Jeannine Rivers is a lifelong Milwaukeean and vocalist who has performed in venues all over the city, including The Pfister Hotel, Caroline’s Jazz Club, The Third Ward Jazz Festival and more.
Rivers started singing and performing at a young age, but made the decision to pursue a family and career in banking instead of music for decades of her life. She returned full time to music, received her degree in musical performance from Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) in 2010 and – after a 2 1/2-year, on-and-off recording process – will drop her first CD this weekend.
"I'm just a 52-year-old chick living her dream and I'm going wherever this music wave takes me," says Rivers.
Rivers will release "Iridescent October" on Saturday, Feb. 6 at The Bay Restaurant, 324 E. Silver Spring Dr. She will perform two shows, at 4 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Both are free and open to the public.
The 11-track album is a mix of jazz, blues, swing, rock and funk.
Recently, OnMilwaukee caught up with Rivers and chatted with her about her musical family, overcoming obstacles and her new album.
OnMilwaukee: Did you grow up in Milwaukee?
Jeannine Rivers: I did. My family lived on 38th and Good Hope. It was a lot different then, practically farmland. I graduated from Custer High School in 1982. I left Milwaukee for a year and moved to the San Francisco area. I had been singing for my entire life already, and so I went out to California and performed with a group in Holiday Inns and other venues and it was working out, but I moved back to Milwaukee to have a family. I worked in the banking industry for many years and I have a daughter who is now 28.
But music has always been my passion and my dream, and in 2006, I went back to school – to MATC for musical performance – and I started living that dream again.
OnMilwaukee: When did you start singing?
Rivers: My aunt says by the time I was 4 I was singing all the time and that I had a very large voice for a child. I sang in school and gospel choirs throughout my childhood and teenage years, too.
I grew up in a very musical family with at least three generations of singers. My dad was very well known in the church circle for his voice. My aunt was classically trained. I have two cousins, Dorothy and Alan Williams, who sang all over the Bronzeville neighborhood. When Count Basie and Duke Ellington came to town, they sang with them.
OnMilwaukee: After all these years, you will release your fist CD to the public this week. How do you feel about the finished product?
Rivers: I am extremely happy with it. It took me two years and six months to get it done. I took a lot of time. I overcame a lot of obstacles. I had a heart attack, I was in and out of the hospital. I had to make difficult decisions about the project and lost friends over creative differences. At times, there was so much negativity pushing against me while I was making this, I could have quit and not finished it. But I stuck with it, and I did it, exactly how I wanted. I was very, very cautious and I can honestly say there is nothing I would change. When I saw the CD for the first time, I cried. It is exactly what I wanted.
OnMilwaukee: Who are some of your largest musical influences, other than your family members?
Rivers: I grew up listening to Barbara Streisand and Stephanie Mills. I listened to a lot of classical. I did not actually start listening to jazz until 2006, when I started MATC. That was one of the greatest parts of being at MATC. I had so many talented jazz musicians around me all the time. I fell in love with jazz – it was a hidden treasure for me – and now, Sarah Vaughn and Ella Fitzgerald are two of my biggest influences.
OnMilwaukee: What can people expect at the event?
Rivers: It will be a lighter version of my CD. Very intimate with just me and a couple of musicians. The response has been so great we added another show, so now there are two. I am really looking forward to seeing all the people who have helped me along the way and to meet new people in Milwaukee who love live music, too.
Find Jeannine Rivers' "Iridescent October" on cdbaby.com.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.