The Kennedy Center

Rene Marie


Vocalist René Marie, whose name means to be reborn, returned to a career in music after more than 20 years away from the stage. Growing up in Warrenton and Roanoke, Virginia, Ms. Marie taught herself to read music at age nine, won talent contests at ten, began writing songs at fifteen, conducted her church youth choir at sixteen and began performing professionally at local clubs at seventeen. The next year she married a band musician. Within a few years she had produced two children and stopped performing publicly to care for the family. Entirely self-taught, Ms. Marie devised an unorthodox, but highly effective, system to train her voice. At night as her children slept, she listened to the jazz greats who inspired her — Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan — learned their songbooks and rehearsed endlessly with a tape recorder, copying their rhythms and imitating their breathing patterns until she understood the music inside and out.  Her mantra became listen, learn and practice.  "I finally got bored sounding like someone else so I started experimenting — singing scat and turning non-jazz songs like Stand By Your Man into jazz,” Ms. Marie says. “It was as if I had learned another language.” She had found her voice, and with it a new freedom. She started in a small club in Roanoke in 1996, and within two years had recorded and produced her first CD. In 1998, seeking a fresh start and greater exposure, Ms. Marie moved to Richmond and began singing in local clubs along the Richmond-Washington D.C. corridor. Her mastery of straight-ahead jazz and her gift for interpretation quickly caught the attention of fans and critics alike. Called the "brightest new voice on the Richmond jazz scene" by a prominent Richmond critic, she was soon in demand for jazz festivals and high-profile clubs like Washington, D.C.’s Blues Alley. More recently, she has sung in the Richmond Symphony's Tribute to Duke Ellington; originated and starred in the role of Ella Fitzgerald in the theatrical production Ella and her Fella Frank, headlined the Red Cross National Convention; played to capacity crowds at the annual Sister-to-Sister Convention; and opened concerts for Jonathan Butler and Sonny Fortune. René Marie’s honors and awards include Best Jazz & Cabaret Vocal from AFIM (Association for Independent Music) for her first two MAXJAZZ recordings: How Can I Keep From Singing (2000, No. 1 on the Gavin radio charts), and Vertigo (2001), which includes a stirring medley of “Dixie” and “Strange Fruit.” Vertigo reached #26 in JazzTimes’ top 50 picks for 2001. France’s Academie du Jazz named Vertigo the Best International Jazz Vocal Album of 2002.  Ms. Marie played to sold-out houses in the KC Jazz Club on September 7, 2002 and returned to the Terrace Theater on February 28, 2003, with Allan Harris for “Billy Squared, The Music of Billie Holiday and Billy Strayhorn.”

February 2003
Photo of Rene Marie