How Judy Whitmore Handles 3+ Careers (Vocalist, Therapist, Jet Pilot)

How Judy Whitmore Handles 3+ Careers (Vocalist, Therapist, Jet Pilot)

Meet Judy Whitmore. She is a multi-careerist based in California. I first knew her as an acclaimed artist whose new album Isn’t It Romantic? is remarkable. And then I learned about her many fascinating journey.

Judy’s careers:

  • Theater Producer
  • Jet Pilot
  • Marriage and Family Therapist
  • Writer
  • Vocalist

On her motivations for having many careers

My curiosity and sense of adventure have always been driving forces in my life. With each career change, I would imagine myself in a new role, weigh the pros and cons, and then “jump in.” I love the excitement of new experiences. My personality is not suited to one long-term career.

Advice to aspiring multi-careerists

Each career (except writing and singing) lasted around eight to ten years, but not in succession. While a theater producer, I developed a passion for aviation and became a licensed Learjet Captain. By that time my interest in producing had waned, so I went back to graduate school for a degree in clinical psychology. I gave up my ten-year private practice, along with flying, to become a writer. Ten years ago I returned to my first love, singing…so now I am a writer and a singer.

Advice to aspiring multi careerists

Juggling two or more careers demands focus and dedication to each. This is difficult to do if you are not truly organized — make lists, keep your calendar up to date, keep your desk free from clutter. Manage your time well. Don’t accept a lunch date if your current project has a deadline!


On overcoming obstacles

The biggest issue I have had to deal with is a current one. My singing career takes up so much of my time, the book I have been working on for the last several years is still not finished. I have decided to postpone working on my new album until this Spring and, instead, to dedicate the next several months to completing my new book.

On how multiple careers are beneficial

My experiences as a jet pilot were vitally important to the plot of my best-selling novel Come Fly With Me. The degree in Clinical Psychology has been helpful in all my endeavors because it has enabled me to communicate more effectively with people.

On personal time

I’m busy and my husband and children are busy…but on Sunday night, everyone comes home for family dinner. Quality family time is more important than quantity time!

On what she wishes she had learned earlier

Although it would not have stopped me, I wish I had known and been prepared for the negative perception some people would have of this choice.

What to read

My two favorite books related to creativity are Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert, and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.

Although these books address careers in the arts, I suspect the wisdom and suggestions these books offer would be applicable to a person engaging in a portfolio career.

On the stigma of having many careers

Having more than one career invites people to brand you as a novice, a “wannabe,” or a dilettante. Years ago I was asked to introduce myself at a new writing group. I mentioned I had been a theater producer, a pilot, a therapist, a singer and a writer. One of the men in the group chimed in, “What a showoff.” As part of my path to success, I had to learn to ignore these people.

On what to share with others

I’m always careful about sharing information with anyone I don’t know well.

On sublimating ego

Since I have always worked for myself, and since I’m my biggest critic, I’m not allowed to have an ego at my day job!

A Day in the Life

  • 7:30am – Wake up, make tea, read newspaper
  • 9:30am – Drive to L.A. for voice lesson, or sit down at my computer and start answering emails, handle personal business affairs, pay bills, make phone calls, do research for new book, an hour a week spent on Pacific Symphony business.
  • 1:30 – Lunch
  • Afternoon – More computer time: work on upcoming and current projects, calendar scheduling. Writing time, rehearse a few songs.
  • 5:30 – Work out at Gym
  • 7:00 Dinner
  • 8:30 – Answer more emails
  • 9:00-10:00 Watch TV
  • 10:00 Do New York Times Wordle

Where to find Judy


Kabir Sehgal is a Multi Grammy & Latin Grammy Award winner, as well as New York Times bestselling author.

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Edition #33 – Nanette McGuinness answers 7 questions

1. Why are you a musician?

First, because I must, because I can only be happy and fully myself if I follow music’s siren call, and, like so many musicians, because I can’t not be one. I’ve been fortunate to be able do that—and to be able to use my own voice and my music to shine a light on unheard, forgotten, or unrecognized voices. Finally, music is such a direct method of communication: it lets me speak directly from my spirit to listeners’ hearts.

2. Who are your musical inspirations?

There are so many! Among sopranos, Leontyne Price, Montserrat Caballe, Mirella Freni, Renata Tebaldi, Renata Scotto, Arlene Auger, Elly Ameling… Maybe I’ll stop there, as the list can keep going and growing… Among historical composers, Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Puccini, Verdi, Mahler, Schubert, Dvorak (ditto about the growing list). Among living composers and musicians, I wouldn’t know where to begin, as I’m inspired by so many of my friends and colleagues.

3. What is your practice routine?

I practice seven days a week for 20 minutes to an hour or so every day. Even when I’m on vacation, I usually warm up my voice every other day. So if you hear a soprano warming up in a hotel, you never know: it might be me!

4. Why did you make this album?

The Guernica Project
By Ensemble for These Times

We (Ensemble for These Times, my contemporary classical chamber group) have been performing and recording works by artists exiled, persecuted, or lost during the Holocaust and the pre-WWII bombing of Guernica in Spain has kept coming up as an important part of the history of the period.

It was such an awful, major event and also relevant to today—attacking civilians, oppressing a population—which therefore already makes it even more important and compelling.

Add in Picasso’s iconic visual response, which speaks viscerally to so many viewers, and the album became crucial to make, for we are in an era when the conflicts of the 20th century are coming back to haunt us and the peace that was built in the latter half of the century is unraveling and feeling fragile rather than robust.

It is said that those who forget or ignore history are condemned to repeat it…

5. What were the biggest obstacles in making this music?

As with every album, time and funding. We planned “The Guernica Project,” in 2015-16, premiered it in California in 2017, toured it to Spain later the same year, and then recorded all the music (on a shoestring budget) in 2018. We then had to wait to edit and release the CD for a number of logistical reasons.

But when it came time for us to edit “The Guernica Project,” the pandemic hit and the studio was closed as part of the lockdown in San Francisco. In the end, everything was finished: even the delayed timing of the recording worked beautifully, as we were able to release “The Guernica Project,” to commemorate the 85th anniversary of the painting and the event.

6. Who is featured on the album?

7. Where may we find you online?

Chant For Our Planet

Chant For Our Planet
By Marco Pignataro

Liner Notes
By Kabir Sehgal

From murmuring brooks to the eruption of scalding magma, sound is ubiquitous on our planet. What is more, according to satellite data — scientists theorize that sound waves may have been present at the beginning of the universe. Since antiquity, philosophers and poets have explored the fundamental link and life here on planet earth. Mother Nature indeed has a rich spectrum of timbres, rhythms, and beats, that you can hear if you pause and listen. There is music all around us. There is music in our midst.

But sometimes we need a jolt, a reminder that we are not above nature but part of it. Not just spectators but musicians in the symphony of earth. Marco Pignataro’s Chant for Our Planet is a stirring, magnificent music opus. It’s also a clarion call for better stewardship of our shared home, our planet. Indeed, this was Pignataro’s mission upon creating this work that was commissioned by the Tällberg Foundation, which seeks to inspire positive climate action and nurture innovation by exploring societal challenges through the prism of music.
“Jazz music has historically been a powerful artistic medium to inspire, educate, empower and advocate for social change in our community. Using jazz to advocate for reforming climate policies is now a mandate for conscientious artists to inspire more care for our world,” said Pignataro.

Creating such a lofty project requires an artist with a global outlook. After all, humans drew the borders between countries, but music helps us see past these lines and to recognize our shared existence. An acclaimed saxophonist and composer, Pignataro hails from Bologna, Italy and served previously as professor & founding Director of the Jazz & Caribbean Department at the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico. Together with Danilo Perez, he presently co-leads the Berklee Global Jazz Institute (BGJI) at Berklee College of Music in Boston. His passport has been stamped the world over, as he has traveled extensively as a touring artist and performed with the likes of Eddie Gomez, Billy Hart and Rufus Reid, among many others.
Pignataro assembled a veritable cast of jazz all-stars for this special project: John Patitucci (bass), Joe Lovano (saxophone), Terri Lyne Carrington (drums) and Chico Pinheiro (guitar), as well as the emerging talents of Anastassiya Petrova (piano) and Nadia Washington (vocals), both alumni and faculty at the BGJI. And wow, does the band ever come together for this inspired work!

Suite: Terra – Mare – Cielo (Earth – Sea – Sky) composed for this project by John Patitucci, is an elegant, evocative tour-de-force which immediately sets the asserting tone of the album. Throughout you hear musical representation of the various elements found across our planet. Patitucci’s bass solo may be a simulacrum of earth itself, grooving and even bellowing from underneath. Washington’s vocals float above, an aerial loop that lifts the piece. The evolving number shines the light on every band member, showing that it will take a unified effort to play and ultimately live together.

Agua de Beber (water to drink) is a well-known piece by Antônio Carlos Jobim, which was arranged by BGJI alumnus & faculty Edmar Colon. The piece begins with an unfolding bass line with well-placed cymbals, which create space for Washington’s vocals and featuring powerfully propulsive solos by Marco on tenor sax and Chico Pinheiro on guitar. The choice of this famous composition is a nod to the importance of water and its management, as fresh water becomes increasingly under threat from contamination. The United Nations projects that the risk of floods will increase dramatically over the coming decades, which could threaten 3.2 billion people.

Moon Threads composed by Pignataro is a thoughtful musical meditation. He pondered the way in which the moon affects the tides, and how the sea bulges due to centrifugal forces. Rising water levels, due to climate change, will surely have many consequences including more high-tide floods. “I realized that words and memories can also be overwhelming, like tidal forces,” reflected Pignataro. Throughout this piece, there are soulful performances by Marco (here on alto sax) and Pinheiro (guitar), which may evoke musical remembrances of jazz legends long past.

As It Should Be composed for this project by Joe Lovano, begins as a pedaling, pensive number that builds with intensity throughout, especially as the groove gets established. Lovano wrote five words under the song title on the sheet music: Freedom, Justice, Hope, Love, Compassion. That this song is unmoored to traditional blues changes or jazz harmony shows how defending the planet is a paradigm shift. It takes radical new thinking, innovation, and the freedom to speak truth to power.

Nature Boy was the first song recorded by Nat King Cole. It was composed by Eden Ahbez in 1947 as an ode to Lebensreform, which was a reform movement that propagated an organic way of life such as being a vegetarian and sensible farming. The tune became a number one hit for Cole for eight weeks. The popularity of the piece inspired audiences to learn more about the song and ultimately its philosophical underpinning. The piece features Marco’s searching solo tenor saxophone reflections, which ascend and descend with purpose and dexterity until Chico Pinheiro joins in and the melody of the song is fully stated with poignancy and somberness.

On Irene’s Path is Pignataro’s composition which was inspired by Hurricane Irene and its aftermath. From West Africa to the Americas, this destructive hurricane caused significant damage, and we’re still dealing with what it wrought. Such extreme weather variations can have untold consequences, from higher average temperatures and higher air conditioning costs, to crop damage and the spread of infections such as Lyme disease. Musically, this composition begins with accented drum hits, signifying a premonitory call for the incoming natural destruction.

The band plays seamlessly together, a blended brew of virtuosos riffing counterpoint by Marco on soprano sax and Lovano on tenor sax. Chico Pinheiro’s propulsive guitar solos follows and enfolds as the rhythmic section changes gears from a frantic fast swing to a tribal 6/8 Abakua rhythm, symbolizing the formation of hurricanes forming off the West African cost. The number picks up steam, moving from one voice to many, evoking powerful whipsaw currents you might experience amid a storm.

Agua Falando – Chant for Our Planet ends this album as an unapologetic anthem/call to action to respect and protect Mother Nature. Nadia Washington’s rapping lyrics unambiguously address these climate challenges head-on, supported by Marco and Joe’s murmuring and unfolding saxophone lines and Carrington’s infectious hip hop drum beat.

Chant for Our Planet is a watershed project. It follows in the tradition of jazz music being leveraged for social change. Pignataro has picked up the baton (and his saxophone) and forged ahead, paving a new direction for jazz. The challenge of our times is making sure our planet is safe and secure for future generations. That an artist of Pignataro’s caliber has offered his talents to such a noble cause is remarkable. It’s been a joy to help Pignataro on his quest. May his music inspire many more to take action towards protecting Mother Nature for future generations.


Edition #32 – Tom Nazziola answers 7 questions

1. Why are you a musician?

I’ve been a musician since I was three years old. I can’t remember considering any other path….it simply feels like something I was meant to pursue.

2. Who are your musical inspirations?

For a short list, I would say the following composers are my musical inspirations: Beethoven, Aaron Copland, The Beatles, John Corigliano, Bob Moses, Keith Jarrett, Stravinsky and Jaco Pastorius.

3. What is your practice routine?

Daily: Piano = 1 hour, Drum pad = 1 hour, composing / production on any current project = 2 hours

4. Why did you make this album?

Spooky Fun
By Jack Morer & Tom Nazziola

This the 11th album which my writing partner and I have made for Manhattan Productions Music. Every year or so we are called upon to create an album in a particular style or reflecting a specific genre. This year they wanted an album of Halloween music.

5. What were the biggest obstacles in making this music?

There weren’t really any obstacles to speak of for this album.

6. Who is featured on the album?

Jack Morer and myself (Tom Nazziola)

7. Where may we find you online?

Edition #31 – Kaitlin McGaw & Tommy Soulati Shepherd answer 7 questions

1. Why are you a musician?

Music is like a soundtrack to every moment in life. We get to make choices about the sounds, words, and vibe that are at the center of a family’s life. Any time we get played, or get to perform – it’s an honor.

We choose to do this as our life’s work – and listeners choose US as their soundtrack, trusting us with their time and space.

2. Who are your musical inspirations?

Music itself – every genre, sound, bit, rhythm, gesture, vocalization – every part of it informs us in how we move, create and connect.

And we’re not limited by the boxes of “music” – we’ll get inspired by sounds of the neighborhood, laughter and even silence. Our life is a canvas of sound, sending out signals to tell our stories.

3. What is your practice routine?

Our process is rooted in questions, reflections and messages from our community. When our community talks about issues we are facing, we listen – we lean in – and we invite a cycle of reflection that includes all the members of our collective.

For example, in the height of the pandemic, we found the question was “when do we feel powerful?” because so many of us were holding feelings of powerlessness. From this question arose dialogue, poetry, movement, vocal improvisation and musical clues that informed our collective creativity. It’s a cycle for us – we plant seeds, nourish them, and they create more seeds for us to create with – much like a hip hop cypher.

4. Why did you make this album?

The Movement
By The Alphabet Rockers

THE MOVEMENT is a soundtrack for a reimagined world of belonging and justice. We created this 13-song album with the children in our collective, and really want to spark listeners to connect their heads and hearts as we find unity in community.

The songwriters reflect on real moments from our lives, and the youth ask the world to listen: “It’s our turn to speak up and be heard. Because our voices matter.”

THE MOVEMENT is written for the whole family to understand their power, break biases, disrupt systems of oppression, and find community care.

5. What were the biggest obstacles in making this music?

Everything is slower to create, shape and finalize in the pandemic. And while it is an obstacle, it’s also an opportunity to find and develop more patience to address each challenge we encounter with grace and understanding.

We are intentionally slowing down and spending more time in circle, taking care of one another as we create, shape and present our work with the world as an intergenerational group.

6. Who is featured on the album?

Alphabet Rockers are really proud of the impact our young stars have on this album: Kali de Jesus, Maya Fleming and Tommy Shepherd III. They wrote, recorded and contributed to this album throughout their 7th-8th grade school years. We also collaborated with children’s music artists as writers/performers Fyütch (“Juneteenth”) and Mista Cookie Jar (“The Word is Love”), and Genevieve Goings as writer (“Get You A Friend”). “Slide” features horn arrangements/performances from Jazz Mafia’s Adam Theis.

7. Where may we find you online?

Edition #30 – Madi Das answers 7 questions

1. Why are you a musician?

Music has always been the language I have used to express myself in ways that words cannot describe. And because it is a language that transcends culture or identity in a way that creates emotional feelings in a way like no other artform.

2. Who are your musical inspirations?

Tracing it back, I would say The Beatles’ music that integrates Eastern mantras and instrumentation. I also love the way Ry Cooder’s fuses world music traditions. In the chant world, I love what Jai Uttal and Jahnavi Harrison are doing to broaden the genre.

3. What is your practice routine?

When I’m recording or performing I usually spending 40 mins several times per week singing to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. His vocals are some of the most beautiful and ambitious and I follow him as best I can for as long as I can to improve vocal control.

4. Why did you make this album?

Mantra Americana
By Madi Das, Dave Stringer with Bhakti Without Borders

We wanted to make an album that blends Eastern and Western influences in a way that appeals to modern audiences. Something that could be enjoyed by fans of World or Americana music alike. But our songs also get straight to the hooks so we don’t lose listeners who may have the patience to stay for a long intro.

5. What were the biggest obstacles in making this music?

The pandemic. Unlike my last album were we got all the musicians into the studio, for this album we had to recorded my parts in Australia and Dave and the band in America. We overcame this by recording into a shared ProTools sesson that was saved into Dropbox. We also used Sessionwire so we could remote listen and guide recording artists.

6. Who is featured on the album?

In addition to me and my fellow artist and producing collaborator Dave Stringer, we’re joined by the Bhakti Without Borders band, which includes vocalists Allie Stringer, Tulsi Bloom, and Justin Michael Williams, as well as our drummer Patrick Richey, bass player Corbin Jones, and guitar/banjo player James Harrah.

7. Where may we find you online?