JVOICE (Jazz Vocalists Offering Instructional Curriculum for Education)
Interview with Kathy Kosins: Just 9 Series
JVOICE (Jazz Vocalists Offering Instructional Curriculum for Education) Kathy Kosins (www.kathykosins.com/ ) has a husky warm voice; she is a composer, lyricist, a painter, she sings jazz, scat sings and also performs R&B. I’ve known Kathy Kosins for several years and always loved her sound, but what is most inspiring is Kathy’s entrepreneurial spirit. Her workshop: “Gainful Employment and Hustling the Gig” has been booked in over fifty universities in the U.S. and she records for Mahogany Records (Kevin Mahogany’s label) , which is returning to the old fashioned concept of sending, ‘a single track’ to radio, just like the old days. Remember single disks?
1. Kathy – When did you know you were going to be a singer and were you always focused and driven?
I never really knew I would be a singer..It just morphed...
I saw Hair on Broadway in the 60's as a teenager, grew up in Detroit during the Motown years ( singing loudly with Marvin Gaye on the radio) and in my early 20's sat in on a Sunday jam session at a seedy bar ( The Red Carpet Lounge) for about a year... The core band was made up of funk, jazz and rock guys.. They could play anything. I wasn't focused at all, just wanted to sing.. The first song I learned to sing in front of an audience was 500 Miles High ( Flora Purim).. Eventually I auditioned for a Top 40 band and got the gig.. I was about 21, 22 Years old.
15 years later, I found myself still in various bands, both Top 40 and a society big band, writing my own songs by ear for other people that had record deals and also doing radio and tv spots, and also singing backups for Michael Henderson and Was/Not Was.. I also managed to get a publishing deal, so I got paid for writing, whether or not the songs got cut by an artist.
I was somehow getting used to doing so many things at the same time and that was the beginning of being able to multi task... something which I have mastered and I could not be successful with out that skill.. Now I am totally focused on my career and all of it's facets.
2. Did you study piano and jazz theory?
I never studied voice or Piano.. I played a little piano by ear and used it as a writing tool. I never studied theory.
3. I read on JVOICE that you never warm up. Did you study voice technique or were you naturally gifted?
I did not study voice and though people told me I had the family gift... I really had to work my ass off at getting where I am today...( Same with my Painting) No one taught me.. I recorded myself a lot and learned from my mistakes and challenged myself to learn difficult songs, even if I did not care for them... Eventually ( 25 plus years later) I finally have some serious credentials under my belt.. but I have also paid a ton of dues and continue to do so.
4. When did you start writing music?
I started writing in the late 70's and Laura Nyro was my sole inspiration. I think she was one of the best songwriters of the 20th century..
5. How did you develop your “Gainful Employment and Hustling the Gig” workshop? How long did it take you to create this winning program?
I developed my Gainful Employment clinic after having attended an IAJE in California in about 1998/99.
I went there to hustle myself as a big band singer to Jazz Studies Professors at various Universities, so I could be a perspective guest artist... and came back with about 50 business cards...( which I eventually put to use!)
Then I sat quietly and re capped the convention with the realization that what was missing form these institutions was how to be street smart in addition to being book smart.
I put materials together, to show the students a step by step on how to go after gigs and how to follow up. ( very detailed I might add)
It is simply a templet for what I myself have lived by.
If one student out of 30 gets it.. then I feel like I have done my job. However unfortunate it is, most students will never hustle and be an artist at the same time.. It takes a special skill and I am thankful that it has served me well.
In addition, I have two other music clinics and an art clinic. ( see my clinics page on my website)
6. Did you start your business by setting a time everyday to call the universities one by one and inquire who runs the jazz programs and then send promo packages? This is hard time consuming work!
Yes.. and I spend about 5-6 hours per day calling and putting packages together and mailing them and then following up. I haven't had a social life in quite some time between the hustling and the performing!
I send about 300 packages a year and get about 12-15 percent on my return.. If I get a "No".. I keep going back over old ground year after year until I get the gig... I am relentless and it is paying large dividends.
7. What are the key elements of your workshop in a nutshell that you would like to share about gaining employment in today’s tough market?
No one will be calling you.. so work the phone for as many hours a day as you can spare.
Since not making the calls is an automatic "NO" then you have nothing to lose by making those calls...
Be prepared to be rejected and rise above it and know that if you get 5 rejections, the 6th might be a "Yes" so do not quit
Most important.. you must offer the presenter a program that matches the audience that they are attempting to serve.
8. Tell me about Mahogany Records new concept of shipping ‘singles’ to jazz radio and what the benefits are to you ?
Mahogany Digital's goal is to determine( through radio play and download sales) if the singles have cross over potential and if so, then the company can spend it's money promoting each single to other radio formats in order to bring jazz artists to the mainstream radio market place.
It is an 80 years old concept which ceased in the 90's when singles were no longer commercially sold.
The digital download is the 21st century single.
( We shipped singles in cd format to radio... ( two singles at a time) but downloads for sale are digital.
9. How has jazz radio reacted to an old concept making it’s way back into today’s market place? Do you feel this new concept will help to stabilize sales - .99 cents at a time?
The common ground that we all have is a love and and passion for jazz music.
Therefore any concept that allows jazz through singles to return to it's rightful place in the national musical conversation, is one that embraced by all true lovers of the art form.
I invite you and your readers to visit the Grammy Website at the Grammy Jazz Hall Of Fame.. There you will see jazz singles and albums standing side by side! ( see link below)