East Village musician makes perfect sense as a jazz singer
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“In some ways, I missed high school,” says 21-year-old jazz singer Teddy Horangic.
Well, yes it could be because at the age of 15 she found herself sailing to Myanmar on a 50ft boat with her parents, brother and sister (the boat being family home for a while). Although she completed her teenage program through a combination of home schooling and an online course from Stanford University (“the best educational experience ever,” she says), the the most ambitious course was the one she set for herself – a 5-year study of the Myiek. Archipelago in Myanmar, a “pristine and untouched environment” – which she started before she was old enough to drive.
“I’ve always been interested in science,” says Horangic. “There was very little information about the area and I found it fascinating. Oddly enough, some of the information available about the area came in the form of an unpublished scientific article, which she found hidden on a boat. With the help of her sister Helen, she started a month-long survey in the area and ended up living there for 5 years. “I invested a lot in the region, at a time when people were very optimistic.”
The archipelago was home to a nomadic sea tribe, the Moken, who speak their own language. Teddy was able to communicate with them by employing someone who could translate the Moken language into Burmese, and then another who spoke both Burmese and English. “They have a very different way of seeing the world,” notes Horangic. “They don’t use money – it’s all about trading.”
When she returned from her quest, she graduated from high school and, having her pick from a few Ivy League institutions, chose Yale. But with the COVID lockdown in place, there was no way to start her college career online, so she took a year off, moved into her parents’ apartment in the East Village and into a new life – as a jazz singer.
“I’ve always loved music,” she says. “My parents thought I would be a drummer. I grew up hearing a lot of bluegrass, country, punk, R + B and soul, but not a lot of jazz. I am very indebted to the eclectic taste of my parents, but I discovered jazz myself.
When the musicians started performing outdoors, Horangic sat down with Eric Paulin, a frequent performer in Tompkins Square Park who loved him enough to invite him back. Since then, the singer has had many opportunities to perform with various musicians, but she is still aware of her status as a neophyte.
“I’m at the very beginning of this process,” she admits. “I realize how much I don’t know.” Continuing, she adds, “the mark of an artist is to have a distinct and relatable vision. It is a process of self-discovery and communication. I hope that in a few decades, I will have finalized my message! “
As Teddy enjoyed his new gig, the coup took place in Myanmar, leaving Horangic “very surprised and shocked.”
“I knew I had to do something,” she says. “I am in a unique position – I can give music to people and contribute to the cause.” Its form of contribution is a series of concerts and information panels to be broadcast live – one has already taken place – to encourage people to send money to those in need in the troubled country. The money will go to Mutual Aid Myanmar, which will distribute the benefits directly to the population, including the peaceful protesters targeted by the new regime.
Being a particularly self-sufficient type, Horangic organized the benefit concert herself – bringing together the musicians and panelists, finding the space (generously donated by the arts group Chashama) and promoting the event itself. The panel and the concert can be seen on YouTube, where there are instructions on how to donate.
Horangic, whose endgame is to become a professor of environmental economics, tells us about his future plan. “I will be back in Myanmar as soon as it opens,” Teddy informs us. “I plan to continue working on it.”
While we would hate to overwhelm a youngster with the term ‘extraordinary’, we can’t really think of another way to describe a woman who started a career in scientific research at age 15, taught herself the guitar, was a competitive striped sweater, went home school to Yale, became an activist, and shows all the signs of being a formidable jazz singer. You can’t help but think that she’s one of those people who are going to make a difference in the world, and probably already have.
Teddy Horangic on Instagram: @ teddy.jazz
Link for Myanmar panel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
Link for the concert: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
Link to donate: https: //www.mutualaidmyanmar.