Primary Instrument: Vocal
A classically trained singer made her professional debut in 1988 by performing operatic arias at Philadelphia art openings. Simultaneously she was pursuing an interest in Country & Western music by singing with local bands of this genre over the next five years, until she settled in her niche in the jazz repertoire. Her father played guitar and banjo in society orchestras during the 1940s - 1950s and as a child she grew up listening to this music around the house. Although she sought out classical voice training and experimented with country, the jazz repertoire was the genre she most wanted to perform within as a career. She has since found herself very fortunate to be working with accomplished Philadelphia-based jazz musicians such as pianist Tom Lawton, bassist Lee Smith, tenor sax men Larry McKenna & Robert Bootsie Barnes, and trumpeter John Swana.
Originally from Westfield, NJ, Philadelphia has been her home for nearly thirty years. She attended the Philadelphia College of Performing Arts and studied privately with operatic soprano Judith Rosenfeld. Later on she continued studying jazz piano & studied briefly with Grammy nominated jazz vocalist Janet Lawson. Ms. Desmond's local club appearances include performances at Ortlieb's Jazz Haus, Chris' Jazz Café, The Philadelphia Four Seasons Hotel, The Showboat Casino in Atlantic City, NJ, Philadelphia & New Jersey area Jazz Vesper services. In October of 2001 she accepted an invitation to perform for two weeks in Nagano, Japan, where she will be returning this fall. In December of that same year she was the opening act for Patti LaBelle at a Toys For Tots sponsored event in New Jersey. In May, 2003, she released a Tribute CD to Peggy Lee & Rosemary Clooney with another Philadelphia jazz vocalist Meg Clifton. This project granted them the honor and opportunity to perform as the opener for Linda Ronstadt at The 5th Annual Rosemary Clooney Music Festival, in September, in Ms. Clooney's hometown of Maysville, KY. The Tribute CD also placed them on the roster of The Sonny Costanzo 2003-2004 Concert Series at Quinnipiac University in CT where they held a date scheduled between those held by Jane Monheit and Karrin Allyson. For the past two summers Mary Ellen has returned to her hometown to perform in their locally sponsored jazz festival, Westfield NJ's Sweet Sounds Downtown.
She was chosen as a top ten Critic's Pick in Cadence Magazine's 1999 Record Poll. Although she has not released any recording showcasing her classical voice, she keeps it and its repertoire in shape by singing with an operatic group on a monthly basis. She truly values her classical training and does not plan to abandon working within that style. Amongst critics and her contemporaries it is agreed that she is very capable of a successful crossover between jazz & classical and back again. She feels each genre enhances the other in regards to physical stamina & flexibility and emotive expression.
Source: Donald Van Deusen