BY SOPHIE BIRD
Janiece Jaffe always felt there was something inherently sacred about her voice, but she wasn’t always forthcoming about her vocal abilities. She preferred to keep her talent to herself. “It was my secret,” she says. “I went underground with it until later in my life.”
Although Jaffe, 58, is now an improvisational vocalist and sound healing practitioner, by the time she realized her dream of singing professionally she had worked as a preschool teacher for more than a decade. Then, at age 30 and raising four children, she realized she needed to make a change. “I woke up one weekend and said, ‘I have to sing. If I don’t sing, I’m going to regret it for the rest of my life,’” Jaffe recalls.
Shortly thereafter, she enrolled at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and began studying under jazz musician David Baker. She quickly learned to improvise to music without lyrics. “Because of David, I was able to expand my knowledge to a capacity I didn’t know I had,” she says.
As a sound healing practitioner, Jaffe uses improvisational chanting and the energetic vibrations of her voice to alter people’s consciousness, she explains. She employs Tibetan and crystal singing bowls as accompaniments. The healing properties of musical tones, she says, have an impact on people whether they know it or not. “They shift your level of consciousness and awareness of what’s possible.”
Jaffe’s résumé boasts performances nationally from New York to California to Hawaii. She has performed internationally in Canada, Brazil, China, and Japan. Bobby McFerrin and Freddie Hubbard are among the musicians she has joined in concert.
Locally, she has performed with a variety of musical artists including the Monika Herzig Group, the jazz trio daVida, Stardusters Big Band, and Curtis Cantwell Jackson. She has released 12 albums and been included on 25 others.
Although performing brings her great joy, she is more focused on sharing music with others than being in the spotlight. “I figured out a long time ago that it isn’t about me,” she says. “It’s about the music.”