JazzFest History

Vanessa Rubin

Awarded: 2015
Born: Cleveland, Ohio

"I appreciate all styles of music. R&B, Motown. So I had all those influences
in me. "

- Vanessa Rubin


Born to parents from Trinidad and Louisiana, Vanessa is steeped in diverse musical traditions. She honed her skills in Cleveland under the mentorship of JazzFest legends Neal Creque, Chink Stevenson and Willie Smith. Although passionate about pursuing music professionally, she taught school to support her dream career. A move to New York City put her in the company of jazz greats. Her distinct swing style can be heard on recordings with Monty Alexander, Kenny Burrell, Billy Higgins, Etta James, Cedar Walton, Toots Thielemans and others. Vanessa is a lyricist, composer, producer and arranger and has branched into live theater. In 2011, she was nominated for the Kevin Klein Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a musical for her portrayal of Billie Holiday. Additionally, her music education programs for troubled teenagers garnered her recognition from the International Association of Jazz Educators.

Vanessa Rubin - Early Life
Vanessa Rubin plays Billie Holiday