By Tracy Rasmussen
You’ve heard of fusion type music – Maria Damore is more smorgasbord.
With a solid foundation in musical theater Damore built on that with everything from opera to pop to jazz and back to musical theater again.
“I find it very interesting to be a cross-genre singer,” she said. “I enjoy everything about it.”
As the recipient of the 2022 Frank Scott Award, the Berks music community enjoys her, too. The annual award is sponsored by the Jerlyn Foundation and honors well-known Reading jazz saxophonist Frank Scott. Scott died in 1995 and the award has been given to notable musicians since 2005.
Damore is honored to be in their company.
“I was just floored,” Damore said of her reaction to the news. “I’m not strictly jazz, so I didn’t expect it. I think it is a great honor.”
Damore has been active in music her entire life from when she’d sing her way to school as a child. As a young woman she concentrated on musical theater, but as she got older she was drawn to other styles and discovered she could tune her voice towards those styles, too.
“I found that during the Berks Jazz Fest I could incorporate show tunes and jazz and the Great American Song Book. I have may interests,” Damore said. “I started to study jazz more and even with the improvisational part of it, there is still structure behind it. I started to really notice that structure and use it. It’s a great joy to learn the nuts and bolts and learn what happens behind the scenes.”
Damore will be receive the award April 6 during the SFJazz Collective concert at the Miller Center for the Arts. Tickets are $49 and the event is part of Get JazzED Night.
“I won’t be performing,” she said. “Maybe I’ll say a few words. I don’t know. I am just very thrilled.”
Damore will be performing with Marty Mellinger at Saucony Creek Franklin Station Brew Pub during their jazz brunch, April 9, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Upcoming performances are announced on her website, www.mariadamore.com.
Finding success in many different musical styles has allowed Damore to both continue and expand her career. Five years ago she opened her own voice studio and continues to share her love of music with children through various programs.
She is especially proud of the series of operas for young people produced through the Yocum Institute for Arts Education in concert with the Reading Civic Theater and Berks Opera Company. Shows have included “The Fisherman and his Wife,” and “The Bear Prince.”
Damore said there is tremendous satisfaction in bringing that type of music to children.
“I just get really fired up about how Berks County has so much to offer,” she said. “And I think that is great because it trickles down to the kids. They get an opportunity to see live shows and they are interested and enthusiastic. I think it’s really important to cultivate that.”
Damore continues to look for new and interesting ways to use her voice and her artistry and her ability to teach with her talent.
She’s currently working on a concert for Oheb Sholom that will feature Jewish composers.
“Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Steven Sondheim,” she said, listing them. “Kurt Weil, Andre Previn … There are so many.”
She’ll also toss in some opera and she is working on a special piece that was composed by Lori Laitman based on poems by children killed during the Holocaust.
“I love to research and find new things,” Damore said. “And when I heard this, it was just mesmerizing. It had to be presented.”
Although her career has become a smorgasbord of styles and tones and colors, she said it all still comes down to making beautiful music and a little girl singing on her way to and from elementary school.
“I was in the Reading school district and I just always loved to sing,” she said. “And I think I was always meant to be a teacher. I think that’s just who I am.”