By Ed Karvoski Jr., Culture Editor
Paxton – Vocalist Jean Mancini Gough of Paxton has developed an extensive musical repertoire ranging from classical to jazz. Along the way, she has shared her love of music as a teacher with students of all ages. Her earliest musical influence was a musician uncle.
“I sang jazz in my teens with my uncle,” she noted. “I went through high school really loving and being involved with music, but frankly didn’t think I’d continue to study music. I worked for a few years and then got more serious about music by taking vocal and piano lessons.”
At age 22, she began studying at Anna Maria College in Paxton and received a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance and music education. Soon afterward, she started teaching voice while still studying privately with Ruth Cooper, a former music professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
“She let me go and watch her working with college students,” Mancini Gough relayed. “It was very beneficial to me as a voice teacher with my own students. She really was a mentor to me.”
From 1994 to now, Mancini Gough has worked as a soprano soloist and section lead with the First Unitarian Festival Choir in Worcester. Under the direction of Will Sherwood, she has performed a range of genres including classical, folk, gospel, jazz, new age and sacred.
In addition to singing at church services, the choir has performed concerts with other organizations including WPI Orchestra and Brass, and Worcester Youth Symphony.
“It’s a great opportunity to work with other singers and professional musicians of very high quality,” she said. “I enjoy the diversity of the repertoire that we perform – that’s probably why I’ve stayed there for so many years. We do classical such as Beethoven and Brahms, and we also do more contemporary sacred works by John Rutter.”
hile in her early-40s, Mancini Gough earned a master’s degree in music education from UMass Amherst. From 1998 to now she has worked as a classroom music teacher with the Wachusett school district. She currently teaches kindergarten through grade two in Rutland.
In several recent years she has also taught voice privately with the Wachusett Artist-In-Residence Program, sponsored by Wachusett Regional High School Music Department and TEMPO (To Encourage Music Performance Opportunities). Her lessons cover vocal technique, repertoire, musicianship and sight-reading.
“The beauty of the program is that it’s for anybody in the community that wants to take music lessons,” she explained. “Although I work with all different ages, I tend to have quite a few of the kids who are in honor classes at Wachusett High. They need to audition and be a certain level to get into those programs.”
While teaching, Mancini Gough presented a number of concerts as a classical soprano throughout New England, Philadelphia and New York City. Subsequently, her studies continued with a focus on jazz. She attended summer workshops at the Vermont Jazz Center in Brattleboro and classes at Berklee School of Music in Boston.
It’s delightful that I’m able to sing these two genres,” she said. “I go back and forth from the very strict classical genre to something that comes from deep inside of me when I sing jazz.”
Since to 2004 she has been performing with varied combinations of instrumentalists known as Jean Mancini Gough Jazz Group or Jazzin’ About Town.
“It’s a lot of fun to be in that groove when performing with instrumentalists that I’ve known and played with for a long time,” she said. “It helps me feel really comfortable sharing my interpretation of a song with an audience of people that I don’t necessarily know.”
Photos/John Preves Photography