Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial



Based on her debut album, The Very Thought of You, it’s hard to imagine where in the world Orna hails from. Is she Brazilian? Southeast Asian? Perhaps southern European? Actually, the singer with the lyrical name (derived from the Hebrew word for “light”) and intercontinental appeal was born and raised in Johannesburg, where, she recalls, “I grew up listening to Chopin and Gershwin. My mother was a piano teacher and a musician, and I started begging for piano lessons at age five.”

Though she remembers being “quite into singer-songwriters like Elton John and Billy Joel,” classical training took precedence. Earning a music degree from the University of the Witwatersrand, she set her sights on a career in film scoring and determined that Berklee was the best place to continue her studies. Oddly enough, Orna considers her decision not to train as a vocalist crucial to her subsequent success. “Being at Berklee and not being caught up in the whole singer thing was, I think, where I got my musicianship from, which enables me to now lead my band and write my own charts. I loved doing film scoring, but realized it has to be your passion. You have to eat, sleep and breathe it. Instead, I was feeling that passionate about jazz singing. I knew I had to move to either New York or Los Angeles. I’m not a New York person, I just do not appreciate the weather, so I chose L.A.”

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published