Jenna McSwain
Music is the vehicle that’s been driving Jenna McSwain’s whole life. It picked her up before she could even talk and drove her at the age of four to get out from behind the pew of her Charleston church and share her songs with the congregation. It drove her to lead her three sisters to perform spirituals throughout the South Carolina lowcountry and to study hard. By the time she was attending high school at the Charleston County School of the Arts, she was playing piano and singing professionally in esteemed Charleston music venues. And the music kept driving – a trusty, yet relentless old carriage with a strong engine and faulty brakes. Jenna was certain that if she took the wheel, through music, she would find her path to a meaningful life.

She drove hard to educate herself, earning a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of South Carolina and a Masters from the University of Northern Colorado. She had been smitten with jazz music since she met Ahmad Jamal at the age of eight, and she made it her focus, while also studying classical piano, voice, and Portuguese, the language of her Azorean ancestors and of the Brazilian music she loved. In addition to providing instruction with great educators, her schooling offered opportunities in performance, classroom teaching and administrative duties. She graduated filled with song, fired up about teaching, and with a network of colleagues in the national jazz community.

With a newfound “license,” Jenna took her music back down south, where she taught on the jazz faculty at the University of South Carolina, acquired a large studio of piano and voice students, and composed, arranged, and performed locally. One year later, the music brought her to New Orleans to soak up the big, beautiful beat that fuels the second lines and keeps everyone dancing.