PAULA WEST was fueled by a determination to find the best music and communicate it in her own way. Born into a Marine Corps family in San Diego, California, she was initially exposed to classical music. My parents didn't have a lot of jazz records, remembers Paula My father linked to listen to classical music. Paula began listening to jazz singers such as Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughn while in college.
After college, Paula moved to San Francisco, unsure of what she wanted to do with her life. Buying old records from thrift shops, she studied them and then began singing classes. As she became more secure in her talent, she ventured into jam sessions, places where an open mike gave her a chance to perform before an audience. It was at one of these sessions that she met a pianist who would join her in the climb to her own musical identity and her musical success. His name was Ken Muir, and he continues as her accompanist today. Paula went on to study with Faith Winthrop, developing her unique tone and delivery. She learned how to sustain a note without a vibrato, which is now almost a Paula West trademark.
Paula worked as a waitress until pianists Muir and Larry Luckovich hired her to work with them at San Francisco's Ritz Carlton Hotel's Terrace Restaurant, and Dick Whittingham featured Paula at the Maybeck Recital Hall. Later she met donald smith, founder of the Mabel Mercer Foundation, which is the force behind the Cabaret Convention. In 1995 he included her in the Cabaret Convention, then arranged for her engagement at the Algonquin HOtel's famous Oak Room in 1996. This led to various bookings, allowing Paula to make a name for herself on the East Coast.