By Lyndsie Kiebert-Carey
Famed jazz vocalist and pianist Diane Schuur — or, as she prefers to be called, “Deeds” or “Deedles” — never doubted her path as a woman of music. The first steps of that path can be found in Schuur’s earliest years, when she proved herself a (perhaps annoyingly) musical child.
“I used to go into my bedroom closet at midnight and try to emulate an artist by the name of Dinah Washington. My mom and dad, they’d come out and they’d say, ‘Diane, shut up!’” Schuur recalled, with a laugh. “I thought that was pretty funny — well, I didn’t at the time, but I’m glad that I didn’t let that admonition stop me from doing what I needed to do.”
The now Grammy-winning artist still sees her musicality as a “need” — a “calling of sorts,” she said. Music became especially important when she attended the Washington State School for the Blind. Schuur has been blind since her premature birth in 1953.
“Oftentimes, it was a lonely place without my parents and my brother and sister,” Schuur said of the school for the blind, which she attended from about 4 to 11 years old. “Music was the thing that I leaned upon very, very heavily.”
She recalls having a radio as her constant companion during her time away from home.
“I was constantly surrounded by the music that I loved a lot,” she said, naming The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Duke Ellington, Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington as some of her favorite artists at the time.
Those influences — particularly of the jazz persuasion — remained critical for Schuur as she launched into her storied career as a jazz legend in her own right.
“It’s just been a fascinating journey in the past 69 years on this planet,” she said.
Of her 69 years, nearly 60 have been spent as a professional performer. Schuur said her first gig was Jan. 4, 1964, at only 10 years old. She continues to tour and perform, and will bring her act to the Panida Theater on Friday, Feb. 17 as part of the Pend Oreille Arts Council’s annual performing arts series. As part of POAC’s Ovations educational program, local choir and band students will be invited to a special soundcheck session and Q&A with Schuur.
“To have an artist of this caliber come to play an intimate venue like the Panida will be a joy for all who attend,” said POAC Executive Director Tone Lund. “Diane Schuur is an enormously talented musician who exudes joy and positivity wherever she goes.”
That joy and positivity translates into a palpable warmth in Schuur’s music, and even in the way she carries a conversation. She is regarded as an artist that has furthered the jazz tradition while injecting a bit of quirk and comfort — adding a touch of humanity with each song and show.
“I look forward to working with my audiences — to be able to get out there and spread the love,” she said, “and be a little bit of a sit-down comedian as opposed to a stand-up.”
With that, Schuur let out a hearty laugh.
“There will be a lot of love and laughter in this show — trust me on that,” she said.
Diane Schuur •Friday, Feb. 17; doors at 6:30 p.m., music at 7:30 p.m.; $35 adults and $10 youth. Panida Theater, 300 N. First Ave., 208-263-9191, panida.org. Get tickets at artinsandpoint.org; the POAC Office (110 Main St., Ste. 101); calling 208-263-6139; or at the Panida doors. Listen at dianeschuur.com.
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