Jazz vocalist Claire Dickson ready to break out into song
Hometown: She has lived in Medford her whole life.
Think of: It’s not a stretch to say that Dickson, who has been performing since she was 3 years old, evokes thoughts of the Queen of Jazz herself, Ella Fitzgerald. Dickson’s impressive range, distinct scatting style, and immense repertoire — which ranges from standards and bebop to Latin and modern jazz tunes — make for a musical maturity and stage presence well beyond her years.
What caught our eye: Since Dickson released “Scattin’ Doll,” her first album, in 2011, jazz enthusiasts have been paying close attention to the high school senior’s performances — as a solo artist, with her quartet, and, last summer, with the Boston Pops at Symphony Hall. Along the way, Dickson’s been racking up a number of student music awards, including a recent nomination to the prestigious US Presidential Scholar in the Arts program. This week, Dickson is in Los Angeles taking part in the 2015 Grammy Camp Jazz Session, where she and 31 other talented high schoolers have had the opportunity to record at Capitol Records and perform at various Grammy Week events, including the official afterparty for tonight’s awards, which the students get to attend.
Light bulb moment: “When I was 11, I heard Ella Fitzgerald’s song “Oh, Lady Be Good!” And on that track, she has this long extended scat solo and [hearing] that was the moment when I thought, ‘This is what I want to do.’ Things just clicked.”
Biggest thrill: “Last year, singing with the Boston Pops. It was incredible. I was lucky. I wasn’t nervous . . . it was just a moment I was smiling and happy.”
Inspired by: “My influences are always changing.” Dickson cites a wide variety of musical inspirations, from vocal powerhouses such as Billie Holiday and Betty Carter to legends such as Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, and Thelonious Monk. Her more contemporary inspirations include singers Esperanza Spalding, Jill Scott, and Becca Stevens, as well as instrumentalists Eric Harland and Walter Smith III.
Aspires to: “Personally, for my own musical fulfillment, I want to do more writing and arranging music. I think that’s the ultimate way to create something unique and new. I started to write [some music] about a year ago, but I haven’t fallen into a habit.”
For good luck: “I don’t really have a good luck charm. You just have to make sure you take care of your voice and rehearse, and then I just always tell myself to have fun and enjoy myself.”
What people should know: Dickson, who plans to study music and psychology when she heads to college next fall, currently writes about jazz for WBUR’s arts blog, The ARTery.
Coming soon: Dickson’s headed to Oregon later this month as a finalist in Portland’s Jazz Forward Competition, part of the city’s annual jazz festival. She’s also hoping to release some new music in the near future. “I’m thinking about recording this spring.”