Richard Saunders is an eighteen-year-old who survived the Connecticut suburbs making music too soulfulicious to be ignored. Claiming influences from Donny Hathaway to Ella Fitzgerald to Björk, his musical blend of jazz, pop, and hip-hop sounds like a young Michael Bublé who spent his first few years of high school in Harlem. He plays the piano and writes songs to sing with his band, Richard Saunders and the Too-Cool-for-Yous, which consists of Jewish drumming prodigy Jake/Yakov Goldbas, Zwe Bell Le Pere, and back-up singers Wayne Paul, Shenel Johns, and Kimberly Mayo.
In a short amount of time, Richard has conquered every jazz vocal award that exists for a human of his age. He’s been a part of the Gibson/Baldwin Grammy Jazz Choir in 2007 and 2008, along with being the first vocalist ever selected to sing with the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra in 2008. He won the silver award in jazz voice at the NFAA youngARTS week in 2008, and is one of 20 high school students selected by the U.S. Department of Education to be a Presidential Scholar in the Arts. These opportunities have allowed him to sing in venues such as the Kennedy Center, North Sea, and Monterey Jazz festivals.
Having mastered the fine art of scatting, he pushes that all aside and gets down to business. His no-nonsense approach to harmony and lyrics allow him to soulfully speak his mind about the destitution and weirdness of living in the suburbs. No doubt, this Berklee Songwriting Contest and Young Guns 2008 National Battle of the Bands award-winning group of musicians will have much to say as they travel up to the city of Boston this year.
Julia Easterlin may be one of the few young artists that can credit Yoko Ono for opening a major door in her artistic journey. At the age of 15, Julia was chosen to spend a day on the John Lennon Tour Bus, a mobile studio and brainchild of Yoko Ono. After Julia served as the lyricist and singer for the day, the studio engineers gave Julia's parents a life-changing command: "Mortgage your house, do anything you can to get her out there, but get her out there!"
Their first step was to enroll her in the summer program at Berklee College of Music, where she quickly won a spot in the Summer Singer/Songwriter's Showcase and also began her first foray into jazz. Julia recieved a scholarship to return the following summer and a suggestion to audtion for the Gibson/Baldwin Grammy Jazz Ensemble. "I had no formal training and Augusta, Georgia is not exactly a jazz town, but I studied the genre and trusted my instincts, and just before Christmas, I got my acceptance letter."
Julia travled to Los Angeles, spending 10 days performing with jazz greats such as Oscar Petersen, Hank Jones, Barry Harris, and Kurt Elling. It was a trip she would repeat in 2007 as she was again selected to be the lead soprano for the group.
Since that time, Julia has followed the urgings of the John Lennon crew, finding success at every turn. In 2007, she had a merit placement in Pop Vocals in the NFAA Student Competition. In 2008, she was selected as a finalist in Jazz Vocals. Down Beat Magazine also named her one of the country's top student jazz vocalists in their yearly student awards.
Julia currently attends Berklee College of Music, balancing her academic pursuits with a performing career. She has recorded two albums, Calling Out, a compilation of original songs; and Why Can't You Behave, a jazz CD with pianist Yuma Sung. Her music is available on cdbaby.com and itunes.