Lenora Zenzalai Helm

Primary Instrument: Vocalist

Born: August 15, 1961    

“A blend of wiry strength and ethereal charm that set her apart from the female vocalists crowding the jazz scene...Without compromising her debt to the most stringent jazz grammar, her light-against-dark phrasing revealed a love of pop and soul that gave fresh, heartfelt meaning......” Lloyd Sachs, Chicago Sun Times

Lenora Zenzalai Helm is a jazz vocalist, vocal musicianship coach, composer, lyricist and educator with six solo recordings, her own recording and publishing company, Zenzalai Music, and an extensive discography with some of the biggest names in jazz and contemporary music. Helm’s achievements in music have spanned more than two decades garnering her inclusion as a subject of biographical record since 2005 for Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Women and Who’s Who in the World. A 2014 Salzburg Global Citizenship Program Fellow, Fulbright Senior Specialist, and former U.S. Jazz Ambassador under the auspices of the State Department and Kennedy Center, her achievements garnered accolades as “...the voice of her generation,” by Jazziz Magazine. She has appeared in renowned jazz festivals and venues worldwide, including Jazz at Lincoln Center, Schomburg Center’s Women in Jazz Festival, JVC Jazz Festivals, Clifford Brown Jazz Festival, Capetown Jazz Festival, South Africa and Fiji Jazz & Blues Festival. She appears on recordings with renowned jazz musicians Andrew Hill, Stanley Cowell, Donald Brown, Dave Liebman, Ron Carter, Antonio Hart, Branford Marsalis, Mulgrew Miller, has toured with Michael Franks and Freddie Jackson, and has touring, recording and performing credits in many genres — including R&B, Neo-Soul, and Pop, Theater and Opera. Her 2009 critically acclaimed Chronicles of a Butterfly CD release, produced by Branford Marsalis, was recorded live and featured pianist Mulgrew Miller. Other six recordings, her latest CD, I Love Myself When I’m Laughing was listed on Independent Ear’s 30 Recommended 2012 Record Releases amongst an esteemed list of jazz artists. Joining the distinction with her previous releases (in 2003 and 2004) garnering inclusion on the 2013 GRAMMY ballot for consideration of nomination in vocal jazz and arranging categories. In May, 2014, she was named a 2015 quarter-finalist as GRAMMY Music Educator of the Year, chosen amongst 7000 nominees....
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PUBLICATIONS: 1. 2014, Paper: Two Traditions: The Three P's of Vocal jazz Pedagogy Impacting Vocal Educators, INTED 2014, (March, 2014) 8th International Technology, Education and Development Conference, Valencia, Spain; 2. 2014, Paper: Jazz As A Lens For Cultural Learning: Humanities Coursework in Globally Networked Learning Environments INTED 2014, (March, 2014) 8th International Technology, Education and Development Conference, Valencia, Spain. 3. 2014, Paper: Technology and the Humanities in a Globally Networked Classroom: A Qualitative Study of Two Courses Taught Amongst Three Countries in the Performing Arts, INTED 2014, (March 2014) Interlink Alliance Conference, 2014, From Pencils to Pixels: Pedagogy in the 21st Century, Virginia State University. 4. 2014, Chapter: Navigating the Performing Arts in a Globally Networked Learning Environment: The Case of Jazz! Born in America, Created Internationally, (forthcoming June 2014), in Global Innovation of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education: Transgressing Boundaries (Springer), 5. 2013, Lecture, New Global Partnerships Through Online Collaborations: Results From The COIL Institute. 2013 NAFSA Conference, St. Louis, MO May 26, 2013 6. 2013, Lecture: The COIL Project @ NCCU, Multidisciplinary Symposium: Grasping the Globalization Initiative: Situating NCCU For A New Dawn in Research and Learning, March, 22, 2013. 7. 2013, Paper: Asynchronous & Synchronous eLearning: A Case Study in Globally Networked Learning Environments, 4th Annual Jazz Educator’s Conference, Atlanta, GA, January, 2013. 8. 2013 Article: Process Vs. Results: Closing The Gap Between Vocalists and Instrumentalists in JazzEd Magazine (Symphony Publishing), January 2013, pp. 30-34. 9. 2012, Paper: Asynchronous & Synchronous eLearning; Best Practices Collaborative Online Coursework. The Interlink Alliance 2012 Conference: Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century, March 9, 2012. 10. 2012 Paper: Asynchronous & Synchronous eLearning: A Case Study in Globally Networked Learning Environments, Future Teach Conference -Preparing 21st Century Educators as Technology Leaders, 2012, North Carolina Central University, June 2012. ARTICLES, RECORDINGS, BOOKS, ABSTRACTS, pka Lenora Zenzalai Helm 2013 Published article, Process Vs. Results: Closing The Gap Between Vocalists and Instrumentalists in JazzEd Magazine (Symphony Publishing), January 2013, pp. 30-34. 2012 Paper: Asynchronous & Synchronous eLearning: A Case Study in Globally Networked Learning Environments, Future Teach Conference -Preparing 21st Century Educators as Technology Leaders, 2012, North Carolina Central University, June 2012. 2012 Published Vocal Jazz Syllabus, University of South Africa, Pretoria, November 2012. 2012 Published Vocal Jazz Performer Readiness Guidebook, Zenzalai Music. 2012 ESPN Black History Month produced music for Promotional Campaign, Free To Be 2011 Solo Recording, I Love Myself When I’m Laughing, Zenzalai Music Records 2009 Solo Recording, Chronicles of a Butterfly, Produced by Branford Marsalis 2005 World Premiere, Journeywoman: A Work in Progress; jazz suite for voice & chamber orchestra; Merkin Hall, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York City 2004 Guest Recording, Jazzpar All Winners 1990-2004 Featured guest with Andrew Hill Jazzpar Octet +1, 2003 Guest Recording, Enter My Mind, Marlon Saunders, Black Honey Records, NY 2003 Guest Recording, The Day The World Stood Still, The Andrew Hill Jazzpar Octet + 1 The Scandinavian Music Company APS 2003 Solo Recording, Voice Paintings MidLantic Records, New York, NY, Produced by David Eyges 2002 Solo Recording, Precipice, Baoule Music Records, New York, NY 2001 Guest Recording, Liebman Plays Puccini: A Walk in the Clouds, Arkadia Jazz, NY 2001 Guest Recording, Amu Tu Sonrisa, Antonio Hart, Enja 1999 Solo Recording Spirit Child, J Curve Records; J Curve Records, Cincinnati, OH. Produced by Donald Brown 1998 Group Recording, Absence of Pain, with SEPIA, Nippon Columbia, Japan 1998 Group Recording, Tribute to the Carpenters, with SEPIA, King Records, Japan 1997 Guest Recording, My Beating Heart, Jiro Yoshida, with SEPIA, King Records, Japan 1997 Solo Recording, Awakenings, Baoule Music Records, New York, NY 1994 Group Recording, Lunatic Taxi, Sixun, with SEPIA, Verve Records, Paris, France 1991 Guest Recording, Cause and Effect, Donald Brown, Muse Records, NY 1992 Guest Recording, Soul of Rhythm & Blues, Vol. 3 , Cissy Houston & Chuck Jackson, Shanachie Records, NY 1990 Guest Recording, People Music, Donald Brown, Muse Records, NY RESEARCH & GRANTS 2011-13 Collaborative Online Institute of Learning Fellow, State University of New York 2007 Chamber Music America, Encore Award, Doris Duke Jazz Ensembles Project 2004 New Works Creation and Presentation Program for Jazz Composers, Chamber Music America/Doris Duke Jazz Ensembles Project 2004 Composer-in-Residence – MacDowell Colony, Petersborough, NH 2003 Meet The Composer - Meet the Composer Fund 2001 New York Foundation of the Arts – Multidiscipline Arts Education grant 2000 Fund for U.S. Artists at International Festivals – Cape Town, South Africa 1999 Fund for U.S. Artists at International Festivals – Tel Aviv, Israel PRESENTATIONS & AWARDS: 2014 Exemplary Service in Recruiting and Retention of Students,NCCU 2014 GRAMMY Music Educator of the Year Award, Quarter-Finalist 2014 Boston University Women’s Guild Scholarship Award 2012 - Collaboration in Teaching Award, College of Liberal Arts, NCCU 2011 - Teaching Excellence Award, College of Liberal Arts, NCCU 2011 - Community Engagement & Leadership Award, College of Liberal Arts, NCCU 2010 - Pi Kappa Lambda, Music Honor Society , East Carolina University chapter, 2010 - Duke University, Mary Lou Williams Center, Voice on Voice Series, Durham, NC 2009 - Golden Key Honor Society, Graduate member/East Carolina University chapter 2008 North Carolina Central University, Exemplary Teaching award, College of Liberal Arts 2006 – 13 Who’s Who in American Women, Marquis Publishers 2005 - 13 Who’s Who in America, Marquis Publishers 2005 - 13 Who’s Who in The World, Marquis Publishers 2004 - Jazz India Vocal Institute scholarship, Bombay, India 2003 NY1 New Yorker of the Week (July 25, 2003) 2002 Top 100 Jazz CDs (Precipice) in the US – JazzWeek; 2001 Young Entrepreneur Award – Universal Jazz Coalition
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    I Love Myself When I'm Laughing

    Baoule Music
  • BUY


    Baoule Music
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Featured recording “I Love Myself When I'm Laughing”

Latest Release

I Love Myself When I'm Laughing

Baoule Music (2011)

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“The voice of her generation”… Alexander Gelfand, Jazziz Magazine

“Lenora Zenzalai Helm is a highly imaginative, adventurous musician who likes to write lyrics and reconstruct familiar songs to reflect her thoughts and feelings. Singer, composer, arranger and lyricist, Ms. Helm uses all of her exceptional gifts to push the envelope and make very personal statements with her music.” Dr. Billy Taylor

“With a unique style and the gift of creativity, Lenora Zenzalai Helm expands the boundary of jazz vocalists.” Mark F. Turner,

“A multi-hued masterpiece” (about CD Voice Paintings) Christopher Loudon, JazzTimes Magazine

“The most interesting singer I’ve heard in the last twenty years” Pianist/Composer, Andrew Hill

“A talented songwriter/lyricist as well as a dramatic interpreter of standards… hauntingly beautiful soprano voice soars majestically and effortlessly….. Bill Milkowski, Jazziz Magazine

“Lenora Zenzalai Helm is a singer with all the right stuff; a musician in the broadest and most complete definition of the word with an expansive vision that subsumes category...

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Primary InstrumentVocalist

LocationDurham, NC

Willing to teachBeginners


D.M.A. Music Education Boston University, Boston, MA projected 2016

M.M. Jazz Performance East Carolina University, Greenville, NC 2010

B.M. Film Music Composition/ Vocal Performance Berklee College of Music, Boston, MA 1982


U.S. Jazz Ambassador Southeastern Africa, State Department 1998-99

Fulbright Fellow Senior Music Specialist Roster 2013-18

WORK EXPERIENCE Present- 2013 NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL UNIVERSITY, Durham, NC Assistant Professor, Vocal Jazz, Department of Music Co-Director, Vocal Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Studies program 2013-2011 NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL UNIVERSITY, Durham, NC Lead Fellow, Collaborative Online Institute of Learning (COIL) Lead a 12-person team of educators, IT specialists and international programs staff to create a globally networked learning environment, authoring, planning and implemented Fall 2012, a ground-breaking distance education course, Jazz! Born in America, Created Internationally between NCCU, University of Pretoria, South Africa and Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus, Denmark. This course served 63 students internationally, and facilitated students’ cultural exchange and exploration around the subject of Jazz. The course required collaboration across Humanities coursework involving NCCU educators, faculty and staff in Music, History, Political Science, and Mass Communications. The research from this project will be presented at a Capstone Conference and COIL Institute in New York City in 2013. Present-2010 NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL UNIVERSITY, Durham, NC Community Director, College of Liberal Arts Cultivate relationships with and coordinate activities between community-based organizations and College of Liberal Arts departments. Create resources for under served members and non-traditional student body and faculty. Provide students, faculty and staff with information about community-based organizations to facilitate positive and successful experiences while matriculating and serving NCCU. Present - 2010 NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL UNIVERSITY, Durham, NC Online Course Instructor, Jazz, Music Industry & Ethnomusicology, Distance Education Department Author and instructor of online courses, Jazz and Contemporary Vocal Music, Vocal Jazz Online - An Introduction and Beyond, Seminar in the Music Industry, Songwriting and African-American Vocal Music. 2013 – 2005 NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL UNIVERSITY, Durham, NC Instructor, Music Department Co-Director, Vocal Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Studies program Provide jazz and classical private voice instruction and teach classes in graduate and undergraduate Applied Voice, Vocal Ensemble Performance, Rhythm Section & Vocal Combo Performance, Jazz Vocal Ear Training, Classroom Voice methods class, Twentieth Century Music (music appreciation). Lead ensembles with jazz instrumentalists and vocalists. Co-direct NCCU Vocal Jazz Ensemble; plan and coordinate performances, for bi-annual NCCU jazz festival concert series and tours with NCCU vocal majors. Lead and coordinate yearly faculty recital. Assist with marketing and publicity efforts for Jazz Studies program events, activities, recruiting. Write grants and solicit resources for music 2007 – 2003 HARMONY PROGRAM INC., New York, NY Co-founder and Artistic Director Created and implemented a non-profit youth music program which simultaneously serves children in under served communities and public housing in K – 9th grade to receive weekly beginning music instruction from college music instructors, and trains college music education and performance majors to teach those students. Coordinated through collaborations with Office of the Mayor of New York, local New York City based colleges and universities, New York City based cultural arts organization and community centers. 2006 - 2004 Brooklyn Philharmonic, Brooklyn, NY Teaching Artist Provide instruction in New York City Public Schools for grades 2 – 6 for short term residencies on classical composers and classical music history. 2006 - 2005 Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Harlem, NY Teaching Artist Provide instruction in voice, jazz history in Junior Scholars program fro grades 9 - 12. Created curriculum, implemented program, wrote and directed culminating performance each semester. Organized visiting guest artists and collaborated with teaching artists within program from Dance, Theater, and Writing areas. 2006 – 1999 Young Audiences, New York, NY Teaching Artist & Performance Artist/ Residencies and Performances Provide instruction in New York City Public Schools for grades K-12 on programs developed for YANY. History of Jazz, The Music Of the Harlem Renaissance, Jazz Giants, for short and long term residencies, and auditorium performances. 2003 - 2005 Def Dance Jam Workshop, Harlem, NY Teaching Artist Provide instruction in voice, vocal performance and songwriting to youth in a community-based non-profit serving deaf, hearing and mentally and/or physically challenged youth and teens. Instruction was both ongoing and culminating in seasonal performances. 1999 - 98 UNITED STATES JAZZ AMBASSADOR, Southeastern Africa Elected by international audition by United States State Department and John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to represent the United States abroad as an exemplary jazz musician. Provided jazz performance instruction in master classes and workshops to music students, local and regional musicians. Provided public and private jazz concerts. Present - 2000 Jazz Educator Clinics/Master Classes/Workshops Provide instruction to youth and adults in communities in conjunction with concert tour performances of Lenora Zenzalai Helm and The Zenzalai Project. Residencies are tailored for presenting organization in varying lengths to service grades K – 12, university, general audience and music student populations, as well as family workshops and professional staff development. Sample topics include Jazz is American History; The Vocal Legacy of Louis Armstrong; Vocal Jazz; Infusing Jazz in Classroom Curricula 2004 - 2000 Long Island Performing Arts High School (Nassau BOCES Cultural Arts Center) Vocal Jazz Instructor Provide instruction in jazz voice, jazz vocal history and jazz vocal performance to high school youth. Coordinate performances with students for public and private performances with jazz vocal ensemble and jazz vocal chorus. Arrange/compose for jazz vocal ensemble. 2003 - 1999 Carnegie Hall, New York, NY LinkUP! Teaching Artist Provide classical music appreciation, general music concepts and beginning instruction on recorder to grades 4, 5, 6 in New York City Public Schools. Curriculum design and development of cross curriculum activities in order to comply with New York State Learning Standards in the Arts and National Music Standards (Performance Standards for Music). Interaction and planning with teachers and administrative staff of schools. 1997 - 1994 Jacob Riis Settlement, Long Island City, NY, 1995 - 1996 Senior Citizens Choir Accompanist Accompanied choir of Senior Citizens program participants for performances and guest appearances. 1997 -1994 Music Coordinator/Piano Instructor Planned music curriculum and supervised implementation. Coordinated music recitals and presentations. Provided one-on-one and group instruction in piano and voice to youth and adults. 1994 - 1992 Center School, New York, NY Music Director, Theatre Arts Program Responsible for creating and implementing music curriculum for junior high school students. Co-coordinated bi-annual arts presentation and fundraising concert with students and staff. 1994 - 1991 Vocal & Piano Instructor Provided private instruction at studio and in clients’ homes for voice and beginning piano to children and adults. 1993 - 1991 Palomba Music, Portchester, NY Voice and Piano Instructor Provided voice and beginning piano instruction for children and adults of busy music school. Teaching load of 40 students per week. 1993 - 1992 Dance Cavise, Mammaroneck, NY Voice and Drama Instructor Private and group instruction for voice and drama students, ages 6 - adult. ARTS ADMINISTRATIVE EXPERIENCE Present - 2010 Classical Voice of North Carolina Board Member Serve to support mission of providing online journal, calendar and networking information to Triangle Area. Provide content for calendar, work on marketing and website committees. Present – 1987 Holly’s Hits Music Publishing President/Owner/ ASCAP writer/publisher Compositions available in recording and print. Compositions recorded by artists in jazz, R&B and pop genres. Management and administration of all publishing activities. Co-publishing with JCM (Japan Central Music Publishing) performing rights society of Japan. Present – 2000 1999- 1997 Baoule Music Records/ Baoule Works Publishing Company President/Owner/ SESAC writer/publisher


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