Originally published in print issue #162 of Metro Magazine on October 31, 2014.
It’s not easy to make your mark in local music when the landscape so heavily revolves around the yearly soca cycle, but Vaughnette Bigford, 40, has made her mark and more. On the cusp of celebrating ten years in jazz, Vaughnette told me a little about her career so far.
Bigford, a health and safety practitioner for a local oil and gas company by day, and a jazz singer by night, originally started singing when she was in college. Influenced by the likes of Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn, she chose jazz because it was the music she had always listened to, and she naturally gravitated towards it when she decided to sing.
While jazz has a solid local following, Bigford says that the market is very small, and the lack of dedicated venues to showcase jazz talents means that there is little opportunity to expand her audience.
“There’s no consistency. We have a captive audience, but it’s the same people all the time. There’s nothing to help us encourage new people into the fold.”
But that hasn’t deterred Vaughnette in the slightest. Though there are few opportunities to perform outside of jazz season, (think Tobago Jazz Festival), local jazz musicians grind daily to self promote their own performances.
It’s because of this that Vaughnette is headlining her own concert. Titled “Milestones”, the show carded for November 8, at SAPA, will celebrate Vaughnette’s major milestones: her 40th birthday, her son Miles’ birthday (named for famed jazz legend Miles Davis) and her ten-year anniversary in the business.
After her concert, Vaughnette plans to focus her energy on recording more music. In 2008, Vaughnette was awarded a high profile scholarship to attend the Berkley College of Music, an accolade few Caribbean nationals ever receive. In 2010, she attended for two semesters and was able to make contacts and connections to expand her network. As a result, she’s been able to work with notables like Ron Reid, Gabrielle Goodman, Nona Hendryx and Donna McElroy.
But Vaughnette has already demonstrated that she’s more that capable of holding her own on the local scene so it’s no wonder that she’s not particularly eager to follow in the footsteps of her idols.
“I think my career is doing just fine.” She laughs. “I think that a lot of the jazz greats are amazing musicians but they have had a lot of issues with drugs and alcohol. I’m comfortable with my career and what I’ve been able to accomplish.”
“I just want to use my music to show that I’m the essential Caribbean woman expressing herself through song.”