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The Hornet

Serving the Fullerton Community Since 1922

The Hornet

Professor Spotlight: Jamie Shew doesn’t just teach what she loves, she lives it

Music in itself is a different type of artistry that a lot of people seem to enjoy and love. There are a variety of different genres of music and instruments to choose from.

That’s just the case for Coorindator of Vocal Jazz Studies, Jamie Shew. Shew grew up in Kennewick, Washington. She learned how to play the piano at the age of four, from just simply hearing her sister play a song on the piano.

From that point on, it’s musical history from there.

As for how she started to play the instrument, “There was just a spark. My sister kept playing a song over and over and one day I just started playing it and my mom just decided to put me in lessons,” said Shew.

It wasn’t until middle school, when Shew started to become fond of music, playing the piano and singing.

In addition, Shew started to sing in high school. “I was extremely nervous. I always had a piano to hide behind. Now, it was just me…with a microphone and words to memorize and project,” said Shew.

Jamie Shew, Coordinator of Vocal Jazz Studies at FC, performs onstage. Photo credit: Allison Parelman

The first song Shew wrote is called, “Eyes Wide Open.”

“I wrote it about a year ago, it’s about moving on after my husband passed away,” said Shew. “I had never sang a solo by myself in a concert before. Everyone knew me as the pianist, not a vocalist.”

Shew attended Washington State University and received her bachelor’s degree in music education; “I was always a natural teacher. I love choir, singing, playing the piano and teaching/sharing music with others. It was a path that was carved for me,” said Shew.

From receiving her bachelor’s degree, Shew then went to pursue a master’s degree in Vocal Performance and Jazz Studies at Western Michigan University.

As for what drove her to get her masters, “I absolutely loved my jazz choir experience in my undergrad. After my student teaching experience, I thought I was going to go into K-12 music education,” said Shew.

Shew stated her path changed swiftly after she received a flyer that said Western Michigan University. It had full assistantships available in Jazz Voice and Jazz Bass. “My late husband and I were just the duo they were looking for,” said Shew.

“It was a strange calling I guess. We both got the full scholarships and packed up and moved our lives to Kalamazoo, Michigan. Our experience in jazz there changed our path dramatically,” said Shew.

In addition to receiving scholarships and putting in her full effort, Shew said that “being a music major is hard work, but with that said, I never questioned my path. I may have complained a little, but I never questioned it,” said Shew.

Shew also got the opportunity to study with jazz vocalist Sunny Wilkinson.

Shew stated, “I was a fan of Sunny’s in my undergrad. It was an absolute dream to study with her. When I found out she was the jazz voice teacher at Western Michigan University, I knew at that moment that I had to go there for grad school.”

By 1999, Shew became a jazz vocalist. “I love the art form of improvisation and the ability to make a song my own and to project my own personal meaning of jazz and the lyrics of these songs are so meaningful,” said Shew.

Jamie Shew at Tritone Studios recording her "Eyes Wide Open" album. Photo credit: Michele Weir

Shew then got another opportunity to teach at Fullerton College. She’s been teaching at FC for 17 years.

Shew started teaching at Virginia Tech University directly after grad school for 2 years. When the job opportunity opened up, she jumped at the chance to apply and has never looked back.

So what’s the best part about working here on campus, Shew said, “My colleagues and students. There’s a warm and nurturing, yet friendly competitive environment in our department. This environment we’ve created pushes us all to be better musicians.”

Here on campus Shew teaches a variety of music classes, such as the History of Rock in Roll, Jazz Styling & Improvisation courses and more.

As for what techniques she teaches here on campus, Shew states, “Style, Theory, Improvisation. Covering these elements are crucial for success.”

As for what advice she has for someone who is on a similar path as she was, Shew stated, “Get an “A” in all of your classes – getting an B or below is a possible reason for someone in your future to say no to you,” said Shew.

Going back to her record/song, “Eyes Wide Open,” Shew goes into detail about how special that record is to her. “The project was a labor of love. It was what I poured my heart and soul into after my husband passed away in 2016.”

"Eyes Wide Open" Album Cover by: Charles Ruggiero. Photo credit: Roberto Cerini

A highlight moment for Shew during that process was when she performed with internationally known jazz musicians on the record.

Shew continued,”They were friends of my late husband and I. We had such a special relationship to the music during that recording- we were all connected by my late husband and the strong desire to serve the music in his honor,” said Shew.

On Tuesday Oct. 22, the Fullerton community can catch some of the faculty and staff, including Shew perform at the Faculty Jazz Cadre. It will be located in Fullerton College’s Campus Theater.

Tickets cost $10.00 for adults, $5.00 for children and $7.00 for students as well as seniors 55+. The concert will start at 7:30 p.m.