We had the good fortune of connecting with Shawnn Monteiro and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Shawnn, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I have been a risk taker all my life. Life is a risk. Living is a risk -every step you take and every breath you make is a risk. Every day that you get up you never know what’s going to happen to you. I have experienced that firsthand in my life. I believe in taking chances. I have taken chances since I first started singing. Taking my children on the road with me when they were little. And every choice that I have made in my life has been a risk because you never know about the the outcome but you hope for the best.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
When I was a small child, my mother gave me up to another family who raised me. My father was on the road and wasn’t aware that I was living with another family. I also had no idea that they weren’t my family until I found out one day in a moment of heated talk from the woman who I thought was my mother. I always loved music and singing so from that day forth I decided I would find my father and escape my unfortunate situation. I found out that my father was a jazz musician and I thought it might be Dizzy Gillespie. In my search, I found Dizzy and he told me he knew who my father was. When I found Jimmy Woode, my life finally began. I started singing in nightclubs when I was 19. I was lucky enough to be discovered by jazz impresario Mongo Santamaria, who took me on tour with his band. I worked in many high end clubs for the first 3 years of my career. Then I had to make it on my own. I had 2 small children from my first disastrous marriage and I took them on the road with me. We ended up in New York, where I found myself alone with the kids sitting in front of the fountain at Rockefeller Center trying to figure out how I would get us back into our hotel room because we had no money and I was unsure of how to proceed. I was feeling very down and out when I was approached by comedian Nipsy Russell who was kind enough to help me get on my feet by securing a hotel room and food for a month for my kids and I, while I figured it out. I hustled hard and worked in New York with the best musicians. I toured with them as well nationally and internationally under my own name as a band leader and singer. I decided that I would pay it forward by working with young singers and helping them along just like the angels that have helped me throughout my career. I have made a living as a performer for almost 53 years. My father taught me that it doesn’t matter how big or small a gig is, if you love what you are doing, then every gig is big.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
The people in my life who helped me along the way- most importantly my father jazz bassist Jimmy Woode of the Ellington band, my godfather Clark Terry, my dear friend who I called papa Jimmy Cobb, all the great bands I have worked with, and most of all my husband, Ray, who has been with me through all of this for 47 years.
Other: Tik Tok- @shawnnmonteirojazz