Andromeda Turre has found what she loves to do and is good at, what she can be paid for, and, most importantly, what the world needs.
by Aerin Atinsky
Photography by Justin Negard
“I can’t imagine my childhood without music – it’s the most central thing in my entire life,”
says Katonah resident Andromeda Turre, who is a musician/performance artist, Sirius XM Radio on-air host and founder/speaker of Growing up Jazz. “The first thing I can remember is music.”
Turre is also the chair of Bedford’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Advisory (IDEA) committee and a supporting vocalist on Saturday Night Live. As the daughter of musicians, she grew up surrounded by eulipions (a.k.a. creatives) and activists, so she naturally gravitated towards singing, dance, piano and activism as a child. Throughout middle and upper school, Turre danced at Alvin Ailey, sang in the school choir, performed in school musicals and was a teen correspondent for MSNBC.
Accepted to both The Boston Conservatory and the Berklee College of Music, Turre chose to attend the former, but she left after one year due to extensive bullying and racism. After taking some time off, she called Berklee and asked if she could still attend – they said yes and she enrolled in the fall of 2002.
“The most valuable thing I learned at Berklee was the business side of music. I learned how to write charts, create arrangements, and about production and management, which me a self-sufficient performer.”
The Last Raelette
A year and a half into Berklee, Turre dropped out, but “for a good reason.”
In 2003, Ray Charles needed a new Raelette, and his manager remembered Turre from a recent concert. Turre went backstage after the show to visit her uncle (Charles’ longtime drummer), and made an impression on Charles’ manager while hanging out and singing with the Raelettes. So, when he needed a new Raelette, he gave her a call and she sent in a tape. Then, she had an extensive audition with Charles and got the job. Unfortunately, that was Charles’ last tour before his passing.
As his first background vocalist that could also read and write music, Turre spent extra time with Charles. She transcribed all the background vocalists’ five-part harmonies, which is impossible to do from a recording. That work was more valuable than anyone could imagine at the time.
After Charles’ death, his team wanted to create a tribute concert, but they were at a crossroads – nobody had the music.
“Then they were like, wait, Andromeda has it!” But Turre, with her business-savvy mindset, wasn’t just going to hand it over – if they wanted the music, Turre insisted they hire her as vocal director. “They were like, you’re 24 – we’re not hiring you to be a vocal director,’” she remembers. “So I said, I have the music, and if you want the music, you’re going to hire me as vocal director. And they did. I also performed in the show.”
Turre then spent time living in London and working as the percussionist for The Femme Nameless. In 2007, she auditioned to sing with a jazz band at Tokyo Disney, landed the job and moved to Japan. She was crowned The Queen of the Blues, and her five-month contract turned into two years.
In Japan, Turre learned how to speak Japanese and read/write Katakana. But the most valuable thing she learned was the concept of ikigai, which means ‘a reason for being.’
“The idea is that everyone has a reason for being – it’s a combination of what you love, what you’re good at, what the world needs and what you can be paid for,” she explains. “And I thought, ooh, I want that.”
Unwilling to depend on arbitrary auditions and jobs for a steady income, she recorded two albums while living in Japan. The first was a jazz album, called “Introducing Andromeda Turre,” which she self-produced and made all the arrangements for at just 27. Her reasoning? “Because I was 27 and stupidly thought I could do everything alone.”
Around the same time, she began working on an electronic dance music (EDM) album with a producer in Brooklyn. They recorded it under the pseudonym Eminent Pulse and licensed the music for video games, television shows and films. “That brought in a passive income. We’ve now released five albums together, and we license the songs.”
After Japan, Turre returned to NY to spend time with her beloved Aunt Gayle, who was dying from cancer.
Then, she toured Italy promoting her “Introducing” album, and then she lived and worked in China in 2009 and 2010. She rmoved to India for several months and then to Los Angeles for a little while. After that, it was off to Vietnam, then Singapore, then Thailand and back to Italy where she recorded her second album (which was shelved by the recording label). After that, she traveled back and forth between Russia (which “was amazing, especially Siberia”), Italy and New York. Overseas, she modeled and sang.
One day, while she was in NY, she decided to watch her dad rehearse (he’s the trombonist for the Saturday Night Live Band), and she started singing along. “I jumped in with some harmonies, and they said, ‘Oh, you can sing harmonies? Do you want to come back and do some recordings for us?’ They keep calling me, so I guess I haven’t messed anything up yet!”
Turre eventually returned to NY in 2012. She landed a role as Marilyn Page in “Sleep No More” – the longest immersive off-Broadway show, and stayed for two years. Then, she moved to Edinburgh for the summer to perform her own one-woman immersive show at The Edinburgh Festival Fringe – the world’s largest arts festival.
Banned from Russia
Turre had plans to return to life on the road, but Russia thought differently.
“I’ve been banned from Russia for quite some years,” Turre says. “I was supposed to go back in the fall of 2015, but I sang the national anthem at the start of New York’s gay pride parade. That was the year that marriage equality passed, and Russia denied my visa because I was a gay rights activist.”
Settling back in New York, Turre began to question her trajectory. She loved working as a jazz singer, but with ikigai as her guiding principal, she chose not to pursue a solo career in the U.S.
“Overseas, I had my own voice, wrote my own music, but I knew that wouldn’t work in the U.S. I also knew the world didn’t need another jazz singer singing standards from 50 years ago.”
Instead, she launched a business, M31 Entertainment, singing for weddings and creating immersive experiences for corporate and private events.
Growing Up Jazz
In 2018, Turre launched Growing Up Jazz, an educational program that focuses on the intersections between jazz and black history for grades 5 – 12, as well as business executives.
“I created the program as a way to share my knowledge and have necessary conversations in a non-abrasive way,” she explains. As a child, she joined her Italian father and African American mother on their world tours.
“I want to share the knowledge I gained during my upbringing – it positively affected my life and experiences, allowing me to engage and connect with people worldwide without fears or biases. Having lived in so many countries, I know there are beautiful people and cultures everywhere, and everybody should get the chance to experience things outside of what is comfortable or familiar – because, I promise they’ll be pleasantly surprised.”
Siriusly, There’s More?!
In 2020, Turre won a contest about what made her fall in love with jazz. In turn, a plethora of jazz outlets requested interviews with her, including the host of a Billy Holiday podcast series. After the interview, the show’s producer was so impressed by her conversational skills and knowledge of jazz history that he suggested Turre interview for an open job at Sirius XM. She got the job.
“I basically told them that jazz is a living history, not a museum, and then I asked why they mostly played dead jazz musicians,” she remembers. “I wanted to create a space on the radio for living jazz performers and composers. If you look at the history of jazz, every decade and generations’ popular music reflects the times. Why does that need to stop after 1965? There are jazz artists alive today writing socially relevant music. And there’s so much to talk about.”
This October, Turre will be the opening act at the Serious Fun Arts Festival in White Plains where she will perform her new show, “Emerging.”
“My Emerging show combines immersive theater, jazz, dance and performance, but it takes the audience on a journey through considering what their ikigai might be,” she explains. “It’s a show in three movements. First, it’s a celebration that we’re all still here and made it through the pandemic. The second movement encourages the audience to focus on what things they need to let go of in order to have the life they want, like sexism, racism or ageism. The end is a celebration of themself and a promise that they’ll try to make a change in their lives, even if it’s a slight tweak.”
On top of everything, Turre has a three-year-old son and 10-year-old stepdaughter. “I love being a mom,” she says. “But I’m glad I had the opportunity to travel the world, figure myself out, learn all the things I’ve learned, and set my life up in a way where I create my own schedule, making me present for my children.”
In a full-circle moment, Turre plans to take her kids with her to Europe next summer while she performs her Emerging show. “I’m now continuing the cycle of exposing my kids to different cultures and communities by taking them with me to travel the world, just like my parents did for me.”
All things considered, Turre has found her ikagia. She loves what she does, she excels at it, she gets paid to do it, and, most importantly, she’s doing what the world needs her to do.