Emilia’s musical story transcends 30 years and many different countries, from Italy to her current home in The Hague. With each note and mile she has fallen deeper in love with jazz, via a story that doesn’t begin with finding her voice, but rather, tells how singing found her.
“Singing is a place where I feel safe,” Emilia says. “The first time I sang to an audience – when I was in my teens – it was like a miracle. To me it was home, and I sing because I cannot not do it. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t sing.”
In Emilia’s safe place, music holds memories and traces every contour of her life, ever since her upbringing in Northern Italy’s cultured Cento – the small town near Bologna with its opera theatre, concert halls, library, cinemas and museums. In her family’s literary household expectations ran high, so music was kept as a hobby. Emilia would read and nurture her growing appreciation for literature and at age 7, like her mother and sister, she started piano lessons, whilst developing a love of classical music. Meanwhile, pop music would fill the house; the youngest of four children, she’d hear her older siblings play ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s British and American pop, blues, rock and Italian cantautori on their record player, before a jazz epiphany in her teens.
“I was singing Rickie Lee Jones’ rendition of ‘My Funny Valentine’ – I didn’t know it was a jazz standard. My mother heard me singing and said: ‘That’s My Funny Valentine, that’s jazz !’- I thougt: ‘That’s it ! That’s what I want to sing for the rest of my life’”.
At that time, in a society where “real jobs” were favoured over artistic careers, Emilia didn’t dare reveal her ambitions, but continued studying music theory, singing and playing the piano, whilst developing her love of languages. Learning English in London, she sang with the city’s Ripieno Society and Square Singers of St. James’s before moving to Berlin to study German, sing with the choir of the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche and continue her jazz education. “I used to hear a saxophone player perform at a jazz bar in Kantstrasse. People would walk past but I’d sit and listen. It was the music that my father enjoyed and I’d always liked it. Hearing it played live made me love it even more”.
Back in Italy, between work as a secretary, translator and ground stewardess, Emilia would study jazz singing with Martina Grosse Burlage and perform with Cento’s Prosecco Blues Band, before eventually choosing to dedicate herself to music full-time.
Relocating to The Netherlands to pursue her jazz career, she moved to The Hague – the seat of a conservatory with a very prestigious jazz department. In The Hague, Emilia took singing lessons from Jeanne Lee and she met various jazz musicians with whom she still collaborates. “The Hague has such a lively international jazz scene; in the club you’ll have the 85-year-old granddad and the 18-year-old student from Norway…….. the Royal Conservatory is a school that produces talent at an amazing speed. The Hague is a city where you are constantly surrounded by first-class jazz musicians”
Following: “In a sentimental mood” (2018) — “Whatever Possessed Me” (2008) — “Canzoni e standards” (1999) — Emilia’s latest release “And if you fall, you fall” continues to celebrate the music that inspires her. It’s just the last part in a journey that has also seen her perform with guitarist Peter Denissen, trumpet player Victor Borkent’s octet “Vic’s!” and Big Band “Straight Life”, saxophonist Gianluca Masetti, pianist Denis Biancucci and double-bass player Tiziano Zanotti.
Since reading Moravia’s “Gli Indifferenti” at age 10, Emilia’s imagination and singing have only been enhanced by a love of literature and poetry across the works of Tolstoy, Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, Leopardi and Rimbaud. On her bookshelves are novels by Virginia Woolf, Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, James Joyce…..her singing echoes her love of the written and spoken word.
Listen to Emilia Vancini sing and you feel what she feels, emotion lies at the heart of her music. There are no straight lines on the path to her safe place but only one destination: “The most important thing to me is to keep singing,” she affirms, “there is nothing else I want to do.”
” Lisa Durrant / Just The Type”