AUBURN — Singer-songwriter Maria De Angelis has been named the Professor Robert H. Brunell Visiting Scholar at Cayuga Community College for the Fall 2018 semester, and the talented jazz vocalist will also perform at Cayuga’s Auburn Campus this month.
An accomplished songwriter whose work has been featured in several films, De Angelis will work with students to develop their music skills and help them write their own original compositions. As the daughter of two musicians and music educators, De Angelis said she’s looking forward to helping Cayuga’s students unlock their potential.
“From my parents, I learned that teaching — and especially teaching music — is one of the highest, most empowering ways to reach young minds and hearts,” said De Angelis. “My hope this semester is to reach a few students with the message that ‘It’s all in you. You can do this, and you’ll have a beautifully documented expression of yourself.’”
The Professor Robert H. Brunell Visiting Scholar Series supports visiting experts of distinction in the arts and humanities, and honors the legacy of Professor Brunell. A highly respected member of the Cayuga community whose career spanned five decades, Professor Brunell taught English, German, French and Spanish, and chaired Cayuga’s English Department. He was also heavily involved in the arts in the local community, and performed as an organist with several ensembles.
Associate Professor of Music Michael Cortese said De Angelis’ background not just as a vocalist but as an experienced, successful songwriter makes her an excellent choice as the Brunell Visiting Scholar.
“Students will have a great opportunity to learn from a professional singer-songwriter who has worked with some of the biggest names in jazz,” said Cortese. “Maria’s career is really remarkable, from her start at an early age to her work in Boston with some great jazz musicians to her current performances and songwriting. We’re excited to have her working with our students at Cayuga.”
De Angelis’ music career started with solos in first grade and parts in local music theater productions before she and her sister formed a folk duo when De Angelis was 11 years old.
Her interest in jazz singing intensified when she attended a summer program at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and in the early 1990s she wrote lyrics for jazz musicians including Michael Kanan, Hui Cox and Neal Miner. She returned to Central New York in 1997 and began writing songs with keyboardist Phil Klein. Their compositions have appeared in several films, including 2014’s “The Fault in Our Stars.”
“Early on, Phil and I were fortunate to get an agent, who has placed our songs in the United States and internationally. My songwriting life has continued to be one of collaborations with talented musicians. I’ve been extremely lucky—but they say luck favors the prepared,” she said.
De Angelis describes her singing and songwriting style as jazz influenced by iconic singer Ella Fitzgerald, with her performances featuring jazz standards mixed with world music and her original compositions.
“The format of jazz and standard songs—acoustic volume levels, distinct melodies, harmony-based improvisation and playfulness—has been my preferred mode since I was a teenager,” said De Angelis.
Along with helping students develop their own music abilities, De Angelis will perform with Cortese and other Cayuga faculty members in a free concert at 7 p.m. Sept. 11 in room M157 on Cayuga’s Auburn Campus. The concert is open to the public.