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Roberta Donnay (born August 10, 1966, Washington, D.C.) is an award-winning singer and songwriter jazz vocalist, composer, and band leader produced by Orrin Keepnews. Donnay grew up in the Washington, D.C. area and learned to sing from the radio. She is a practicing Buddhist.
She began singing professionally at 16, wandering Europe with a knapsack and borrowing guitars on-site. Moving to San Francisco, she sang with Dick Oxtot's Golden Age Jazz Band, followed by Tom Keats and His Tom Kats. She then studied Latin jazz, vocal jazz, and guitar from various teachers. Her first CD, Catch the Wave, was the first indie CD released in the San Francisco Bay area.
As a singer/songwriter, Donnay toured the U.S. with her guitar and appeared on various shows. In 1999, she signed a publishing deal with Heavy Hitters Music and began writing songs for film and television.
Jazz being her first love, she was influenced at an early age by Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Bessie Smith. Donnay returned to singing jazz full-time in 2005.
She and Keepnews were both Governors of the San Francisco Chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which is how they met. She also produced the temp track for the 2011 documentary, Journey of the Universe.
She has appeared with Ernestine Anderson, Booker T, Junior Brown, Tommy Castro, Peter Coyote, David Grisman, Bob Dorough, Woody Harrelson, Dan Hicks, Johnny Lange, Huey Lewis, Eddie Money, Maria Muldaur, Joe Sample, Lenny Williams, Mitch Woods,and Neil Young.
Her voice and songs have been featured on The Unit, Nash Bridges, NUM3ERS, PAN AM, The Young and the Restless, One Life to Live, All My Children, and That's Life.
Donnay's song, "One World," became a theme for the United Nations 50th Anniversary, and is being performed on 5 continents as a world peace anthem. It was also chosen as the theme for World AIDS Day in South Africa in 2003.
(About latest recording "A Little Sugar")
"The idea of making this project is so exciting and close to my heart. These are my musical ancestors. I'm thrilled to pay tribute to them. It's because of them that I became a musician. I loved researching the music of these women. The women who sang, and in some cases wrote these songs, are heroic. Their attitude and energy is strong, confident, courageous and vibrant. They're no pushovers for any man! I also learned that these women mentored each other. It was really something to learn how it all happened for these women." - Music and More Arizona 2012