Artist Spotlight: Faith "Quashie" Quashief

A WMU jazz student talks about her history with music, her time studying it, and where her studies are going to take her.

A couple weeks ago at WMU’s Dalton Center, I sat down with Faith Quashie, a vocal jazz student at WMU to discuss her music and vocal work.

Quashie set up on a stage in a performance room and played a set with her rotating ‘Quashie Quartet’ including some standards like “Honeysuckle Rose.”

“I always listened to jazz, jazz was always a part of it, but I never really thought about singing it until high school,” said Quashie, who attended the New York Voices Jazz Camp, which moved to Kalamazoo last year.

Quashie is from Brooklyn and Long Island, New York and grew up listening to 80’s soul and funk music as well as soca and carribean music. She has attributed much of her musical taste to her immigrant parents and the music that they played around the house.

Despite having an academic focus on vocal jazz, Quashie is not solely a jazz singer as she is also classically trained. 

“I studied a lot of classical music in high school and middle school and college is really where I started to choose a concentration of what type of music I wanted to study and advance on,” said Quashie.

More contemporary artists also have their influence on Quashie and her music, such as Nancy Wilson and Cecile McLorin Salvant.

“I actually had the pleasure of meeting [Salvant] when I went home for Spring Break,” said Quashie, describing the meeting as a fairy tale moment, an opportunity to see behind the curtain.

“I went to go see Ambrose at the Village Vanguard, I was with a couple of friends who also go to Western here and he comes up to me and says ‘Cecile McLorin Salvant is sitting over there’... and I had a whole fan-girl moment and it was cool to meet someone I’d been listening to for so long,” said Quashie.

Since coming to Western, Quashie has engaged in many opportunities in the Kalamazoo community like playing in the house band at the Union Cabaret and Grille downtown and during the summer performing on Sunday mornings for the Jazz Brunch Jam at Old Dog Tavern as well as other breweries around the city. Recently, Quashie also did a recording session with Michigan artist May Erlewine for her album ‘Second Sight’ and sang backing vocals for her on her album release tour.

“I only got that gig through a friend of a friend who needed recommendations and you get to know people and know that people can rely on you,” she said stressing the connections that she has made since coming to Western.

Quashie is staying busy performing as she continues her studies, but she is keeping her goals in mind as she moves forward. She hopes to continue with her performing throughout school career and plans on making a living of it.

 Faith Quashie will be performing for 89.1 FM WIDR’s Music at the Library on November 5.

For video of the interview and a sample of Quashie's music click here.

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