THE SIXTEEN LIVES OF JENN KEE
Jenn Kee began directing the Burlington location of My Pop Choir in the fall of 2022, and she finds that “it’s definitely the highlight of my week.”
Before she took on her new role, she came to observe a choir session. “It seemed very warm and welcoming, very casual,” Jenn says. “Alex [owner Alex Fiddes] wants everyone to have fun and feel accepted and confident.”
With ten years of experience with My Pop Choir, Alex was able to offer Jenn both support and advice. “He gave me a lot of tips. Keep it light, keep it fun, get the job done and try to sprinkle in some pearls of wisdom and knowledge here and there,” Jenn says.
Her own goals are similar: “Get it right so everyone feels good about it. Get it sounding good so everyone can be proud of it and maybe walk away having learned a little bit about music or singing.”
Jenn is not surprised that her experience with My Pop Choir is so enjoyable. “I have been in choirs my entire life. I love rehearsals. I love the feeling of getting new music, crashing through it, getting it wrong until you get it right.”
And this is where the tale of Jenn’s sixteen lives begins. She started with choir when she was eight years old. Her youth experiences included the York Regional Children’s Chorus, Mendelssohn Youth Choir, and her high school jazz choir. Immersed in music, her adventures ranged from musical community theatre to a rock band to opera.
At Ottawa University she pursued a classical degree in musical theatre. Then she joined a soul band as a backup singer and also sang with The Crowd and with The Hoolie Snatch (check her out on YouTube).
A move to London saw her back in school studying for a Masters at Western in classical performance and music literature.
Her career then branched out to include work with Star Brite Entertainment, nostalgia shows, gigs with Drayton Entertainment as well as Legends of Rock and Roll. She also did Classic Albums Live for many years and was in the Canadian Opera Company chorus for a season.
“I feel like I have led sixteen lives,” she laughs.
But unfortunately, she developed a vocal injury from overdoing it. She realized that she had to find something else she could do part-time, so she got her certification as a yoga teacher, and eventually had surgery to repair her voice difficulties. She was on her way to healing and a more balanced life, with yoga and music combined.
Then Covid hit. She and her partner Jeff Giles decided to figure out how they could still make music during the pandemic, so they began Jenn and Jeff Live, a series of driveway concerts, that brought communities together to enjoy popular music at a distance. And they hosted a very popular online concert for My Pop Choir members in 2021.
Covid actually brought a welcome respite for Jenn’s voice. “After those three years of giving myself a break and figuring out who I am as an artist, my voice started to come back,” she says.
Now she is working as a yoga instructor, and as a fulltime teacher at the Merriam School of Music. She also has her own voice students, and sings with two bands. And, of course, she conducts the My Pop Choir group in Burlington.
Bettina Goodwin, the Burlington choir manager, sums up Jenn’s work with the choir: “She is funny, engaging and upbeat and she has a real feel for when the choir needs a little more of this or a little less of that. Burlington choir members love Jenn and we’re glad she’s joined us.”