“Sara Michaels is both singer and storyteller, delivering music with her beautiful vocals while telling the stories and history of the songs. She leaves her listeners with an experience that is both music to their ears and healing to their hearts.” ~ E. Shawn Qaissaunee
For Sara Michaels, an accomplished jazz vocalist, singing is soulful, and her heartbeat resonates with her audience. Bringing a background in spiritual music, classic blues, and musical theater, she weaves storytelling into her live performances, taking listeners on a “joy journey” through her beloved musical genre - jazz.
Raised in Philadelphia, Reading, and Atlanta, Sara received a BFA from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. She first began singing in the church, but quickly found her calling in jazz which she developed into a dual career – as a performer and a producer. Sara sees music as a uniting and healing force, channeling her spiritual side into her music in a way that helps others. 2023 marks the debut of Sara’s album of nine original songs entitled “Chapter One: Full Circle”, joined by premier jazz artists including E. Shawn Qaissaunee (guitarist, producer, arranger), violinists Zach Brock (Snarky Puppy) and Diane Monroe, horn players John Swana, Victor North, and Greg Riley, bassists Matthew Parish and Jason Fraticelli, and drummers Matt Scarano, Harry “Butch” Reed, and Adam Shumski. The album is the culmination of a decade and a half of singing and bringing jazz to the community at large, with original compositions blending her lush vocal stylings with an engaging listening experience.
Demonstrating her talent for weaving tales, Sara explains her song selection process, “I put a lot of thought into my setlists for each performance. My mind is always a rolling film of imagery and words. After all, I see myself as a storyteller first.”
Sara’s involvement with jazz goes beyond the stage and the recording studio. With a penchant for recognizing talent, Sara founded a jazz series that has grown in popularity over the years. Since 2013, she has produced the Jazz Cocktail Hour with local and international jazz artists at the Uptown Knauer Performing Arts Center in West Chester, PA, and the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences during the summer season. Sara also produced “Bill Withers: Reimagined”, a show featuring Philadelphia jazz artist V. Shayne Frederick and Lynn Riley and the World Mix. In addition, Sara is embarking on collaborations with dancers and other creatives and art forms in concert settings, videos, and film.
Sara’s love of jazz comes from a long line of artists and composers who have influenced her. They include Sara Vaughn, Billie Holiday, Abbey Lincoln, Bessie Smith, Peggy Lee, Wynton Marsalis, Miles Davis, Bette Midler, Liz Wright, and Tony Bennett among others. She has experienced some stand-out moments like singing with Grammy award winning trumpeter Terell Stafford and Diana Krall’s guitarist Randy Napoleon. Lifting up other women talented in jazz, Sara loves supporting local artists including vocalist Sharon Sable, Sherry Wilson Butler (who toured with Teddy Pendergrass) and the highly regarded vocalist/actor Laurin Talese.
Much of what drives Sara are causes close to her heart including keeping jazz alive, helping jazz and blues artists in crisis, and supporting musicians who mentor and teach children. Mental health and wellness is also an area of great importance to Sara as is finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, which runs in her family. Part of her life’s work is to spread awareness of “music as medicine” and the power of music therapy in hospitals, schools, and workplaces. Sara has made it her mission to help others by sharing how music can positively impact mental and physical health. In fact, she wrote her first song at age 50, encouraged by a music therapist who helped her find her courage and her voice.
Beyond jazz, Sara enjoys time in nature – gardening, walking, and swimming in every ocean, lake or river she visits, as well as spending time with loved ones – cooking, gathering, and celebrating with her family, friends, and fellow musicians. She is married to an entrepreneur in the IT world and together they have three children and three grandchildren.
“I put a lot of thought into my setlists for each performance. My mind is always a rolling film of imagery and words. I am a storyteller first.” ~ Sara Michaels