Jazz singer-songwriter Rondi Charleston will be heading out on a nation-wide spring concert tour in support of her exquisite new “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” album in coming weeks. When she plays New York, she’ll very likely be seen by Diane Sawyer — her one-time boss.
The remarkable Charleston entered Juilliard at 16 and earned BM and MM degrees, then went on to earn a master’s degree in journalism at NYU. Her job as a producer on Sawyer’s “Prime Time Live” followed. Charleston began moonlighting in jazz clubs while continuing to work on the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning program.
“I started writing when I was working for Diane Sawyer,” she recounts. “She would constantly remind me, ‘Just tell the story…Tell the story. Don’t get sidetracked.’ Those are words to live by whether it’s journalism or lyric poetry.
“We’re still friends. It’s wonderful. We’re still very much in touch. She is such a great lady, one of my role models. Not only is she a brilliant journalist, she’s also very kind and supportive,” adds Charleston. “She actually came to see me at a little jazz club in the Village a couple of times. She sat right in the first row and sang along. She loves to sing. The next day at work she said, ‘I came to the show because I like you and I like working with you. You didn’t tell me that you could really do this. I don’t want to lose you, but you could really do this.'”
Sawyer knew what she was talking about, as evidenced by Charleston’s latest album — original songs and covers that, according to her, “have a collective theme about time.” They range from the familiar title track to Charleston’s inventive treatment of Bobby McFerrins “Freedom is a Voice” (she had the lyrics translated into Zulu), to her own “Land of Galilee.” The latter was inspired by her family’s witnessing of an extremely rare snowfall in Jerusalem that brought out children and parents, Jews and Arabs alike, to play with abandon in the snow.
“If I can remind people of the preciousness of time,” says Charleston, “if I can lift people’s spirits in times of sorrow and and distress, I’ll have done my job.”
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