Wesla Whitfield is a remarkable singer, with a deep love for that rich storehouse of musical treasures often identified as The Great American Popular Songbook.
Wesla has been developing her skills and learning her demanding craft for a number of years - by her own estimate, it’s been ever since she “knew at age two-and-a-half that I would grow up to be a singer.”
Her sound and approach would seem to place her somewhere in the intriguing area that borders on both jazz and that aspect of pop music which draws its material largely from the great standards and neglected gems of such as Cole Porter and Irving Berlin and Rodgers and Hart.
Wesla Whitfield was born in Santa Maria, California. The youngest of three girls, she experienced routine childhood music training (piano lessons at age 7, sang in church, studied voice - “classical, of course” - at about age 14). She did discover her mother’s extensive sheet music collection at an early age, “and used it to sight-read.” Serious radio and record listening provided some important influences including Rosemary Clooney, the Hi-Los, Peggy Lee, Frankie Laine and Dean Martin.
Among her earliest professional experiences was a mid-70s stint with the San Francisco Opera as a salaried chorister.
Wesla, with her husband/pianist/arranger, Mike Greensill performs annually throughout the country and returned in 2007 for the 26th and final winter run in San Francisco‘s York Hotel Empire Plush Room. Together Mike and Wesla have opened at Michigan’s Meadowbrook, New Jersey’s Garden State Art Center and Flint Center in Cupertino for such notables as George Burns, Michael Feinstein and Frankie Laine.
Solo symphonic appearances include two concerts with the San Francisco Symphony as well as San Jose, Sacramento, Omaha, Stockton, Napa, Auburn, Concord Pavilion, Santa Rosa and California Symphonies.
Wesla has appeared twice on Garrison Keillor’s national show, “Prairie Home Companion”, singing with the legendary trumpeter, Joe Wilder, on ‘Weekend Edition’ with Susan Stamberg, ‘On Fresh Air’ with Terry Gross, and on All Things Considered’ with Robert Siegel.
In other radio appearances, Wesla and Mike were recent guests on the highly revered Marian McPartland PBS ‘Piano Jazz’ series.
In TV venues, the pair have been featured five times on the Charles Grodin show, performed on the Regis and Kathie Lee show, and were the subject of a feature story on America’s favorite TV show, ‘CBS Sunday Morning’ with Charles Osgood.
In summer of ‘95 Wesla and Michael appeared as part of the JVC Jazz Festival at Avery Fisher Hall in New York and also made their Carnegie Hall debut that same summer, participating the Tribute to Frank Sinatra. Since then they have appeared in the ‘96 Ella Fitzgerald, the ‘97 Nat Cole and the ‘98 Judy Garland tributes, also held at Carnegie Hall. In June of ‘96 they were invited by Hillary Clinton to perform at the White House.
In October ‘98, Wesla debuted her one-woman, autobiographical show at the Kaufman Theater on 42nd street in New York to massive, critical acclaim.
Their seventeenth recording, featuring the Klinglehorn French Horn Quartet and Gary Foster on the HighNote record label was released in 2006 and has received rave reviews from Jazz Times and many other national publications. The October 2005 issue of Oprah Magazine hailed Wesla as ‘a phenomenal woman in a detailed three page article.
In December of 2007 they released their 19th recording 'Message From the Man In The Moon'.
Their latest CD, recorded in May of 2011 during their annual run at the Razz Room in San Francisco, is titled "Best Thing For You - Live from the Rrazz Room" and was released in November 2011.
As invited members of the repertory company and the ongoing salute to American Popular Song at Lincoln Center, Whitfield and Greensill perform often in New York as well as prominent Boston, Philadelphia and St. Louis venues. Most recently Wesla was seen as Martha Watson in the St. Louis MUNY’s production of ‘White Christmas’.
Together Whitfield and Greensill conduct scheduled Master Classes at Notre Dame De Namur in Belmont and Napa Colleges in Napa Valley and throughout the country as well as teaching privately. In the Bay Area, their ongoing vocal workshop series provides vocalists from all over the country with invaluable instruction in the interpretive skills so necessary and integral a part of the Great American Popular songbook.
Extract from People Magazine, June 1997
Extract from 'O' Magazine, October 2005