Jazz Singer Enters the Executive Office

Paul Collins

Unfortunately, like a lot of people, I know very little about some of the women of jazz whose talent has left an indelible impact across multiple generations, excepting Peggy Lee, the legendary Billie Holiday and the great Ella Fitzgerald. For to not have an awareness of such immense talent like those pioneering jazz artists, one would have to have been living under a rock. The thing is, I’m one who grew up in gilded age of rock ‘n’ roll and folk. I was raised on the timeless music of the Beatles, Stones, CSN&Y and, of course, the genius Bob Dylan. 

That being said, regardless of the particular genre, I do know real vocal and musical talent when I hear it, and recently I heard it loud and clear when I discovered a dazzling jazz gem in the person of local singer, songwriter and pianist, Amanda Carr. Simply put, she has a singing voice that is as pure and pristine as a carpet of freshly fallen snow. Wavering between intimacy and raw emotion against an underpinning of smooth, piano-led musical arrangements, her voice wraps around a listener in a way that evokes images of smoky-voiced club singers from long ago and far away. It’s a bit like watching Clapton launch, effortlessly, into amazing guitar solos that nobody else can come close to matching. The truth is that, in an instant, the jazz neophyte who is the writer of this article became an Amanda Carr fan.

Now, the twice-nominated Jazz Artist of the Year of the Boston Music Awards is taking the reins of management as the newly minted executive director at Worcester’s WICN Public Radio, an NPR affiliate station.

“It’s an honor to be taking on this new and exciting leadership position,” she said. “This station gave me my first interview as a jazz artist over 20 years ago, and I have been a loyal contributing member ever since, with a closeness to many of the hosts and staff. I’m looking forward to being an integral part of the emerging and exciting Central Massachusetts arts scene with WICN.”

Born in Boston and raised in Hingham, music is definitely in Carr’s DNA. Her grandmother was a vaudeville performer in the ’20s; her mother, Nancy Carr, sang regularly at the storied Totem Pole Ballroom along the Charles River; and her father, Nick Capezuto, was a veteran trumpet player who played with the legendary Glenn Miller and his big band. So one can easily see how her real-world experience and local celebrity status lends itself perfectly to the position of executive director of a jazz radio station like WICN.

Asked about what she sees as being the most daunting challenge facing her in transitioning from stage performer to business executive, she answered, “Having to know so much about everything. Although I have created a nonprofit in the past, it’s a big challenge to coalesce all the data necessary to make key programing decisions or lasso the financial aspects.

“Although raising money is daunting, I believe in the mission of this station to preserve the airing of jazz music with informed, live, on-air hosts so much that asking for funding and support from larger donor sources feels achievable.”

In sharing her thoughts on where she wants to take WICN going forward, Carr offers-up a philosophical approach. “My short-term goal is to add a recording studio element to our performance studio. My long-term goal is to have a strong and diverse web presence with a lot of original content that people can engage in – podcasts, concerts and other performances.”

Clearly, she is a talented woman whose intellect and business-savvy dovetails with her enormous musical talent. Carr has a challenging road ahead of her in her new role; however, she can laugh about it. When asked what she likes to do for fun in her spare time, she jokes, “What fun? What spare time?”

In the final analysis, in bringing Carr on-board, WICN has bolstered its senior management chain with a proven individual who has walked the walk and who can talk the talk. A woman who across her career seems to have always been much more a leader than a follower. A vocal stylist who has breathed new life into traditional jazz and has always kept ahead of the also-rans in the competitive pack.

WICN seems to be in very good hands.

Paul Collins is a freelance writer from Southborough. 

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