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Deborah J. Carter And Her Alphabet

The Maxim Gorky National Academic Drama Theatre in Minsk became the hosting stage for a concert dedicated to the work and art of the great Ella Fitzgerald. The Belarusian audience had the chance to enjoy the performance of Deborah J Carter – a world-renowned jazz vocalist who loves Brazilian music and cooking, mastered the xylophone as a child and thinks that an advanced musician is a multisensory one. As the concert was approaching Deborah told us about ‘dancing’ out of one’s mouth, happy unexpected events and important words.



There are so many wonderful adventures that I have lived in this musician’s life. What brought me there was not so much courage, but curiosity. Courage has taken me to places where only the courageous should be. Curiosity has allowed me to ignore the fear and just wonder what would happen.


As a jazz vocalist, I have many musical heroes. Very high on my list is Ella Fitzgerald. This world-renowned singer originally wanted to be a dancer, and ‘accidentally’ got into singing. Nevertheless, as she sang, those notes came ‘dancing’ out of her mouth. Rhythmically, she was incomparable. When I try to do the same, that’s when I get the most enjoyment out of singing.


That is the Spanish name for Spain. It’s the first European country I lived in. I arrived young enough for Spain to have enough influence on how I came into adulthood. Although I live in Holland now, it gives me great joy to be able to go to Spain (San Sebastian) twice a month to teach at one of its conservatories.



I love seeing examples of artistic generosity; how we musicians can take care and look after each other in situations where we’re actually expected to be in heated competition. My most favourite example of artistic generosity is when Tony Bennett finally realized his dream and established a school of arts in New York. He named it the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts High School. How can you do better than that?


Besides learning music from my Mom, the most amazing gift I got from her was seeing humour in the many things of life. I’m not a clown, but I do get a kick out of making my friends laugh now and then.


I isolated myself from my school mates quite a bit in my earlier youth. I sheltered myself in two things: books and music. Almost at the end of high school I managed to convince myself that living a life in music was something that other ‘special’ people got to do. I’m still surprised that I’m here doing this.


The main island in Hawaii, where I grew up. I was almost always barefoot; hiking, camping, climbing trees, body surfing, and stealing pineapples with my brothers until I was 14 and we moved to Japan. Obama also had that type of childhood, and look how far he got!



Those are the unusual and highly unexpected events that can happen in one’s live. My life’s journey is full of quirks; from visiting Spain for three weeks and staying there for 16 years instead, to living on a sailing yacht for 9 months with a man who is now my husband, and even becoming a singer who teaches. Lots of quirks!


It’s a word from Finland; an important word for me, which means ‘staying in the game’ and ‘not giving up’. I’m enjoying an interesting and fulfilling music life just because I’m still here, and I haven’t gone anywhere. At some point the doors I kept knocking on actually started opening.


It’s a great Japanese term that means buying more books than one can read. My husband and I are totally guilty of that! I love every book that I’ve purchased and when I’m home, after a morning walk I then try to read for some time while having breakfast. It usually takes about 30 minutes. For other moments of the day, I count on the digital books in my phone and tablet.


I love it in all areas, needing to have different meals everyday, perform different styles in music, have different colours to wear on stage, and sing my songs differently every time. Some people find comfort in having and doing the same things all the time, and I don’t judge them, but I would find that stifling and discomforting.



As of lately, I start my day with a walk through my very verdant neighborhood. I set out before breakfast, most times also with my husband, and we have a very sportive walk along the canals and meadows by our house. I greet the ducks, parakeets, herons, my favourite trees, etc. And I come home with a massive dosage of ‘happiness’ to start my day. When I’m working in Spain, I get to walk along San Sebastian’s ‘La Concha’ Bay to the school.


It’s quite a funny word to appear in an interview like this, but it’s a word I often use — especially talking to young music students about the creative process in performing. In making yogurt you leave a number of ingredients overnight and then the next day you wake up to find a semi-solid mass called yogurt. The process that occurs to make this come about is called ‘cohesion’. Cohesion is one of the most singularly important elements necessary for an optimum performance of a music ensemble. The quality of any concert is dependent on how well the musicians are connected — their cohesion.


That’s enthusiasm with a dose of passion. I say apply it to everything with the joy of a child. Even if your only job is to clear plates off the tables in a cafeteria. There are people who do it with zest. They are the happiest. It’s important to find the ‘sweet spot’ in everything you do.

With the assistance of Equilibrium ARTS concert and touring agency

Translation: Ann Pshenko

Photo: Alexey Kaznadey

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