During festival producer Gaby Thomasz’s visit to the United States last month to scout festival acts, she discovered a new ukulele talent that she believes will be the ukulele sensation of 2013: jazz singer and player Sarah Maisel.
Sarah’s captivating performance and engagement with the audience struck a chord with the producer, who is delighted to have come across such fresh talent. “Sarah is a rare find. Like James Hill, Sarah studied violin extensively, before seeing the unlimited possibilities of the ukulele. Whilst there are more and more players that tend to do instrumental interpretations of pop classics, showing of their flamenco style strumming and lightning fast picking following in the footsteps of ukulele trail blazers such as Jake Shimabukuro, there are very few players that focus on emotive touch and feel, whilst highlighting the fine nature of the instrument, and its suitability for jazz music”.
“Not only that, Sarah is one of the very few female players that I have come across that has such skill, charisma, and love for this genre of music on the ukulele. In addition to that, she has a wonderfully warm and expressive voice that covers styles from New York to New Orleans . I know she will mesmerise the audience at this year’s Cairns Ukulele Festival”, Ms Thomasz said. “Her unique chord progressions in her version of the jazz standard Autumn Leaves with her accompanying vocal has received rave reviews around the world, by those in the know”.
Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Sarah has always had a love for music. At the age of 6, she began violin lessons and played in youth orchestras for several years. Her focus was primarily classical for the 10 years she studied. During that time she also studied the piano, taking lessons for 3 years.
She took a break from music in college, following her other passion, theatre. She studied at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts where she received her BFA in Costume Technology. After graduating in 2004, she moved out to San Diego, California to work for the La Jolla Playhouse and the University of California San Diego Theatre Department.
In September 2006, Sarah and a friend went to check out a Ukulele group at a pizza parlour in Encinitas, CA. Little did she realize that it was going to be such a life changing event. As Sarah put it “It was so amazing to go to this place where there were at least 40 Ukuleles, everyone was so happy, the room was filled with such joy. I just had to be a part of it.” As serendipity would have it, Frank Leong, the group leader, was starting group Ukulele lessons that October 2006. Sarah signed up and has been hooked on the uke ever since.
In 2009, Sarah met Producer Tim Coffman and started recording her own albums in 2010. The first album, ‘Have Uke Will Travel’ was well received and gave Sarah her first stepping stone. Since she has recorded two others, ‘In the Moment’, released in 2011, and ‘With Love- Sarah Maisel’ released in 2012.
Sarah plays a custom Mike DaSilva ukulele. Make sure you check it out during the festival – Mike DaSilva builds some of the finest ukuleles around!