Part of the beauty of jazz improvisation lies the serendipity of the unexpected. In the case of singer Tyrha Lindsey and the Waco Jazz Orchestra, the unexpected led to her appearance as guest vocalist for Saturday’s WJO concert at the Waco Hippodrome.
Lindsey and a friend attended a downtown Waco jazz gig by pianist Dave Wild and saxophonist Greg Bashara late last year. The two musicians, informed that she had a background in jazz singing, invited her to join them for a couple of songs, which she did.
They soon spread the word to the WJO that a singer with considerable talent had moved to Waco. Fast forward to Saturday night, when Lindsey will join the WJO in “Jazz Goes To The Movies,” a program of film music at the Waco Hippodrome.
For the forty-something Lindsey, a clinical assistant professor of marketing in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business, the singing date puts her back on stage and in front of an audience — something she’s done in one way or another for much of her life.
The daughter of a classically trained singing mother and a father with experience as a DJ for a college jazz radio program, the Cincinnati native was immersed in the arts from the get-go. “I have been performing all my life,” she said.
She studied at a performing arts high school in Cincinnati and was headed toward the stage — “I was trained as a triple threat: singing, dancing and acting” — until her father demanded something with more job security. “Dad wouldn’t let me be an actor,” she admitted.
She went to Northwestern University where she earned a B.S. degree in radio/TV/film, all the while using her arts training on the side. “Instead of work-study, I could make more money performing,” she said.
Lindsey next went to the West Coast where she trained to be a studio executive, working at NBC, then Creative Arts Agency. All the while, she worked to build her own career as a jazz singer. She recorded her own album, “everlasting,” and sang with the group Emanon, which performed in Japan.
Eventually, doors proved harder to open for a career as a jazz performer. “Lots of people don’t want to take a chance in promoting a jazz vocalist,” she said. “A lot of time, you have to go international.”
She opted instead for academia, building on an MBA from Claremont Graduate University to finish a doctorate in business at Rutgers University. That path led her and husband Sidney Warren from New York to the position at Baylor University last fall — and that chance to sit in a downtown Waco gig.
For Saturday’s “Jazz Goes To The Movies,” the WJO’s third Hippodrome concert, she’ll sing a mix of Duke Ellington, George Gershwin and the like, with the 20-player Waco ensemble adding numbers from “Rocky,” “The Way We Were” and “All That Jazz.”
“It’s a mixture of old school and, well, medium school,” she said. “It should be a lot of fun. All these men and Tyrha, jammin’.”