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Arts & Culture

Gail Pettis: From Braces To Grace Notes

Gail Pettis and Dr. David Deacon-Joyner perform at the Christmas Jam back in 2010.
Justin Steyer
Gail Pettis and Dr. David Deacon-Joyner perform at the Christmas Jam back in 2010.

The KNKX Holiday Jam happens this weekend, at the Rialto Theater in Tacoma. The event itself is sold out but you can hear it live on the air or through the streaming link on this site, starting at 7:30 Sunday night.

The annual concert features jazz vocalist Gail Pettis. Longtime listeners know Gail’s music, but her first career was as an orthodontist. She sat down with 88.5’s Ed Ronco to talk about how she ended up singing jazz.

Interview Highlights

As an orthodontist: “You sing under your breath while you’re working, and get to rehearse all of your material, and people can’t complain because their mouths are full of cotton and instruments and so forth. We had a mom who would come to the office and she would end up singing harmony to whatever I was singing.”

Refining the craft: “Darren Motamedy is a saxophonist who was … conducting a workshop. I signed up to audition. I don’t think it was really intended for vocalists, and I’m not sure it was really intended for adults. Most of the people in there were junior high school instrumentalists. And most of those people had a lot of background training and they were conversant in music theory and so forth. [Darren] said ‘You may feel a little bit out of it because you don’t know the terminology for something you’re already hearing and doing. Just remember before there was language to describe these things there was the musical thing itself.’”

On nerves: “It wasn’t something I had a lot of experience doing. I can stand up and give a lecture on the theory of mineralization to orthodontic residents. Singing was something so new to me and was something I had never done, and in the context of being in front of a lot of people that you would expect to be nervous. But I have surprisingly found that even when I get on stage the music takes precedence.”


Gail is a longtime friend of 88.5, and joined us back in 2013 for Jimmy Jazzoid Rides Again. We can't resist using this as an excuse to post a link to that great production.

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