Karlee SanGiovanni has always known she is meant to be a performer. She has been singing since before she could speak and knew performing was in her blood when she first stepped on stage at the age of 7.
SanGiovanni participated in theater all throughout her high school career. When she was applying to colleges, she knew she wanted to keep performance in her life, but she was torn on what type of performing to pursue.
“I had gone through life thinking I wanted to do musical theater but when it came down to applying to colleges, I split it up a bit,” said SanGiovanni. “I applied to a few schools for musical theater, a few schools for vocal performance and one for communications.”
SanGiovanni chose to continue her journey of being a performer at Montclair State where she was accepted as a music major. When it came time for SanGiovanni to choose a concentration, jazz did not seem like the obvious choice.
“As a vocal major, you can apply for either classical or jazz. I had always pushed jazz away as an option when deciding my future. I never thought I had an interest in it,” said SanGiovanni.
Despite her initial skepticism, she soon realized how important jazz music really is, not just to her, but to her family. “My grandfather was a musician,” she said. “He played the saxophone and loved jazz music so much. I feel that I connect with my grandfather on a much bigger level after realizing my love for jazz.
“The decision to go to school for jazz just fell in my lap. It was as if God was giving me a sign. I know now that he was, because jazz is perfect for me,” said SanGiovanni. “I have always been an old soul and have always had an appreciation for jazz music and the types of music that push musical boundaries, which is what keeps jazz alive.”
As one of four jazz vocal majors in the entire university, SanGiovanni is always working to make her mark on the jazz community, particularly through her performances here at Montclair State. “Montclair has provided me with performance opportunities and the ability to connect with other musicians,” stated SanGiovanni.
While SanGiovanni is an immensly talented vocalist, not every performance opportunity she has experienced has been a good one. SanGiovanni knows this is part of the craft and uses her failures as lessons for the future.
“I have great pride in myself when I have a bad performance and am able to get back up and perform five times better the next performance,” said SanGiovanni. “The ability to find strength in myself when I fail is one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned through performing.”
Not only does SanGiovanni find confidence in herself, she also finds confidence in her large support system of family and friends.
“Going into music, I was a bit nervous of others reactions and if my family and friends would take me seriously,” expressed SanGiovanni. “Not only did they take me seriously, they supported me 100 percent in my dreams. They believed in me when I couldn’t believe in myself.
“My boyfriend is also a huge support for me. He’s a musician as well at Belmont University and never fails to make me feel like I am moving in the right direction. It’s great to be able to talk to someone who understands what it’s like to be a music major, and he really gets it.”
Having someone by her side who understands her struggles is extremely important to SanGiovanni, especially due to the nature of being a performance major.
“Being a performance major is hard. Not only because of the insane hours and workload, but also looking at your future, knowing it is not set in stone,” said SanGiovanni. “Knowing that I am doing what I love and what I feel I am meant to do is what helps me forget about the uncertainty of my future. I am able to keep going by working hard and being dedicated to my music.”
SanGiovanni knows her future is bright and is excited to continue her work as a performer and a jazz musician. “After a summer of creating videos for ‘Dissonant,’ a vocal ensemble I am part of, I am diving back into the jazz world,” she said. “This year, my goal is to push my boundaries as a jazz musician and see what I’m really made of as a performer.”