Aileen’s stunning voice and rich-toned hand-built guitar have taken her halfway around the world from her hometown of Santa Cruz, California, bringing her unique musical vision to audiences of all ages and persuasions across the U.S., Canada, Britain and even Mexico. Her songs have been performed by many artists, such as Priscilla Herdman, Pete Seeger, Pat Humphries, Eileen McGann, Nancy Tucker, Jackson Gillman and Susie Burke.
“I’m a great believer in songs about ordinary people,” she says, “because I find so much inspiration in how people survive and flourish against all the odds. Maybe that’s why I love performing so much in front of so many different kinds of people: I just find people amazing.”
Compassion for other beings on the earth is another of Aileen’s central themes. Songs about the preservation of the wolf, wild birds, whales, forests, and more are woven through her concerts and recordings. “I believe that one of the greatest responsibilities of the artist is to speak for those who might not be able to speak for themselves. It is a magical ability that we have as human beings: to imagine what it might be like to walk in someone else’s shoes.”
As for Aileen’s musical influences, they are many and diverse. She grew up listening to the finest singers of traditional songs from Ireland, England, and Scotland, and that formed the backbone of her education as a singer. “But you would have been just as likely to find me listening to the fine singers of other traditions,” she adds. “My grandmother introduced me early on to the power of such great singers as Paul Robeson and Mahalia Jackson.” Joni Mitchell, Jean Redpath, Bill Monroe, Hazel Dickens, and many others, were just as important. “They all have voices have an urgency and truth in them, as well as a powerful beauty,” she comments.
But don’t let all this heady discussion mislead you. An Aileen Vance concert always includes a lot of fun, singing along and humor. At Aileen’s concerts, you are just as likely to laugh out loud as to cry, as she takes you on a journey through the full range of human experience—from the run-down shack of Salinas Valley migrant farmworkers to the moonlit silence of a bird sanctuary to the joyous clamor of a second grade classroom.
After many years as a solo singer/songwriter Aileen changed up her musical career quite a bit in the mid 1990’s by becoming a parent…HUGE detour! With many more balls in the air than seem humanly possible (and quite a few years later), in addition to the occasional mini-tour and many local performances, Aileen has served as a public school classroom music teacher, the musical director of the Santa Cruz Peace Chorale, the founder of “Zabalaza!” an acapella community world music choir, the director of “Rise Up! Community Drop-in Song Circles, a composer, and a voice teacher. Now that her kids are grown, she finds herself itching to get back out on the road more. She also sings in a duo with Alisa Peres doing songs in Spanish and English, and adores her long-time collaborations with Canada’s Eileen McGann.
If you would like to book any or all of the above-mentioned acts, please contact us!
—written by Bernard Gilbert
photo credit: Andrea Fauni