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Rita di Ghent, Composer, Vocalist, Bass Player: Bio

Jazz Vocalist-Composer, Rita di Ghent, was born to musical parents in Hamilton, Ontario and raised in Chicago, Illinois.


Check out Rita's Blog page to read about her personnel history.






"The best new singers I’ve heard have depended not so much on pure sonic pleasure or vocal emotion, but on ideas. One of them is Rita di Ghent…one of the most interesting singers of the contemporary era…The three albums I’ve heard by her (on Groove Productions), all have new ideas on them. Her latest album is Standard Sessions IIin which she does Jacques Brel’s "Ne Me Quitte Pas" as a jazz ballad with string section and solo bass – a sound reminiscent of Charlie Haden’s recent albums.  Di Ghent’s most engaging idea is the sound she calls ‘Sprawl,’ in which she starts with a standard, like ‘He’s Funny That Way,’ and departs from it in an original passage that’s somewhere between rap and poetry recitation...These variations make vintage songs seem contemporary without sounding like she’s stooping to conquer. Now that’s a new idea."  

 Jazz Columnist, Author Will Friedwald in The New York Sun 



…”Rita di Ghent est une chanteuse hot dans la tradition, avec une belle voix mezzo qui colle a merveille (“What a Little Moonlight Can Do”)… Rita di Ghent est une chanteuse dont on se souvient et qui ne laisse pas indifferent. (Michel Bedin, Jazz Hot, Paris)


[translation] “Rita di Ghent is a hot vocalist in the grand tradition, with a beautiful mezzo voice that really swings…there are so few singers capable of doing what she can accomplish…Rita is a singer one remembers, one who definitely doesn’t leave a listener indifferent.” (Jazz Hot Magazine, Paris)





“…di Ghent is in the mold-breaking business, and has come up with a style all of her own called “sprawl”….sharp, sassy, funky and even fashionable, di Ghent’s performance demonstrated that she can sing jazz in the traditional sense while also bringing her own more modern lyrical and vocal skills to the party.  Several of her own song, which focus on North American street life, are excellent, particularly 20 Dollar Ring, a tale of a poverty-stricken girl murdered for a worthless piece of jewelry, and the witty Signs of Spring in My Neighbourhood.  Perhaps the high point of the show, however, was a radical re-invention of Bob Dylan’s Just Like a Woman…extraordinarily compelling.”  (The South China Morning Post)





“…to find an artist who can write and perform out of a traditional jazz setting, and yet do it in a way that appeals to a wide cross-section of musical tastes in no easy feat.  To find this quality in an artist who also maintains the highest standards of musical integrity is even more rare.  Rita is such an artist.”  (The Medicine Hat News)


“The coolest jazz diva on the scene.”  (Ottawa X-press)


“Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Rita di Ghent and her band are booked for just about every major Canadian Jazz Festival this summer…di Ghent is a true original…Her composition $20 Ring is absolutely captivating.  This vocalist is a coveted Canadian treasure.” (The Jazz Review)

“Intertwining original material with standard tunes is one of my favourite aspects of di Ghent’s work…di Ghent has a definitely refreshing sound.  If the future of Jazz is Rita di Ghent, then the future sounds bright.” (The Vancouver Discorder)



“di Ghent’s versions of God Bless the Child and Bob Dylan’s Just Like a Woman are beautiful in their simplicity, her voice capturing determination and frailty as it dips and disappears…Signs of Spring in My Neighbourhood is a fantastic slice of life from her Dundsas/Sherbourne hood.  She paints lyrical pictures with color and detachment, pulling you in and leaving you wondering…Who knows?—maybe one day they’ll make one of those Canadian Heritage commercials about the invention of Sprawl…” (Eye Magazine, Toronto)   





“What can I say... the girl is BRILLIANT!!! [Rita di Ghent’s] got a million dollars down [her] throat!

 Harold Ellison "The Jazz Cafe" TripleU-FM Nowra, New South Wales, Australia 


“Since Ella passed on I have been waiting for someone to come along with the capacity to make music exciting.  For my ears, [Rita di Ghent has] accomplished this.”  

Dick Hughes, Jazz Action Productions, Australia




“...[di Ghent is] a new fresh, sensual and swingin´ jazz lady...a fine and original  voice... For me it is a great honour to have the possibility to [air di Ghent’s] fine jazz material to the Argentine audience of JAZZ CAFE.  

Carlos Fernandez Pacin, "Jazz Cafe Radio”, Buenos Aires  Argentina 



Curriculum Vitae

Rita di Ghent (BFA, MA, PhD Student)








Master of Arts, University of Toronto, Centre for Applied Cognitive Science (OISE)

Bachelor of Fine Arts, York University

PhD Student, Musicology (2011 to present)




Methods in Empirical Music Research, Ohio State University (intensive 4-day workshop taught by Dr. David Huron)

Toronto Voice Course, Department of Otolaryngology, University of Toronto (2012)

Certified Level I Somatic Voicework, University of Massachusetts (2012)

Royal Conservatory of Music (1994-1995)

Banff Centre for the Arts (1993,1995, 1997)

Private studies in jazz piano (Frank Falco), songwriting (Michael Coghlan), voice (Nancy deLong)

Concertized with Victor Bailey, Anita O’Day, Mark Ledford, Jeff Haines, Dave Young, Hugh Fraser, Sheila Jordan, Don Thompson, Peter Appleyard, Anthony Braxton et al.





T. Temple Tuttle Award (2011) for best paper at National SEM Conference, Eastman School of Music New York, Gender Wayang For Piano: How an Expert Solves the Problem

Ontario Arts Council Songwriting/Creating Grant (2010) 

Winters College at York University Fellow (2007-present)

Toronto Arts Council Music Creators and Composers Grant (2007)

Jazz Vocalist of the Year Nominee, National Jazz Awards (2004)

Canada Council Grant, Career Development Program (2004)

Jazz Vocalist of the Year Nominee, National Jazz Awards (2003)

Ontario Arts Council Grant for Recording (2002)

Ontario Arts Council Grant for Composition (2001)

Toronto Arts Council Music Creators and Composers Grant (2000)

Prix de Jazz Nominee (Montreal Jazz Festival, 1999)

Canada Council Touring Grant, $29,000 (1999)

Canada Council Project Grant (1995)

FACTOR Independent Recording Artists Loan (1995)

FACTOR Compilation CD Grant (1992)

Banff Centre for the Arts Scholarship (1993)

Dean’s List (York University)






September 2013 to Present:


Curriculum Specialist/Vocal Coach/Choir Conductor, We Are One Jazz Project


Lead weekly vocal clinics at 8 Toronto School Board schools, grades 3-6

develop curriculum and lead an after-school program involving repertoire learning, jazz education (song form, improvisation, rhythm, jazz history)

conduct repertoire and prepare students for yearly concert at Toronto Centre for the Arts


September 2002 to Present:


Jazz Vocal Instructor, York University (course codes 1054, 2054, 3054, 4054)

Contemporary Improvisation Private Lesson Instructor, York University (course code 1032, 2032, 3032, 4032)


February 2012 to Present


Jazz Vocal Clinician, University of Toronto, Classical Voice Department


Lead a yearly Classical Cross Over Master Class for full-time students in the Classical Voice Department (Supervisor: Dr. Daryll Edwards, Head of Voice Studies, University of Toronto)




Upon graduation from the OISE, I worked for one year as a Curriculum Specialist, Reading and Writing Division at Y.E.S. Canada where I developed curriculum for a computer-based learning system and managed a team of Curriculum Developers 


 As an undergraduate, I was Director of a weekly Movement and Music Program at Kaleidoscope Daycare Centre (one year part-time position)


As an undergraduate, I a full-time summer position as a Fine Arts Counsellor for the York Youth Connection, a subsidized fine arts camp for children from 8-13






di Ghent, Rita, Gender Wayang On Piano: How an Expert Solves the Problem, Ethnomusicology Review, Vol. 16, 2011 (winner of the T. Temple Tuttle Prize) 


di Ghent, Rita, , Part 1: Gladys Bentley, Maple Blues, 2014, Vol. 30, No. 2, p. 9

di Ghent, Rita, Vanishing Ladies, Part 2: Cleo Brown and Rose Murphy, Maple Blues, 2014, Vol. 30, No. 3


di Ghent, Rita, Vanishing Ladies, Part 3: Winifred Atwell, Maple Blues, 2014, Vol. 30, No. 4


di Ghent, Rita, Vanishing Ladies, Part 4: The Hot Miss Lil, Maple Blues, 2014, Vol. 30, No. 5, p. 10-11

di Ghent, Rita, A Case of the Festival Blues, Maple Blues, 2014, Vol. 30, No. 7


di Ghent, Rita, Interview with Bill Westcott, Maple Blues 2014, Vol. 30. No. 10, p. 5, 13


di Ghent, Rita, Double Entendre in the Blues, Part 1, Maple Blues, Vol. 30. No. 12, p. 8


di Ghent, Rita, Double Entendre in the Blues, Part 2, Maple Blues, Vol. 30. No. 13, p. 


di Ghent, Rita, Double Entendre in the Blues, Part 3, Maple Blues, Vol. 30. No. 14, p. 





Expert and Novice Learning in Music (University of Toronto, Centre for Applied Cognitive Science, MA Thesis). Research appears in Surpassing Ourselves: An Inquiry Into the Nature and Implications of Expertise by C. Bereiter and M. Scardamalia, 1993, Open Court Publishing Co.)


A Handbook for Teachers of Music in Botswana (currently used by music teachers in teacher training schools throughout Botswana.)  This was based on my recordings and transcriptions of Setswana music, and the first time this music had been published in Western notation.


Accompanying Yourself From Scratch, Level 1 (The Jazz Singer Series)


Vocal Improvisation from Scratch, Level 1 (The Jazz Singer Series)


Jazz Vocal Q and A (Column on the National Association for Teachers of Singing site (


Lessons in Jazz Singing (book in progress)


Vocal Music of Botswana (book in progress)


Jazz Crossover For Classical Singers (book in progress)





Is Nina Simone More African Than Ella Fitzgerald? (PhD paper)

Double Entendre in the Blues (PhD Paper)

Fay Thomas and Other Vanishing Ladies (PhD paper)

When Classical Singers Cross Over to Jazz (PhD paper)

Review: Anita O’Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer (DVD) 

Acid Reflux and its Effects on the Singing Voice: An Insider’s View (PhD paper)

Book Review: Monument Eternal—The Music of Alice Coltrane (PhD paper)

CD Review: La Bottine Souriante, Anthologie, Les Production Mille-Pattes (PhD paper)

A Review of Sandra Lee Glover’s Cornelius L. Reid: Interpreting the Vocal Registration Tradition of Bel Canto (PhD paper)


SAP (Sentence Arrangement Program): A Pilot Study (York University undergraduate honours thesis, in cooperation with The Ontario Institute For Studies in Education)



The Art of Practicing

Objective Analysis: A Method of Performance Self-Reflection

How to Write Jazz Charts Like a Pro 

How to Sing Tempo Rubato

Signs That a Voice Isn’t Working Properly

Transposing Charts: A Simple Methodology




The Wild Woman Archetype: From Fairy Tales and Myths to Song, Singing Storytellers: the Lives, Music, and Verbal Artistry of Bards in Our World, Cape Breton University, October 2014

Teaching Jazz to Classical Singers (Poster Presentation, National Conference, National Association of Teachers of Singing, 2012) 

Gender Wayang On Piano: How an Expert Solves the Problem Winner of the T. Temple Tuttle Prize for best student paper at the 2011 conference of the Niagara Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology (NiagaraSEM)




“Authenticity and Blues Singing”

“What Makes a Jazz Singer a Jazz Singer” (presented at European and Canadian Jazz Festivals)

“3-day Jazz Vocal Intensive” (Summer 2010, 2011, 2012, Calgary, AB)

“Classical Crossover” (taught at University of Toronto, Classical Voice Dept., 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014)

“The Women Who Wrote the Songs” (performance and lecture presented at music venues and for groups such as Women @ Around Noon)

“Rita’s Parlour With Bill Westcott” (piano and voice performance/lecture of early jazz music such as ragtime, blues, barrel house, and Tin Pan Alley)




York University (BA)

Special Education Through Music

Music For Young People

Introduction to Psychology

Analysis of Psychological Data

Developmental Psychology 

Educational Psychology 

Honours Thesis (Educ Psych) 

Atypical Development

Perceptual Psycholgoy


University of Toronto Centre For Applied Cognitive Science at OISE (MA)


Instructional Design

Problems in Educational Psychology

Current Issues in Educational Psychology

Computer Supproted Learning Environments

Psychometric Methods

Learning and Cognitive Processes




Member, (SOCAN) Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada

Member, (NATS) National Association for Teachers of Singing

Member, (CSTM) The Canadian Society For Traditional Music

Member, Toronto Blues Society  



Rita di Ghent, Blanket Application Submitted January 2015





F14-W15 Y FA MUSI 1001 3.00 A The Basics of Music

FA MUSI 1059 3.00 A Jazz Theory & Musicianship I

FA MUSI 2600 3.00 A Introduction to Music Pedagogy

1051 3.0 Jazz Workshop I 

FA MUSI 1054G - 4054G 6.00 Jazz Vocal

FA MUSI 3336 3.00 M The Musical Voice

FA MUSI 4002 3.00 A Career Development

FA MUSI 1032 Contemporary Music and Improvisation





DISCOGRAPHY (solo outings)


Give Me Some of It (2013, Shark-a-Roonie-Mo Records)

Rita For a Rainy Day (2012, Groove Classic)

All Baby Wants is Me (2010, Groove Classic)

Sprawl Indigo (2009, Groove)

The Standards Sessions 2 (2004, Groove Classic)

The Standards Sessions 1 (2002, Groove Classic)

A Groove Christmas (2000, Groove)

The Birth of Sprawl (1999, Groove)

Mindin’ the Shop (1994, Groove)




Rendez-vous on the Jazz Boulevard vol. 1 (Universal)

Rendez-vous on the Jazz Boulevard vol. 2 (Universal)




The G-spot, a weekly show on CBC National Radio featuring original songs and commentary on pop culture (1993-1994).

Appeared in the feature-length film Giant Steps as a back-up singer to the female lead (Ranee Lee). 

Appearing as a jazz singer in the upcoming Episode 4 of the TV series Tilt. (20S05)

Licensed All Baby Wants is Me to Shaftesbury Films as the opening and closing credits to “Windows”, one of six episodes of a series called “The Carol Shields Stories”. (2004)

Licensed Signs of Spring in My Neighbourhood for the documentary Finding My Way, The Anishnawbe Story, No One to Blame Productions.(2005)

Filmed and scored two B & W “urban street-scene” films (edited by Matthew Krist): Signs of Spring in My Neighbourhood and Stygian Shore (2003, 2004)