vocal performance section. What I like about these schools is that they focus on Jazz and have some really good Jazz programs, and some specialized Jazz courses. The school in New York, it’s the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. So I would be looking towards that specialized vocal course.
NW: So when are you leaving?
A: August, I’ll definitely be leaving.
NW: I’m excited for you! Are there sponsored programs or scholarships to any of these schools?
A: Some of the schools, as soon as you apply, your application acts as an admittance to their ‘Merit Program’. For example your audition tapes, etc… So yes, you will automatically be given that opportunity. But, music scholarships are not as easy to come by. You have to be really awesome, and even then there are some things you just have to be in the right circle. It’s hard now in this country to get a scholarship for even a regular profession (doctor, lawyer); it’s hard, so that’s another reason why I wanted to do the concert because you’re just not going to get handouts. I’ve been surviving as a full-time musician now for about 2-3 years so I know that I can make a living from this and I just want to.
NW: You have been performing with Jazz Etc?
A: Yes, Jazz Etc is my main band and I’ve had a lot of great experiences so far and that has encouraged me to seek international exposure, to get some more experience. I feel having this concert is a good thing, to be able to present myself as an artist, so people can stop asking, ‘what are you doing today’? (giggles)
NW: Tell me a bit more about the concert, when is it?
A: We have been working on it for a while now, and it’s set for June 16th and it will be at the Hilton in the Grand Ballroom.
NW: So what are tickets like?
A: Ticket prices, I don’t have the notes on that right now, but I can give you a general cost, starting tickets will be $60 – $65 for regular admission, we will also have ‘Reserved’ and ‘VIP’ tickets. But starting price will be $60-$65.
NW: You will be the featured musician, are any other artists performing?
A: It’s not going to be like a huge group of artists, there are a few persons on the ticket: vocalist Josh Lynes, vocalist Osano Neely, Bass Adrian D’ Aguilar, and on Saxophone Ralph Munnings from Freeport, Grand Bahama. But for the most part of the whole concert, I am the featured artist but will be backed up by Jazz Etc. I’m having two international guest musicians. I’m excited. It’s funny too because I heard some people tell me that they have never been to a full Jazz concert. In the Bahamas we always present ‘Jazz’ and something… ‘Jazz and R&B’. Even with Jazz Etc., we start out with Jazz and then go into a little pop at the end. So I’m excited to present that to the country.
Anuschka backed by the band Jazz Etc.
NW: So how long will the concert run?
A: It’s not going to be long. Cocktail hour starts at 7 p.m., the concert at 8 p.m. with a short intermission. We will probably be finished by 10 p.m. Yeah, you are going to get a different experience. The event will be semi-formal and will take place on Father’s Day. We want it to feel very cultured and rich; we want to take you someplace. That’s another one of our complaints in the Bahamas ‘we don’t have enough dressy events’. It’s another opportunity for people to come and ‘dress up’, dress nicely and mingle with people that enjoy the same things that they do. And it’s nice; people like to dress up, to experience something. I feel like this will be a great experience, and right before summer.
NW: It’s been a while since we last spoke, four years to be exact, in all that time I’ve seen your growth as an artist; what are some of the things that you have learnt?
A: My God, I’ve learnt so much. It’s been a blessing; I’ve kind of been thrown in head first. I was blessed to meet Adrian (Adrian D’Aguilar with the Jazz Etc band) and honestly he has been a ‘Godsend’; I praise his name and his works. He is such a good person and he really gave me a great opportunity early on. I didn’t really have that ‘looking for a job struggle’ that a lot of people had. Working with “the” Jazz band in the Bahamas, Adrian has introduced me to so many people. I met the guy who is coming down to play for me, through working with Adrian and I’ve met awesome international artists. To have the chance to play with them, to hear them, to ‘jam’ with them, just to talk with these guys, here in this little Bahamas…., he has introduced me to a little piece of New York. I didn’t have to go anywhere. I don’t think I would have gone into music full-time as quickly as I did if it wasn’t for these opportunities.
NW: Were you thinking about pursuing another career?
A: Yeah, I was thinking about becoming a surgeon and that was my focus, at that time, I did not have any other options. Having the chance to not only experience music in this way, in terms of knowing the little intricacies that go into it, knowing how to create on the spot, but also the fact that I have proof that I can live, and make a living from it, which is something that you don’t usually hear as a Bahamian who has a pull to the arts, I was blessed to have that option made real to me. So in terms of my growth as a musician and a singer, I can’t begin to start… Just stage performance, I’ve grown so much. I was not a front person when I started out. I am a background singer I would tell you (laughter), I would tell anybody. That’s where I’m comfortable. To get on stage and to talk to people and to be focus and to have the band looking to me for directions, oh my God! It only can be God because if it was my choice I would sing my nice little harmonies in the background all day long (laughter). So I’ve just been thrown headfirst into this and I’m grateful. I want to do this. I really have to thank Adrian and the guys I work with, some great musicians right ‘off the bat’, Ralph Munnings, Fred Ferguson, Neil Symonette, Kevin Dean… Like guys who you see and you hear, I KNOW them. I can actually call them my friends, they know me. I don’t think about it much I just live it. Now that I’m sitting down and thinking about the opportunities I’ve had it’s really just something I can’t put words to.
NW: How has your family support been through all of this?
A: Amazing. That’s another reason why I am where I’m at right now. I was allowed to explore these options. My mom has been a great support as you know; she is my little shadow, my grandmother as well. Some people took a little longer to convince, but they didn’t deter me. I think that’s another reason why Bahamians don’t branch out also because that family expectancy and pressure. Like I said we aren’t presented with a lot of options.
***Anuschka talks about some of the persons she would like to meet. ‘I’d like to meet Diane Reeves for sure, Christian McBride, oh there are just so many… Herbie Hancock… Quincy Jones. He has just made such an impact in music, in all genres.’
Published in Nu Woman’s Spring 2013 issue
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