If you are an immigrant, refugee or just arriving in America and have interest in Singing and wondering for help then Jenny Van West is the person who can help you out with your passion. Jenny was born in Maryland and raised close to Potomac River and later move to New England before settling in Maine in 2005. Music is her life and she started singing and playing guitar right from her childhood.
Jenny herself is a singer and songwriter and the founder of the International Open Mic at MSA which was formed in 2016 with a group of recent immigrants from Angola & DRC. She started a guitar school together in an apartment on Montgomery Street and was finding musical instruments for folks seeking asylum, as part of her professional life as a musician. Through these efforts she started to meet some amazing amateur and professional musicians and artists from all over the world.
Since 2016 she has done 12 open mics including artists (singers, rappers, storytellers, comics, poets, drummers, dancers, etc.) with roots in Albania, Azerbaijan, India, Japan, DRC, Congo Brazzaville, Angola, Iraq, Iran, Vietnam, Rwanda, Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire, Jamaica, Mexico, China, Guinea, Syria, Phillipines, Somalia, Sudan, South Africa, and Mauritania. She did her last CD release at Mayo Street.
Jenny runs what’s now called the Immigrant Music Connection (IMC) out of her new professional teaching studio (Studio 224) on Anderson Street–which she moved into this summer where she teach guitar, piano, and voice free of charge for students who are new here (students come to me via Portland Adult Education). She also has students who have lived in Maine for decades, raised their families, and only now have the opportunity to pursue their own interests.
She has many albums which are famous like Honey & Hive, Happiness to Burn, Never Alone, Something Real, Live in a New Way, Twenty-Seven Dollars, Nellie, 45, Natural Disaster. Mary, Where I stand, Bug on a Pin and others.
Her April 2018 single, Happiness To Burn, from her album, Something Real, was number 7 for three months on the Euro Americana Chart. In 2015, she released her first full-length album, Something Real, went on tour for the first time, and won the Maine Songwriters Association song writing competition. Van West has also immersed herself in her hometown’s musical scene, organizing the International Open Mic and the IMC Portland to foster a sense of community among recent immigrants. She also co-produces the national music podcast Postcards twice a week. Van West has a talent for writing songs that become instant hits. She has a calming yet captivating stage presence and a voice that inspires many young ones to showcase their talents.
By Aamruta Parab