An elite vocal coach and music producer has opened her studios to a KSU student for coaching and recording opportunities.
Jan Smith is widely known in the music industry. Dubbed “Mama Jan” by Usher, Smith has coached musicians such as Usher himself, Justin Bieber, The Band Perry, Drake, Sugarland and Florida Georgia Line. Smith has taken on Tessa Thornbrough, known by her stage name Tessa Joy, a freshman music major, as her latest protégé.
Tessa Joy has been taking lessons at Jan Smith Studios for about three years. Tessa Joy started at Smith’s studio taking vocal lessons from one of Jan’s hired instructors, who was also coached by Smith.
“The conversation came up that she had original songs that she was doing and wanted to record,” Smith said, “so that’s where I came into the picture as far as the production was concerned, and then working with her on her song structure.”
Tessa Joy recorded her first five original songs last May.
“I’m thrilled with the results,” Tessa Joy said. “I hope to get back in the studio soon and record more of my original music.”
Smith expressed her pleasure not only with Tessa Joy’s talent but with her growth since coming to the studio.
“Tessa’s a very good writer,” Smith said. “I was very impressed with her songwriting vernacular and her skill set, rhythmically on guitar as well as the written word.”
On her progress in recent years, Tessa Joy knows she has come a long way.
“I’ve learned so much, not just how to sing or write better, but how to be an artist, how to carry myself,” she said. “And the people that I’ve met and the relationships that I’ve built have been incredible. I’ve really felt and seen the growth through my performances and my songwriting.”
Tessa Joy also says that starting college at KSU this past fall did not affect her career or her relationship with music.
“I worked with my adviser to get the perfect schedule with what I wanted to do, so I have all this time to focus on my passion and get an education, so I feel like I’m in the right spot,” Tessa Joy said.
Smith has other connections to KSU outside of working with Tessa Joy. Last December, she did an interview with The Local Lense, an online “entertainment buzz” website based in Atlanta. The interview was filmed on the Kennesaw campus by students in the Joel A. Katz Music and Entertainment Business Program.
Smith is also doing a one-day vocal seminar in partnership with KSU on April 29 in Woodstock. Kennesaw students are welcome to attend and will receive a discount. The program is based on a format created by Smith called “Vocal Tech,” which was adopted by The Recording Academy — the producer of the Grammys.
“It was one of the only vocal seminar offerings that any real prominent organization like the Grammys had ever done,” Smith said. “Since it was my brainchild, and this is my business, I wanted to pursue doing a vocal-centric kind of seminar because there are so many artists who may not be able to come in [the studio] full time but need that information.”
For more information about the seminar, including when tickets go on sale, go to Smith’s website jansmith.com and follow her on Instagram @mamajanmusic. Tessa Joy’s music can be found on iTunes and Spotify, and you can also follow her on Instagram @tessajoyy.