LIVING IN HARMONY: BRETT AND JULIA MITCHELL

27 Jul
Brett and Julia Mitchell performing

Brett and Julia Mitchell performing

Brett and Julia Mitchell make beautiful music together…and apart. But how these two got to their shared lives as local musicians took each down very different paths. Speaking at their comfortable family home, Julia shared she didn’t start singing professionally until around 1993 when a friend, local jazz singer, Jim Conroy, heard her harmonizing to his vocals from the audience. He called her on stage to harmonize with him to the song, On the Boardwalk. Thereafter she occasionally sang with Jim. Three years later, she met Brett, who composes, sings and plays keyboards. He was so impressed with her deep, rich vocals that he sought to make her a featured singer and his wife. Julia primarily performs with Brett in duets or as a vocalist in one of the groups in which he plays. Her versatile vocals, primarily jazz, pop and from the Great American Songbook, resonate with the hearts of her listeners. She is best known for performing songs of female jazz greats including Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James, Diana Krall, Roberta Flack, and Joni Mitchell. She was featured at the Cambria Jazz Festival, the Jazz Federation “Diva” concert, and the Central Coast Follies.

Brett and Julia

Brett and Julia

Julia’s relatively late start as a professional musician belies her early love and involvement with music. When she was around age six, she and her brother started playing violin and viola, and their father, the cello. As a child growing up in Thousand Oaks, Julia loved playing in the local youth symphony, as well as attending concerts, opera and operettas, dressed in her finery. She relished visits from her Spanish cousins when the whole family would sing “in multiple layers of harmony.” Julia occasionally sang as young adult, but then pursued other interests until years later when she started singing professionally on the Central Coast.

While growing up in Oklahoma City, Brett started playing piano at age 12 and then percussion in the school band. By 15, he reported he was writing and performing music professionally, at a spot on the old Route 66. At 16 he began following his interests in acting which continued through his college studies at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts where Olympia Dukakis was one of his acting instructors. At NYU, Brett also continued to pursue his musical interests. He and his friend/classmate, Melissa Manchester (later a Grammy-award winning artist), wrote music together as part of an application to a class taught by famed musician Paul Simon; they succeeded. Brett remembers this as an exciting time in music and theatre. While at NYU, Brett wrote the music for two musicals and the score for a student film, and he was a member of the BMI musical theater workshop, taught by famed conductor Lehman Engel. After college he acted with the North Carolina Repertory Theatre, but his passion for music pulled him back toward that career direction, eventually taking him to Southern California. Brett’s music is influenced by varied musical genres, including rock, pop, jazz, Broadway and the Great American Songbook.

Knowing some musicians who lived on the Central Coast, in 1986 Brett decided to relocate there from Southern California. He initially performed with his friends, Craig Nuttycombe (currently of Café Musique) and Peter Yelda (guitarist and former co-owner of Blue Note.). Brett began his local solo career playing at the Inn at Morro Bay. During solo performances, he surveys the crowd and tailors his musical selections to the audience make-up. Currently, he stays busy playing with several local bands. When forming a band Brett joked that he considers “the old guard of usual suspects.” On February 9th, Brett will be performing with his new group, the Kings of Cool (formerly Franks & Deans), at D’Anbino Vineyard and Cellars Tasting Room. The Kings of Cool draw from the music and improvisation of the “Rat Pack”. Besides Brett, other vocals and repartee are performed by Steve McAndrew, Chad Stevens and Bobby Horn.

This year, Brett has been showcasing his original compositions. Accompanying Brett were Ken Hustad on bass, Darrell Voss on drums/percussion, Danny Weiss on guitar, Diane Steinberg-Lewis on vocals and keyboard, and Kim Wilkins on viola. George Wilkins, Kim’s husband, is helping Brett with arrangements. Before moving to the Central Coast, George Wilkins spent over seven years as a Composer in Residence at Walt Disney Productions and Director of Music for Walt Disney Engineering. In addition, George is a composer, arranger and orchestrator who has worked with many top recording artists and headline acts.

Human Nation

Human Nation

As a member of the popular local group, Human Nation, Brett is looking forward to the release of their CD which is scheduled for later this year. Human Nation is comprised of stellar musicians: Adam Levine, composer/arranger on electric and acoustic guitar; Danny Pelfrey (formerly with Tower of Power); Bill Wingfield on acoustic and electric bass; and Dean Giles on drums and percussion. Human Nation’s music draws from jazz, blues, Latin and funk melded with world rhythms.

counterpoint

Counterpoint

Counterpoint is a cabaret-style group, featuring vocalists Steve McAndrew, Karinda Scott, as well as Brett and Julia, that performs favorites by groups like Earth, Wind and Fire, Christopher Cross, James Taylor, the Doobie Brothers and the Great American Songbook. Brett plays piano, with Adam Levine on guitar, and Ken Hustad on bass. Brett also performs locally with the trio, No Ego Amigos, who play a wide variety of musical styles at such venues as D’Anbino and the Bellasera Hotel in Paso Robles. Brett’s tangible achievements include ten CDs and composing the main theme for the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival

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