The Kennedy Center

Helen Gillet


Helen Gillet is a Walloon born in a Flemish hospital. Raised in Singapore, Belgium, Illinois, and Wisconsin, Ms. Gillet landed in her current hometown of New Orleans in 2003. She currently performs in cities across the United States and Western Europe. Her live solo performance includes an acoustic cello, looped electronics, vocals, a vintage E.V.I. trumpet (Steiner), or anything else she can reach. Ms. Gillet threads her tri-continental childhood web into her performance, notably with the instrument she picked up at age nine, the cello.

 Growing up, Helen Gillet performed as a concerto soloist, member of Symphonic Orchestras, and chamber ensembles, winning awards for cello performance. In 2000, she graduated from Beloit College with a Bachelor’s degree in Music and Anthropology and in 2004, she received a Masters in Music from Loyola University, New Orleans. Her education as an improviser began with North Indian Hindustani vocal ragas in 1998 which launched her into the worlds of free improvisation, jazz, funk, rock, and French chansons. She has performed with Smokey Robinson, Hamid Drake, James Singleton, Johnny Vidacovich, Quintron, Nikki Glaspie, Carl Leblanc, Skerik, Michael Ray, Allison Miller, Rob Wagner, Mark Southerland, Brad Cox, Clint Maedgen, Michael Zerang, Rob Cambre, Georg Graewe (AT), Els Vandeweyer (BE), Anja Kowalski (BE), Kresten Osgood (DK), Almut Kuehne (DE), Simon Berz (CH), Tobias Delius (DE), Frank Gratkowski (DE), and Wilbert de Joode (NL). 

She has played in a wide array of rock, jazz, electro-folk, irish pop, and funk bands such as The New Orleans Bingo! Show, Members of Morphine with Jeremy Lyons, Danny Burns, the Mardi Gras Indian Orchestra, the New Orleans Klezmer Allstars, and Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey. Ms. Gillet has most recently appeared at the French Quarter Festival, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Voodoo Festival, Copenhagen Jazz Festival, Hindsgavl Festival in Denmark, and Mirano Oltre Festival in Italy. Helen Gillet has two self-released albums Newton Circus (2009) by her french chansons band “Wazozo” and her latest instrumental album Running of the Bells (2011) by the “Helen Gillet Trio” with Tim Green (saxophone) and Doug Garrison (drums) which received a four star review in the October 2011 issue of Downbeat magazine. 
Ms. Gillet has recorded with Cassandra Wilson, Dr. John, Marianne Faithful, Harold Brown, Danny Brilliant, Bill Summers, Ed Sanders, Andrei Codrescu, Leroy Jones, and George S. Clinton for Mike Judge’s 2009 Miramax Comedy film Extract. Ms. Gillet composed, performed and edited the music to the Documentary films Living with Hurricanes: Katrina & Beyond and Living with Water which plays above Fats Domino’s wrecked piano, both part of a permanent exhibit at the Louisiana State Museum’s Presbytere on Jackson Square in New Orleans.

Watch Past Performances

Video 1/10/2012: Maedgen/Gillet

Clint Maedgen, a Preservation Hall Jazz Band member, multi-instrumental singer, songwriter, and composer performs with Helen Gillet, the cellist and vocalist known for her free improvisation with New Orleans Jazz, funk, country rock, and French chansons.

Helen Gillet