Growing up in the Litchfield Jazz Camp family, it was very difficult to choose only one mentor, because each faculty member has left a lasting impression. Claire Daly was my first example of a powerhouse female jazz musician. But I’ll never forget the day I heard Dave Stryker perform his song The Chaser in a faculty concert. He brought the students to a screaming standing ovation with his energy, melody and ripping solo. That inspired me to write melodies myself that multiple generations could grab on to. Dave is a force on the guitar and an inspiration. It’s an honor to share the stage with him on our beloved Litchfield Jazz Festival.
– Nicole, on working with Dave Stryker
“Zuraitis has a voice that has been called ” hard to ignore… (with) remarkable range… you can’t help but stop and take notice” –Jazz Inside Magazine
Nicole Zuraitis, vocals
The Brooklyn-based vocalist/pianist is as diverse as the city that spawned her music. Using world travel for inspiration, genre-bending has become her forte and groove-based innovation her hallmark. Nicole’s recent accomplishments include placing 3rd (out of 10,000 applicants) in the 2015 Sarah Vaughn Competition, advancing to the semi finals in the National American Traditions Vocal Competition, taking home its People’s Choice and Johnny Mercer Awards, and winning an ASCAP Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composers Award. She was also a finalist in the Songdoor International Songwriting Contest and NYC’s WNYC Battle of the Boroughs.
Nicole made an international tour last year sponsored by the American Embassy in Israel and toured Australia with the world music band EVA. She has performed with Bernard Purdie and Kung Fu, Omar Hakim, Livingston Taylor, Tom Chapin, Bernie Williams, James Montgomery, Dave Stryker, Charli Persip, Rachel Z, Hagar Ben Ari, and Jane Monheit, among others. Nicole has played international festivals in Canada, Israel, and Australia, and at home at New England Jazz and Blues Fest, Chautaqua Music Festival, Bonnaroo and The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. She made her jazz debut at Litchfield Jazz Festival in 2008.
Nicole has been in residence at New York clubs — 55 bar, Mastro’s, Red Eye Grille, Rockwood Music Hall, Toshi’s Living Room and the Friars Club. She plays lead keyboards for The Kevin Osborne Band and at the Plaza Hotel Tony Awards After Party. She opened for jazz legend Dave Brubeck and the Platters and collaborated with world- renowned Indian carnatic guitarist and composer Prasanna while teaching and touring in India. She was featured in a video interview by Columbia News Tonight as “New Yorker of the Week” for her work with music and shelter animals.
She received her degree from New York University in classical vocal performance. In July 2008 she released her first jazz album Nicole Zuraitis—Spread the Word, featuring Luques and Zaccai Curtis and Winard Harper. She completed her sophomore album, Pariah Anthem, in 2013. Because of her interest in shelter animals, she donates $1 from every CD sold to NYC rescue groups.
Nicole is proud to be a freelance educator and private voice teacher. She joined the faculty of the Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music in Chennai, India in the Spring of 2012. She is a longstanding faculty member at Litchfield Jazz Camp and for other programs of Litchfield Performing Arts where she has been involved since she was 12 years old! She participates in the annual Miami Arts Charter School Jazz Intensive created by Litchfield colleague Albert Rivera. Her private vocal studio is in Brooklyn, New York.
Appearing with her on LJF 2016 are Jon Michel on bass, Carmen Staaf on piano, Caroline Davis on saxophone, and Dan Pugach on drums.
Dave Stryker, guitar
Dave Stryker grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and moved to New York City in 1980. After establishing himself in the local music scene, he joined organist Jack McDuff’s group for two years 1984-85. From 1986-1995, Stryker played with the legendary saxophonist Stanley Turrentine at all the major festivals, concert halls, and clubs throughout the world. With Turrentine, Stryker was able to play with such jazz greats as Dizzy Gillespie and Freddie Hubbard.
He has recorded and published over 70 of his own compositions. Dave continues to perform with his working unit The Stryker/Slagle Band as well as his other projects: The Blue to the Bone Band, The Shades Project (w/ Lenny White), and his latest group Trio Mundo featuring Manolo Badrena on percussion and vocals and Andy McKee on bass. Dave has been a resident artist at the Litchfield Jazz Camp since 2000.