Sylvia is a musical storyteller
She weaves moving and poignant tales using her classical technique, jazz sensibilities, and pure love of song
She’s Sylvia Mims, The Unclassified Singer!
Sylvia Mims was born in Pasadena, California. “From early in life, I always heard music” she remembers. “My parents had a lot of different records including some by Nancy Wilson, Marvin Gaye, Johnny Mathis and Earth, Wind & Fire. At 5 or 6 I started trying to sing along. People were a bit shocked at first but seemed to enjoy it. My father was a college football coach and we moved a lot, living in Washington, Indiana, and southern California. I had to regularly make new friends but I always had the music as my closest friend. I loved Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday along with the contemporary artists but it really started with Nancy Wilson. I gravitated towards her voice.”
Sylvia studied art history at San Diego State University, for a time thinking of eventually becoming a museum curator. But after graduating, she was drawn to the music she loved. She sat in with the groups at the Hotel Del Coronado and also sang at other hotels and restaurants. After moving back to the Los Angeles area to be closer to her family, Sylvia became an active part of the L.A.’s jazz scene. Cathy Segal Garcia became her vocal teacher and she worked regularly with pianists Karen Hammock and Tamir Hendelman, Dave Koonse and Jamie Findlay, trumpeter Bobby Rodriguez and drummers Billy Higgins and Earl Palmer. She also sang standards with the Swing City Jazz City Orchestra.
In 2004 Sylvia Mims moved to Connecticut where she studied classical voice for six years. “Eventually I moved back to jazz because I have to add my own melodic color to a tune. It is difficult for me to perform music as it is written. I love putting what I feel into what I sing and have always loved the improvisation of jazz.” While she is certainly a jazz singer, Sylvia does not feel restricted by jazz and is often called “the unclassified singer.” One of her favorite current vocalists, Christy Baron, calls herself an interpreter of music and that description perfectly fits Sylvia, who uplifts every song that she sings.
In 2012, Sylvia Mims won the American Fine Arts Festival’s Golden Voices of America competition, which gave her the cherished opportunity to sing at Carnegie Hall. Next, when she was considering entering another competition, she needed to record three songs. Sylvia eventually decided to skip the contest and record a full CD instead, resulting in Where Lovers Live. For that highly recommended set she is joined by the great pianist Donn Trenner (who was Nancy Wilson’s musical director for years) and, on five of the dozen songs, bassist Dave Daddario. Sometimes hinting at Wilson and Dinah Washington but mostly sounding very much like herself, Sylvia is outstanding throughout the program. She performs 11 standards (including memorable versions of “My Foolish Heart,” “More Than You Know,” an emotional “Angel Eyes” and a superior rendition of “There Will Never Be Another You”) plus Trenner’s very appealing jazz waltz “Where Lovers Live.” Listeners get to enjoy first-class interpretations of classic lyrics with Sylvia’s subtle creativity making each song her own.
In recent years, Sylvia Mims has performed regularly in New York and Connecticut including singing at New York’s Metropolitan Room, often working with Donn Trenner, Bob Albanese, Matt DeChamplain or John Brighenti on piano. While Where Lovers Live emphasizes classic love songs and ballads, Sylvia Mims is enthusiastic about recording a more modern and contemporary CD next, showing a different side to her singing. She also looks forward to performing more extensively, not only in New York City, but, in Los Angeles, Europe, Japan and the Middle East.
“When picking out a song, I look for an interesting and challenging melody. I like to use the full range of my voice to color and tell the story. The lyrics are extremely important because I have to agree with their message but the melody is equally significant to me in telling the story.”
The beauty that Sylvia Mims displays in her singing, along with her gift of musical story telling, promise to make her an important figure in the music world for many years to come.