By Peter Vankevich
To Listen to their song, Hello, click the link at bottom.
Vermonters Don Sinclair and Jennifer Grossi have been visiting Ocracoke so often in the last decade that it feels like their second home.
Known as Don & Jenn, the duo met 12 years ago and bonded through their love of music, leading to their musical collaboration and eventual life partnership.
“I wouldn’t be doing any of this without Don,” Jenn said. “He’s the one who got me singing in public again after many years, and encouraged me to share what I was learning about my voice with other people, which is what led to us making our living through music full-time now.”
In 2010, they launched their company D&J Music, which offers lessons, classes and camps for all ages. Their special focus is on helping people of diverse ability levels and backgrounds to expand their creative horizons in music and performance.
For the last two years, Don & Jenn have worked with Ocracoke students as part of the Ocracoke Alive Arts Partnership Program, which begins in January and continues to May.
“The chance to come here and work with the kids is so cool because our creative sustenance is so tied to this island, and we get to give it back,” said Don.
They will instruct in the Arts Partnership in April.
While on the island, they have been guests performing live at the WOVV radio studio, and have joined Tuesday evening informal jam sessions with some of the island musicians including Lou Castro and Marcy Brenner, the island duo known as Coyote.
“Jenn and Don are enthusiastic, talented artists, performers and educators,” Marcy noted.
They perform regularly with many musicians and bands in Vermont and New Hampshire. Their latest endeavor is called Another Fine Mess, which is a rock-roots-jazz group formed with drummer Mark Hunter, Don’s band mate in the long-established Vermont blues-rock band Cobalt Blue, and fronted by Jacquilene Rose, a former D&J music student.
Don is particularly excited about this project.
“It’s one of the most inspiring bands I’ve ever been involved with in 40-plus years as a musician,” he said.
“We’ve written some killer originals for it, and even the covers we do sound like a brand new thing.”
They also host the Summer Street Music Series, a non-profit house-concert venue and live music network in their town of Bradford, Vermont.
“Through the series, we’ve been able to export some of what we find in Ocracoke to our own community,” Jenn said.
“There’s a pervasive and deep appreciation of live music and collaborative partnerships between musicians and community organizations and businesses that enrich the cultural feel of the whole place.”
To see some pictures and videos and from their 2012 extended EP, “The Living Room,” click here.
Their first full-length album, due out in 2017, will feature many of their musical collaborators, and reflect their current interest in exploring more elaborate soundscapes together.
“The music ends up having a life of its own when we work as a team,” Don said. “So our job as musicians and as partners is just to follow wherever the music takes us.”
Listen to “Hello” by Don & Jenn and their friend Jennifer Oh Lord, recorded in Paris, France, in March: