Gretchen Elise is a West Philadelphia- based singer-songwriter whose jazz-based, interactive original music is unforgettable. Debuting with the title role to Amahl and the Night Visitors in school at ten, she enjoyed the spoils of a good public school music education, including choir, bell choir and piano. This access to music fuels her ongoing advocacy for arts education in schools. She has performed and composed in the five languages she speaks with a World Music Orchestra in Berlin, jazz and Brazilian groups in Boston and Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Jazz Project (PJP)- spawned DivaNation PHILLY, and in her own eponymous band since 2004. Gretchen received a M.Ed from Harvard Graduate School of Education, and was schooled on arts and activism through a decade of study with Mexican-born jazz artist, the late Mili Bermejo, of Berklee College of Music.
Gretchen uses performance as a catalyst to community building. Her town hall-style shows involve the whole audience. Equally inspired by writing and composition, she has written lyrics and arrangements for PJP initiatives, including a Sun Ra-inspired series re-formulating the Roots/Erykah Badu’s You Got Me and Alphonzo Johnson’s Involuntary Bliss. Her primary original recordings Time & Space (2010) and Are You Ready (2004) combine “a signature blend of jazz, world, RnB and hip hop” (Boston Globe), and she is equally at home re-interpreting standards and spontaneously composing new, original earworms. Gretchen released the first single, “Wawa,” of her third original album to international acclaim in 2020 and hopes to license it to the Philadelphia retailer. Her live video “Birds Still Sing” debuted locally and nationally in 2021 on PBS WHYY House Concert Series. Sometimes political, sometimes personal, Gretchen Elise’s penchant for a good hook will have you singing her songs on repeat.