Lisbon, Portugal native Sara Serpa is a vocalist-composer and improviser who implements a unique instrumental approach to her vocal style. Recognized for her distinctive wordless singing, Serpa has been immersed in the field of jazz, improvised and experimental music since first arriving in New York in 2008. Described by the New York Times as “a singer of silvery poise and cosmopolitan outlook,” and by JazzTimes magazine as “a master of wordless landscapes.”
Serpa started her career with jazz luminaries such as Grammy-nominated pianist Danilo Perez, Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellow pianist Ran Blake, and saxophonist Greg Osby. As a leader, she has produced and released ten albums. The latest is Recognition, an interdisciplinary project that combines film with live music in collaboration with Zeena Parkins, Mark Turner and David Virelles. Serpa was voted #1 Vocalist of the Year by the 2020 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll, Musician of the Year 2020 by Portuguese magazine Jazz.pt and Female Vocalist-Rising Star 2019 by the DownBeat Magazine Critics Poll. She has collaborated with Ingrid Laubrock, Erik Friedlander, John Zorn, Nicole Mitchell, André Matos, Guillermo Klein, Linda May Han Oh, Ben Street, and Kris Davis, among many others.
Serpa currently teaches at The New School, New Jersey City University and is Artist-In-Residence at Park Avenue Armory. She is the recipient of Chamber Music America New Jazz Works Grant 2019, New Music USA 2019, New York City’s Women’s Fund 2020, USArtists Grant from Mid-Atlantic Foundation for the Arts, and the 2021 Herb Alpert/Ragdale Prize in Composition. Serpa has been active in gender equity in music and is the co-founder (along with fellow musician Jen Shyu) of Mutual Mentorship for Musicians (M³), an organization created to empower and elevate women and non-binary musicians.