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Michelle Van Handel: Bio

I grew up surrounded by the fabulous music scene of metropolitan Portland OR. I played piano, sang, danced and started composing when I was about 10 years old. Just for fun my mom and I would sit at the piano and jam on old church hymns; she would play the chord parts and I would improvise. I grew up listening to all sorts of music but my favorites ended up being Earth Wind & Fire, Sarah Vaughn, Donald Fagan, Basia & Miles Davis.

I began learning the standard jazz repertoire when I was about 18 and starting singing in clubs a few years later. After high school I attended the Phil Mattson School of Music, Clackamas Community College and graduated from the University of Oregon. I spent a lot of time soaking up the jazz scene in Portland and had terrific mentors and teachers all along the way.

 I spent a few years directing the vocal jazz ensembles at the University of Oregon and won the Oregon Jazz Society’s scholarship for Outstanding New Jazz Vocalist. I've had the good fortune of working with some of the Northwest’s finest musicians including the late bassist Leroy Vinegar; pianist, Andre Kitaev; and composer/guitarist, Mason Williams (Classical Gas). A few years ago I recorded my first CD, Watercolor Music, which is a showcase of instrumental tunes featuring Steve Prazak on flute, Jeff Leonard on bass and I play piano and sing vocalese lines.  My new CD, Goodbye Blues is a cool mix of light rock, jazz harmonies and Latin-esque motifs.

Current musical ensembles include:

The Cascade Brass - a brass quintet with vocals. We do a yearly Christmas concert and a summer tribute show to New Orleans and Dixieland. 

 The Michelle Van Handel Quintet and The Groove Merchants - jazz standards, swing & Latin

Summer Samba - a light and Latin cocktail band

 Cascade School of Music -jazz vocal classes that provide an opportunity for singers to explore jazz and sing a solo with rhythm section.