Etta Cox, Pittsburgh Musician
First, can you tell readers how you got started as a musician and how you’d describe your music?
I started singing at the age of three. At seven I began piano lessons and voices lessons at twelve. I graduated from college with a degree in Music Education and Voice. In my mid twenties I gravitated towards Jazz.
How did you settle into this style of music for yourself – what made it “right” for you?
I found that there was a freedom in Jazz music that I had never experienced before. And I felt it was a good mix.
What local musicians/artists have you looked up to -and have any helped you over the years in any way?
The first local Pittsburgh band that I performed with was the Al Dowe Band. I truly knew nothing about Jazz and Al Dowe became a mentor to me. I provided me with recordings to listen to and let me sing with his band on a regular basis as I grew into the music.
How has the city been as a venue for your music? There seem to be a number of local talented artists yet there’s not been that one big breakout act yet -is there something more the city can do to “get the word out”?
The City of Pittsburgh is a great venue for Jazz and there are loads of Jazz lovers here. When you say that “breakout” act I guess you are referring to someone or some band that hits it nationally and internationally and makes loads of money. Well if you are working steady gigs and making a living doing it as a jazz musician that is quite an accomplishment.
At the present time there are some “young guns” that are doing great things in the field of jazz. To name a few: Brett Williams (pianist) going to the Monterey Jazz Festival, George Heid II, (drummer), Craig Davis (pianist), Benny Benack III (trumpet). Give them some time. They are really going to “break out”!
Are you a sports fan – if so, what teams/athletes do you follow?
Yes I am definitely a sports fan. STEELERS of course! But on any given Sunday during football season I watch all the games even if the Steelers are not playing; just to see what the Steelers will be up against.
Was a big Chiefs fan before moving to Pittsburgh (I am from St. Joseph, Missouri). I always had dreams of going to the Olympics in gymnastics (that was another life). Love Tiger Woods but I can’t bear to watch him lose. Baseball – Wellllll it’s way too long! Love Michael Vick, MIke Wallace, and the younger Peyton (so gutsy)!
Have you had the opportunity to perform in front of any local sports venues/players? If so, how were those experiences?
I have sung the National Anthem for the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium (years ago), the anthem for the Steelers, Pirates and Penguins. Great experiences because the crowd goes wild after you sing; not for you but for the fact that the game is finally starting.
I also appeared with Hines Ward for one of his favorite charities at the Vangura plant.
What have been some of the more memorable performances for you -and what made them so?
Opening for Mr. Ray Charles at Heinz Hall, performing at Wolf Trap twice, appearing in my first Broadway Show “I Love My Wife” then “The 1940’s Radio Hour”, “The Me Nobody Knows”, and appearing with Danny Glover and Ossie Davis at NYU.
I was one of the Rod McKuen girls at Lincoln Center an opened and appeared at my first casino Trump Plaza!
Many see the music business as “all glamour” -but the constant travelling, especially as you are trying to establish yourself, can be very difficult. How do you deal with the travel and rigors of the business?
Aside from being a jazz performer I also teach at CAPA (Creative and Performing Arts High School). Teaching is more rewarding for me than you can ever imagine. I keep my travelling down to the summer months; unless something comes up that I just cannot refuse. The glamour for me is in the clothes. After that it’s just a job that you love.
Where can fans (and future fans) find and purchase your music?
I have a website that needs to be updated but you can order cds there. Ettacox.com
Any last thoughts for readers?
I feel very blessed to be doing what I love most. And having the opportunity to share my talent with others. Check out my website for my new cd coming out this winter.