Every once in a while, a viral video of a woman playing improvised jazz will show up on my Facebook news feed, and everytime I listen and watch in amazement at how this woman played the clarinet. This is how I first found out about Doreen Ketchens. While jazz isn’t a style I’ve spent much time playing, I was drawn to her ability to play amazing improvised and memorized licks and how easy it seemed for her to play high notes and in general. Many people have seen and been impressed by these viral videos and live performances of her playing with her band in New Orleans for over 34 years, so I’ve decided to highlight her and her contributions to jazz since the formation of her band Doreen’s Jazz New Orleans.
Ketchens began clarinet in elementary school and was able to later attend NOCCA, Louisiana’s Arts Conservatory, where she studied with clarinetist Stanley Weinstein. She continued her education at Delgado Community College, Loyola University of New Orleans, Southern University in New Orleans, and, through scholarships (one of which was from the New York Philharmonic), she attended the Hartt School at the University of Hartford in Connecticut, where she studied under Henry Larsen.
While at Loyola, she met her husband in whom she found her passion for jazz. The two of them began performing on the streets of New Orleans in 1987, and started playing in Jackson Square with her first band, originally called the Jackson Square All-Stars before they evolved into Doreen’s Jazz New Orleans. They started gaining traction through these street performances, as well as through videos on the internet and jazz festivals. This led to many opportunities, such as being able to perform through Jazz at Lincoln Center, nationally, and abroad, recording records, as well as many people creating art that she inspired. Her group has also been able to record and perform with well-known musicians, including Trombone Shorty and The Black Crows and Ellis Marsalis, among others, as well as perform for U.S. Presidents, on NPR, in commercials and music videos. Doreen’s Jazz has also worked to educate people of all ages and backgrounds through workshops and masterclasses, as well as through CDs and DVDs.
To find out more about Doreen and her group, you can check out her website here (https://www.doreensjazz.com/index.htm) or visit the group’s YouTube Channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjICXsF-fT27gB2997hOpgQ)
To get to hear and learn from Doreen herself you can email email@example.com for FREE to register for the Troy University Clarinet Day where she will be a guest artist.