Vocal artist Sabina (pronounced with a long “i”) has a strong musical foundation rooted in her childhood study of piano and clarinet in her hometown of Kalamazoo, Michigan. By her teens she was playing piano professionally at area churches and community events. As a clarinetist she won a youth concerto competition, earning her the honor of performing a solo work with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra.
Sabina’s interest in singing came later on. By the end of high school, after two years of voice lessons, her self-knowledge and insight led to a realization: “As much as I loved clarinet and enjoyed piano, I knew I could never stop talking for 8 hours a day to put in the required practice time to pursue a livelihood hinged on either instrument. I also knew I was highly unsuited for a traditional occupation, so I decided to give singing a try.”
While attending Berklee College of Music in Boston, Sabina was first exposed to jazz and other forms of musical improvisation. “I was completely blown away by the amount of creative output—jazz and otherwise—by highly accomplished musicians my age. This expression was thrilling new territory for me. I lived to listen to my peers and to sit in at Wally’s, and to hear world-class musicians at The Willow, Scullers and Regattabar. I wanted to absorb as much of this new language as possible.” After honing her practical skills with a degree in Commercial Arranging, she remained in Boston and explored options as a professional vocalist, including jazz gigs, private music instruction, and working as a vocal coach and consultant at Inét Productions. During this time she was also a national finalist for the Jazz Ambassadors, the US Army’s premier touring big band.
In the early 1990s Sabina began songwriting. “The first 3 songs poured out of me: words, melody and chord progressions, seemingly from nowhere. When I read through the handwritten lyrics on napkins (yes, really) and listened back to the scratch recordings, I thought ‘Aha! I’m a songwriter!'” Around that time, an opportunity to return to Kalamazoo also allowed Sabina to focus on the necessary music and business skills for this new direction. She worked as a classical vocalist and accompanist at area churches. She did freelance writing work, ranging from solo jazz piano transcriptions and pop music lead sheets to traditional 5-horn arrangements with full choir. She also ran a full-time music studio, teaching beginner and intermediate students the fundamentals of reading music and developing good self-discipline, as well as encouraging them to write their own songs and play by ear. Perhaps most importantly, Sabina committed to learning the Bel Canto singing style as a healthy basis for singing diverse genres, and began studying with Dr. Christine Carlton at Western Michigan University.
Since moving to Chicago in 1997, Sabina has been professionally combining classical, jazz and creative endeavors. From 1999–2003 she ran a full-time music studio teaching piano, voice and composition. From 2001–2014 she studied voice with Dr. Karen Wicklund and has performed at her healthy belting workshops as an example of a “cross-trained singer.” She was a featured classical soloist with Lincoln Chamber Productions’ fall program (2010), for Rockefeller Chapel’s “Tea and Pipes” series at the University of Chicago (2010), Holy Name Cathedral’s “Summer Sundays Concerts” (2006), PianoForte’s “Schubertiade” (2008, 2010, 2011, 2014) and many others. She has sung and recorded with the internationally acclaimed Schola Cantorum of St. Peter the Apostle. Sabina served for 13 years as principal cantor at St. Mary of Perpetual Help Church, concluding in 2013.
In the jazz realm, Sabina has played with Delfeayo Marsalis, Marlene Rosenberg, Melvin Butler, Jeff Parker, Mike Allemana, Makaya McCraven, Chris Greene, Geof Bradfield, Neil Alger, Kobie Watkins, Ryan Cohan, Lorin Cohen, Willie Pickens, and other luminaries. She has performed at the Jazz Showcase, Katerina’s, Club 3160, Andy’s, Fitzgerald’s, Davenport’s, Philanders, and the Fine Arts Building to name a few.
As vocal artist, writer, arranger and producer, Sabina released Let the Music Speak in 2006, a CD of original jazz-inspired music. The recording also features Ryan Cohan, Lorin Cohen, Delfeayo Marsalis, Kobie Watkins, Neil Alger, Steve Eisen, and Dedé Sampaio. A behind-the-scenes presence in the industry, Sabina was a music editor at GIA Publications, Inc. for over a decade. She was project consultant and content editor for 2011 NEA Jazz Master Delfeayo Marsalis’ 2011 CD Sweet Thunder, and editor for his children’s book, No Cell Phone Day, released in 2013. She was a guest vocal artist on Hear the Angels Sing, a 2010 Christmas CD released by Joshua Evanovich, and has recorded as a professional chorister on numerous sacred recordings.
Sabina is currently exploring creating music through smaller groups in intimate venues, allowing her the freedom to conjure up on-the-spot compositions and to workshop new material. These smaller group presentations have often incorporated special guest artists, such as Marlene Rosenberg and Melvin Butler in a 2012 jazz chamber performance at the Fine Arts Building, and Delfeayo Marsalis in a 2013 performance at the Jazz Showcase. She frequently performs duo gigs at Ciao! Café, usually with Adam Haus or James Cornolo on guitar, or bassist Rich Armandi.
Sabina studied voice with Dr. Annie Picard from 2016 to 2018, which led to her current pursuit of a master’s degree in Vocal Pedagogy at NEIU. Stay in touch at www.sabinasongs.com or www.facebook.com/sabinawithalongi.