Among her ancestors, Elise claims "Wedding March" composer Felix Mendelssohn and his grandfather, Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn; Protestant cow farmers from northern Germany; Russian chemists; Polish intellectuals; French Bordeaux wine growers; a British painter; and a great great aunt from Cuba.
Elise has served as a cultural ambassador to South Africa, China, Italy, Switzerland, and Nicaragua, and she has criscrossed the United States with her Global, Local & Homemade Songs - from New York's Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and the People's Voice Café to festivals like Clearwater's Hudson River Revival, Falcon Ridge, the North Georgia Folk Festival, and the Marin County Fair in California; from Minneapolis' Gingko Coffeehouse to Nashville's Bluebird Cafe; and from the Open Door Commuunity to the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Non-Violent Social Change. For the Kennedy Center's 25th Anniversary Celebration, Elise represented the State of Georgia.
The Raleigh Times says, "Her performance is like a suitcase plastered with stickers from around the world… populated with interesting characters both heroic and comic." In 2009 Elise released VALISE, her 11th recording on the EMWorld label, www.mindspring.com/~emworld/pages/record.html. Her original songs have been used in several documentary films, and include the anthem "Open the Window" (inspired by a Georgia Sea Islands Spiritual), "Why Are Our Eyes in the Front of Our Heads?" (a capella jazz vocal ); "Clothes Swap" (a funky ode to the virtues of re-cycling and girl gatherings); "Set Us Free" (inspired by the words of Reverend Timothy MacDonald at Martin Luther King Jr.'s 80th birthday celebration at the National Historic Site in Atlanta), "Venus Between Us" (a tribute to Soul Music), "Ma Roulotte" (a french gypsy jazz waltz, co-written with partner Mick Kinney), "Butterfly's Mysteries" (a scientific boogie, written at the Callaway Gardens Butterfly House), "Verkehrte Welt" (Crazy Mixed Up World, a German paradox poem à la Oh Suzanna), and "Blessed Nation" (original music by Elise Witt to a poem by folk icon Pete Seeger).
Elise has collaborated with many choirs, choruses, and vocal ensembles as both composer, conductor, and clinician. Ten of her songs are currently available as the Elise Witt Choral Series, arranged by Michael Holmes, and a second series is in the works. www.mindspring.com/~emworld/pages/choral.html
In addition to her own songs and songs by songwriter friends, a concert with Elise also introduces audiences to Argentine songwriter Maria Elena Walsh's moving "Como La Cigarra/Like the Cicada" about the power of singing for survival; "Ich Hab' Noch Einen Koffer in Berlin / I Still Have a Suitcase in Berlin" made famous by Marlene Dietrich (Elise's father, famed pharmacologist/spider scientist, is a Berliner); Gino Sansonne's "La Bambina ed il Gabbiano / The Girl and the Gull" (from Italy's Lago Maggiore), as well as songs in Kiswahili, Japanese, Danish, Hebrew, English, and Sign Language.
Elise's training is as eclectic and varied as her music. She sang for 20 years with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus and Chamber Chorus under the direction of choral master Robert Shaw, as well as in the Robert Shaw Singers, which was the Resident Choir at Spivey Hall, and performed annually at Carnegie Hall. Elise has studied extensively with masters of improvisation Bobby McFerrin www.bobbymcferrin.com, , Dr. Ysaye Barnwell www.YMBarnwell.com, maverick cellist David Darling and his Music for People www.mfp.org, and Rhiannon www.rhiannonmusic.com, whose pedagogy she incorporates into her own teaching.
In Atlanta and on tour, Elise has earned a reputation as a masterful educator, encouraging even the shyest singers to revel in their voices. Elise teaches Adult Community Singing Classes & Workshops www.mindspring.com/~emworld/pages/classes.html. Current workshops include * Singing for Fun for Everyone; * Vocal Improvisation; * Harmony: A World View; and wherever she goes there erupts A Glorious Impromptu Chorus, a Community Sing .
Elise says, "So many people in this western culture have had someone at some point tell them they are "unmusical," "tone deaf," or some other deflating and demoralizing criticism. That is the reason I teach my classes - because I just don't believe that there is anyone who can't or shouldnt sing. We are all born singing, and in cultures before this busy, hectic, modern one, singing was the main way we had of communicating with each other and remembering our stories. We sang babies into the world. We sang to celebrate marriages and festive occasions. We sang our grief, and we sang to accompany someone to the next life. We love to sing. Singing vibrates our bodies and brings healing and joy. We all need to sing - as individuals and as community!"
As a Teaching Artist, Elise works with students in elementary schools through high schools and universities. Writing songs about everything from Prefixes & Suffixes, Secrets of Fractions, the Planets, and Contemporary Leaders, Elise and her students have made learning difficult subjects fun with their original songs. Her education workshops and concerts use music as a language to celebrate our cultural diversity while appreciating our connections as one human family. Allied Arts in Milledgeville GA calls Elise "every residency director's dream."
Aside from quirky song titles and international flair, the real reason to go hear Elise Witt is her charismatic stage presence and her gorgeous voice. The Louisville KY Courier says, "Her straightforward charm and pure, strong voice are truly fine music to the ears." All of Elise's songs come straight from the heart. Her voice has the power to carry you to distant lands as well as inner landscapes. And by the end of a concert, it is not unusual to have the entire audience (self-professed "non-singers" included) singing in fabulous multi-part harmony!
"Fun, playful, enjoyable, exciting, thought-provoking, and just plain old good music"
Contact Elise Witt c/o: