Jun 13, 2017

Living the dream?

By Sara Decker

Studying Jazz Music and Vocals at Manhattan School of Music in New York City has been a dream come true for me. Sure, there were some minor struggles arriving in the ‘big apple’: understanding the visa working- regulations for foreign students, opening up a bank account, bringing your student card at any time, because if you do not have it, you might not be able to enter the University.

Musician and Fulbright alumna Sara Decker

Especially finding an apartment in New York felt like trying to win the lottery. It was impossible for us to find anything in advance. We (my partner and me) lived in a ‘hotel room’ in Chinatown for four weeks before we finally settled for a one room apartment in Harlem. After the living situation was solved everything seemed to run more smoothly.

Outreach performance with MSM students for toddlers 2015

The studies were a mind blowing educational experience. The workload was insane, but most of the teachers were very encouraging, giving a lot of constructive criticism and building a positive learning environment for each student.

There were so many classes that I completely lost myself trying to do everything at the same time: writing for studio orchestra while improving my Brazilian music skills, transcribing chromatic solos and doing outreach performances in elderly homes and for kids.

Though the studies were very inspiring and definitely full- filled what I had hoped for, the best experience was getting to know my peers: a unique, international network of incredible musicians and beautiful human beings. Being surrounded by all those talented students with their different cultures, taste in music and musical excellence made me realize my own limits and goals in music much clearer then before. Many good friendships and musical collaborations developed in this year.

Singing backing vocals for my friend and colleague Ruby Choi 2015

Those positive experiences encouraged me to form my own band the ‘Sara Decker Group’ . I recorded my first EP at MSM studios with original music 2014 a few months after arriving in New York.
To me the nicest outcome of this whole year is to see how it still influences and enriches my personal and musical life: Right after returning to Germany in 2015 we won the European Jazz Award in Tuscia Italy for my music. Many of those arrangements and songs which I wrote while living in New York.

Performing at the Tuscia in Jazz Festival 2016

I organized two tours in Germany inviting my colleagues ‘Bass & Vocal Duo’- partner Daryl Johns (march 2016) and recently Soul/ Jazz Singer Schadrack Pierre from New York to perform with my projects. In November 2016 we finally returned to New York to record my debut album ‘long
distance’ with the Sara Decker Group at Systems Two Studio, Brooklyn.
And I received my artist visa for the US this year which means that I’ll be able to live and work in New York the next three years. I initially had come to the States to become a better singer, get a deeper understanding of the roots of Jazz music and advance my craft as a musician and composer in general. After one year in New York I returned to Germany with the wish to call the city my new home.

Sara Decker was a 2014-15 Fulbright Scholar at the Manhattan School of Music in New York studying her Masters Degree in Jazz Voice / Music.
After returning to Germany in 2015 she was awarded with the European Jazz Award for her original music and performance at the Tuscia in Jazz Festival, Italy. 2017 she was nominated to perform at the distinguished Montreux Jazz Voice Competition. Sara just released her Debut Album ‚long distance‘ and is currently working and touring as a jazz vocalist, composer and bandleader in Europe and the US. To learn more about Sara's work, visit her website: www.saradeckermusic.com


Photo credit: Jeroen Truyen (top photo)

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