Unfortunately, I didn't actually realize until college. And by that time, it seemed like I was way too far away to go back. Fellow artists would introduce me to others as a "dope pianist." That is a compliment, but would you ever introduce John Legend or Stevie Wonder to someone like that? Even Nina Simone or Harry Connick, Jr. (who are actually amazing pianists) would not be introduced like that. Promotions for my gigs said "featuring Orice Jenkins, pianist" even when I didn't plan on playing piano. My musical development was not revolving around the piano like it had been 4 years earlier, but nobody noticed or cared and I continuously found myself restrained to a piano bench. This conflict of musical identity caused a series of "life hiccups" i.e. depression, exhaustion, malnutrition, mediocre grades, failed relationships, and more depression from all of that. I could only find solace within my Savior Jesus Christ. I reworked the meaning of "Strong," one of the original ATP songs, into a gospel song. The words I wrote at 15 helped me through this period of my life. I took charge of my career. I stopped playing the background roles in my own shows. I successfully auditioned for the voice department in college. I showed up to gigs without keyboards, even if I was promoted as a jazz pianist. I took more guitar gigs. After a year of open mics and vocal jazz gigs, I realized there was still something missing. I was not one bit closer to my dream of thousands of people singing my lyrics. And now here I am, 6 years and dozens of songs into my career and I have yet to release a real project of my work. So I decided to breathe new life into ATP, using the things I've learned on this ridiculous journey. God doesn't make mistakes, so I must've been put through all of that for a reason, right? Honestly, I believe that my dream is dead. But that's not going to stop me from trying until I die with it. Please enjoy ATP: Extended Play, release date: Summer 2014. It's been a LONG time comin'!!! Orice Jenkins
2010 saw me broadening my horizons beyond R&B and Hip-Hop music. I learned the work of singer-pianists like Ray Charles, Nat "King" Cole, and Fats Waller because of virtual recommendations from Stevie, Marvin, and Alicia. I ventured outside of "black music" and learned Billy Joel, Elton John, Jamie Cullum, OneRepublic, and The Fray thanks to recommendations from former classmate, Chad Browne-Springer. Those influences are especially present in "Naturally," the youngest of the surviving songs from the original album. I wrote this song in one day, and recorded it with Chad the next day. Working that fast was a rare occasion, but this one poured out. While I was focusing on my music, everybody else around me was focusing on making me a successful jazz pianist. My album was ready to be recorded, but instead I released a solo piano CD and a jazz trio CD. These projects sold quickly and the keyboard gigs kept rolling in. I was asked to play at fancy events for famous people and important people in my community (notice that those are two different groups of people). I'm not sure when I realized I was FAR AWAY from what I originally intended to do with my music. By 2011, ATP hadn't been heard yet, let alone released. I think I realized when I told Chad that my dream was to look out at a crowd of thousands of people singing my songs. He asked how people would be able to sing piano notes…and that means I had been so closely associated with piano playing, that my closest friend forgot that my songs had words. Or maybe I realized when I was introduced to a celebrity at a musical theater gig, and she told me she was sure I'd be playing in a Broadway pit one day.
When I was in high school, I wrote an album of my songs that I wanted to present to the world as my first project. The original 14 tracks stemmed from a composition entitled "Around the Piano," and that became the title of the album. The concept behind ATP explores the power of the piano as a means for fellowship, music education, harmonic support, and the backbone of African-American music for the last century. I never hesitate to mention my admiration for Alicia Keys, but there were many other artists that inspired my love for the piano. Contemporary artists like John Legend, Kanye West, and Brian McKnight also used the instrument to aid their artistic expression. I learned all of their songs via YouTube instruction videos and practiced them whenever I had the chance to play a piano. There was one behind the band room of my middle school and I would sneak out during jazz band (which I played guitar in) to try it. I played "No One" (2007) by Alicia Keys, the first song I learned, and singers from the neighboring chorus room followed their ears and gathered around the piano. The same happened at rehearsal for my steel pan ensemble, at summer camp, on field trips, during math class (my Geometry teacher kept a random keyboard in her class), and at various church events. I was a child that felt alone most of the time and I believe that the ubiquity of the piano saved me. I learned that many of my classmates also learned to play songs from YouTube videos and I finally was able to bond with people my age. We sang. We harmonized. We danced. We laughed. We made stuff up. I went to school in a town FULL of extremely talented students which I realized as I started high school in 2008. By then, I was in love with classic soul singers/pianists like Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, and Marvin Gaye. I was also "in love" with a girl. The union of those passions resulted in the songs "I Wonder" and "Forever" which are the oldest surviving songs from the original ATP album.
The mass-murder in Newtown, CT has left a hole in the hearts of many members of the Hartford jazz community, the same people I refer to as my FAMILY. When I read that one of the victims was the daughter of Hartford-born, Hartt School alum, Jimmy Greene, I was overwhelmed with sadness, anger, and disbelief. In other words, I was hurting. Jimmy Greene is a well known saxophone player, and his work always satisfies my constant need for good music. The strength that his family is showing proves that Jimmy is a true hero of mine even outside the musical world. I pray for all 26 families directly affected by this disaster, including that of the killer. I can't see into the future, but I do know that in the end, Christ will take care of everything that needs taking care of.
Sleep in heavenly peace, Ana.