Gracing the World With Her Voice: Lea Gilmore3 min read

(Originally posted March 31, 2012)

I met this lovely woman when I was 6 years old. She has been a huge inspiration in my life. While growing up around Lea, I soon learned about all the work that she does, whether it be as a musician, social activist, mom, wife, and that doesn’t even come close to the list of things Gilmore has done and accomplished in her career.

The Whole (S)tory (TWS): When and how did you get into music? When did you discover your loves for the blues/gospel music?

LG: I have always heard music around me growing up in the traditional black church. I took it for granted. I actually played the piano before I ever started singing. When I was 11, I won a full scholarship to the Peabody Conservatory of Music to study classical piano.

As mentioned, I heard Gospel (and the Blues) all around me as a kid. I was cast as Ma Rainey in a show when I was about 23 or so, and started researching the blues and I fell in love, and have never looked back.

TWS: How does traveling around the world spreading your music make you feel? What does it mean to you?

LG: It means so much to me. Music communicates with the soul. No matter the culture, race, etc. those notes have a universal language. I am honored that “the world” would even want to hear me actually!  It makes me feel proud, humble, and blessed.

TWS: What has the experience of working with other musicians been like?

LG: I have had wonderful and not so wonderful experiences, but I have learned from all of them. I tend to work with the same musicians, because you build a bond and start to understand each other at a musical “cellular” level. I have been so lucky to work with some of the best.

TWS: What is your most memorable experience (or 2) in the music world?

LG: There have been so many!

1. In Belgium, having a man whose wife had just died of cancer who plays my CD every night and drover over 100 miles to come to the concert just to thank me for the music. That is so not about just me, but about the power of the music. These melodies, many created by American slaves in the fields, still inspiring all over the world.

2.  When I sang with a 2000 voice choir, and I turned around to look at the joy on the faces of the 2000 singing “Oh Happy Day”…  I will never forget that.

TWS: How does being a musician affect the other aspects of your life?

LG: It disciplines you. I never think of music as “something I do.” Music IS life. I have such a varied life, filled with being a wife, mother, social activist, non-profit director, and on and on…and music provides the foundation for me. I may not be singing in Board meetings, but just the thought that I know I will be soon, is exhilarating.

TWS: Where is your favorite place around the world that you have traveled for music? Why was it your favorite?

LG: This is a hard one. I love Belgium and the Belgian people. It is like home for me…

My favorite place for the music must be Scotland. I feel a kindredness there.  This is why we created the Umoja Gaelica project.

TWS: What project that you have done has meant the most to you? How did it have a big impact on your life?

There are two: Umoja Gaelica…it went from a dream to a reality; and the Gospel Concerts I have done in Belgium to raise money for the Damien Foundation to fight TB and leprosy.

TWS: Who would you say has inspired you the most in your musical career?

LG: My mom. She’s with the angels…but she always believed in me.

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