Jennifer Griffith creates vocal and instrumental works that are inspired by social issues, politics and human relationships. As a kid in Oregon she listened to a steady diet of early jazz and blues when her mother played piano in New Orleans-style jazz and dance bands. In her teens and early twenties Jennifer performed as a pianist and jazz singer, but in the next ten years pursued her studies in classical music, earning her B.A. in piano performance. During these years, she also became more active in worker politics and environmental issues. In 2001, she moved to NYC, where she wrote a pocket opera about Bill Clinton, Dream President, which was presented at the New York City Opera’s VOX 2004, and later staged in a collaborative production, Opera After Hours, directed by Christopher Alden in 2008.
Griffith has received awards from the MacDowell Colony and the American Music Center, and her chamber works have been performed by American Opera Projects, the new music ensembles Cygnus, Glass Farm, Newspeak, and Vox Novus 60×60 Dance. In collaboration with writer/artist/filmmaker Zahra Partovi, she premiered a chamber oratorio setting of the Persian poet J. M. Rumi’s The Reed, a commission for the Grace Chorale of Brooklyn.
With playwright and screenwriter Dominic Orlando, Griffith composed Beautiful Creatures, an opera/music theater piece about the politics and people in environmental activism. She earned her doctorate in composition at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Her dissertation examines the music of composer/bandleader/bassist Charles Mingus to explore his nods toward New Orleans-style jazz. Her published articles on this research are “Mingus in the Act: Confronting the Legacies of Vaudeville and Minstrelsy.” (2010), and “Mingus in the Workshop: Leading the Improvisation From New Orleans to Pentecostal Trance” (2015).
Jennifer returned to singing jazz in NYC venues and is featured vocalist on reedman Steve Elson’s CD, Mott and Broome. Since 2019 she’s been in Buenos Aires working on In Voice, a jazz vocals series of music by Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk, among others