Born: February 16, 1987 Primary Instrument: Piano
As a small child in Charleston, South Carolina, Jenna McSwain knew she wanted to be a musician. Grabbing hold of every available musical opportunity, she began performing solos in church at the age of four, and she hasn’t stopped singing since. Throughout her childhood McSwain was surrounded by music; her father is a professional drummer and her mother’s eclectic tastes in music gave her a well-rounded musical upbringing. She and her three sisters shared a love and talent for singing, and performed hymns and spirituals throughout the Lowcountry of South Carolina. Many of these songs were arranged by Jenna, who would teach her sisters the harmony parts. Before graduating from high school, she was playing jazz at esteemed Charleston venues, including High Cotton, the Francis Marion Hotel, and The Riviera Theatre.
McSwain earned a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of South Carolina, where she studied with pianist and jazz theorist Bert Ligon. While attending USC, she also studied classical piano and earned a cognate in Brazilian Portuguese. By the time she earned her degree, McSwain had become a staple of the Columbia jazz scene, leading the house band at one of Columbia’s most prominent jazz clubs: The Blue Martini.
Jenna McSwain will earn a Master of Music degree from the University of Northern Colorado’s highly revered jazz program. At UNC, she teaches a vocal jazz ensemble and a jazz combo and holds administrative duties in the school's jazz library and in the office of community arts. She sings in UNC’s premiere vocal jazz ensemble, The Northern Colorado Voices and plays piano in the Afro Cuban jazz ensemble.
McSwain has performed with Marian McPartland, Mundell Lowe, Bert Ligon, Gordon Dick Goodwin, Bryson Borgstedt, Jim Mings, Skipp Pearson and Tyson Haynes among others. She has studied with Andy Laverne, Patti Austin, Jim Ferguson and Joe Sample. In April 2010, she opened for Patti Austin at the UNC / Greeley Jazz Festival and she will open for the New York Voices in April 2011. She has been featured in the South Carolina Jazz Festival and taught at the University of Minnesota-Morris Jazz Camp and the University of Northern Colorado Jazz Camp. She is currently adjunct faculty at Northwest College. Featuring a repertoire of jazz standards, Brazilian classics, blues and pop, her band plays concerts, festivals and private functions at the regional and national level.