Lisa Thorson

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Lisa Thorson is a popular Boston-based jazz vocalist, actress, and music educator. She has performed at jazz clubs, on radio, on stage, in film, and on television for over 40 years. She has toured throughout the U.S., Canada, and Italy as a concert artist and jazz vocal clinician and released six jazz recordings as a leader. Her most recent release, Lisa Thorson Quartet Live, received unanimous critical acclaim and international airplay. Critic and writer Michael Nastos hailed Resonance, her quintet’s album on GM Recordings, as “one of the very best musical offerings of the year, and an astonishing vocal document.”

Thorson received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in musical theater from Boston Conservatory and a master's degree in jazz vocal performance from New England Conservatory. She is a professor in the Voice Department at Berklee College of Music, where she received the Distinguished Faculty Award. She has taught at New England Conservatory, Longy School of Music, and Wellesley College. The National Endowment for the Arts, Berklee College of Music, and numerous public and private foundations have supported her creative performance and educational projects.

In addition to her work as a vocal and jazz educator, Thorson’s current projects include her jazz quintet, the Post 1960 Repertoire Project, and Without Words: Inspiration, Discovery, and Practice, an ebook scheduled for publication in 2023.

Career Highlights
  • Performances with Sheila Jordan, Harvie Swartz, Kenny Wheeler, Linda Hopkins, Steve Grossman, Steve Coleman, and Luciana Souza, among others
  • Extensive festival, club, and concert appearances internationally with her quintet, JazzArtSigns, the New Directions Quartet, and a tribute to the Boswell Sisters
  • Recordings include five as leader, including the 2003 release Out to Sea and 1999's Resonance on GM Recordings
  • Clinician for numerous festivals, colleges, and jazz workshops
  • Six recordings as a leader, including her latest release, Lisa Thorson Quartet Live, featuring Tim Ray (piano), David Clark (bass), and George Schuller (drums).
  • Berklee Distinguished Faculty Award
  • The National Endowment for the Arts, Berklee College of Music, and numerous public and private foundations have supported her creative performance and educational projects.
In Their Own Words

"Everything that I've learned as a professional comes into my teaching. How to deal with stage fright, how to negotiate a contract, how to talk with side people on a gig, how much rest you need, how much water you need to drink, what kind of food you need to eat, how much you need to keep studying, where you find an agent, what you do with a record label, how you put together a recording…. I mean everything."

"Another important component is that the students know I'm an experienced professional and have paid my dues. Whether they're working on an MP&E project at four in the morning or traveling with Berklee as performers or even as assistants on scholarship tours, they know that I've done that. I've been up til four o'clock in the morning recording, or I've been on the road with travel delays and had to sing on five hours of sleep, or I had a cold and still had to do the gig."

"I challenge students to do things that they might not normally do, whether it's in lessons or classes, with an eye and an ear toward them developing their personal style and not being cookie cutters. I wholeheartedly encourage creativity and finding a personal voice and style, but I am also very practical about what it takes to succeed as an artist. Almost everything that I teach, including vocal technique, has an improvisational component. I encourage stretching beyond comfort zones because that is the point at which you discover possibilities and learn new things. My approach is positive, and students feel comfortable diving in and trying new things."

"Because people come from a lot of different backgrounds, being approachable is very important. I feel it's my job as a teacher not only to give them information, but also to help them wade through a new educational experience. What's really different about Berklee is that there are so many different paths you can take, and you don't have to make a decision about what you're going to do in your first year of study. We have so many options you can nurture your passion or find a new one. Like life, nothing is pre-programmed."