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Bio


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Bio


 

 

ethnomusicologist

jazz scholar & writer

singer

 
 
 

My personal history is marked by transcontinental moves between my family's native country of Israel, and various temporary homes in the two coasts of the United States. It was in Cambridge, MA, in the first grade, while staying for a year in the New England home of a writer on leave, that the imposing grand Steinway & Sons sitting in the living room impelled me to my first music making experiences, alongside my first forays into the English language. It was in Emeq Hefer, Israel, in elementary and middle school, where I began to sing with the rigorous Efroni youth choir, under the direction of Maya Shavit, learning Hungarian and Yemeni folk songs, and Israeli art music. And it was in the Bay Area, in high school, where I was exposed to my first jazz records, and began singing arrangements of standards with an ensemble of my peers. 

While pursuing my studies at the University of California, Berkeley, I focused on jazz performance, and worked with pianist and composer Professor Myra Melford. At the Jazzschool (now also the California Jazz Conservatory) I worked closely with singer Laurie Antonioli, and pianist/director Susan Muscaerlla, leading my own band and participating in various side projects. At UC Berkeley I became increasingly interested in academic research and analytical writing, and worked under the guidance of professors Benjamin Brinner, Jocelyne Guilbault and Davitt Moroney. I graduated with a BA in music in 2011, with a thesis advised by Professor Benjamin Brinner and titled "Singing Amharic in Tel-Aviv: Ethiopians in Israeli Popular Music. " 

I moved to Cambridge, MA, to begin the ethnomusicology PhD program at Harvard in the Fall of 2013, working with professors Ingrid Monson, Kay Shelemay, and Vijay Iyer, among others. My writing has been featured in the Ethnomusicology Review's Sounding Board, and I've presented my research in conferences including those of the Society for Ethnomusicology, Rhythm Changes, and the EMP Pop Conference. From 2014 to 2016 I was the director of the Graduate Student Jazz Bands at Harvard, leading both a small ensemble and a Big Band. Since the Fall of 2016, I have been living in Brooklyn, NY, working on fieldwork for my thesis with the (working) title, "Politics of Radical Vocal Practices in Contemporary Jazz Scenes."

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Writing


Writing


Writing 

I've written for Ethnomusicology Review's Sounding Board, and have recently started contributing to The Jazz Gallery's blog Jazz Speaks. On this site, you can read my pieces on "Voice Talk."


 

Tamar Sella at Jazz Speaks

jazz speaks: a look inside the jazz gallery

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Music


Music


Music

Making music is no longer the centerpiece of my daily schedule. It used to be, when I was in Berkeley. And I'm still fortunate to have some people do it with me sometimes. 

"Down Here Below" is a dark and cavernous ballad, one of the many songs written by the amazing Abbey Lincoln. It was released on her 1995 album A Turtle's Dream, and later on Abbey Sings Abbey in 2007. As director of the Harvard University Graduate Student (Dudley) Big Band, I curated a program of songs by women singer-composers in jazz, invited three other singers and jumped in myself. Chase Morrin, pianist, composer, and one of the many brilliant Harvard-NEC brain-talents, arranged the pieces for our group. Dudley House, May 2016.

 

This piece from the 1992 album Natural Affinities led by the inimitable singer-composer-improviser Jeanne Lee, is another from the Dudley concert. This mega-collage piece, with lyrics by both Lee and Lao Tzu, includes poetic musings as well as anecdotes prodding at capitalism and militarism in the aftermath of the Cold War.  Joshuah Campbell is one of the more moving singers I've gotten to hear recently, as is superevident from his stunning text-based improvisation on this performance. Dudley House, May 2016.

 

Erika Oba is an awesome pianist, composer, and human. Here we are doing a duet of the Jimmy Van Heusen standard "Like Someone In Love," inspired a little bit by Björk's version with the harp on her 1993 album Debut. Jazzschool, Berkeley, CA, Nov 2011.

 

On top of loving the gorgeous richness of this John Coltrane ballad, I think I've always had an extra soft spot for it because of the nod to one of the women in Coltrane's life, and also the evocative double-meaning the title has in Hebrew , both "gentle" or "pleasant" and, as such, a "tune" or "melody." This was a little arrangement I wrote. Jazzschool, Berkeley, CA, Nov 2011.