Looking for a fun time this Sunday, 11/24, 5-9pm?

Stop by:
Hamburger Marys Singer Showcase/Open Mic

This event is at the newly remodeled back room of Hamburger Marys (formerly THE PATIO) this Sunday, 5-9pm. Featuring a surprise guest artist. It’s free and open to all ages. Sign up and sing! All styles. We have song lyrics and backing tracks. Or sing “old school” piano bar style with Dr. Dee. Grab a bite, enjoy the fun staff and full bar while you catch a song or 2 or 3.

531 CASTRO STREET near 18th



The SMILE ORANGE PROJECT is a musical experience consisting of a live band directed by Dee Spencer that performs the soundtrack for the film Smile Orange. The score is composed by arranger/trombonist Melba Liston and transcribed/arranged by Spencer. Watching the 90-minute movie with a live band is the best way to experience the project. The music combines soul, R&B, jazz, pop and blues with traditional Jamaican sounds. The SMILE ORANGE PROJECT pays homage to two great artists: author Trevor D. Rhone (1940-2009) and Melba Liston (1926-1999). Smile Orange is a satirical farce about the daily lives of native Jamaicans working in the tourism industry. The debut performance as a stage production took place on 1971 at the Barn Theatre in Kingston, Jamaica. This production was subsequently adapted and commercially released as a motion picture with a full Jamaican cast in 1976. Melba Liston’s musical score was used in the motion picture version. Sketches of the original scores are housed at the Center for Black Music Research (CBMR) at Columbia College in Chicago, Illinois. In July 2018 I visited the archive and gained access to Liston’s manuscripts. I initially discovered Smile Orange in the archives previously in 2011 as a member of a group of four researchers called the Melba Liston Collective. Interestingly, I served as a music copyist (remember those?) for Melba Liston in NYC in the summer of 1982. What does Smile Orange mean? Rhone’s title is embedded in Jamaican tradition and mythology. Inside this slapstick comedy is commentary about the social conditions of the Jamaican workforce with sharp comparisons to slavery. The characters of Smile Orange, who work at the fictitious Mondo Beach Hotel, must use their “smiles” as tools for survival. According to a myth dating back to the slave trade period, eating oranges causes sterility. The orange growers used this to preserve the crop. Interestingly, oranges are enjoyed by everyone throughout the film.




New collection of nine original solo piano "vignettes"  for relaxation is available now at CD Baby:


- The sounds of Aretha Franklin filled the lounge of Beaux, a San Francisco bar and dance club, on Thursday night where three Bay Area female musicians paid tribute to the late Queen of Soul.

Renee Lubin, a performer with Beach Blanket Babylon for more than three decades, paid homage by singing Franklin's songs.

Lubin is also a vocal coach at San Francisco State University. Like Franklin, her musical background came from church.

"I grew up in the church. I see Aretha, hear the sound of her voice. You realize where all of that beautiful mixture came from," said Lubin. 

"We have to be grateful. Wow, she brought so much to our lives," said Spencer. 
"I wouldn't be on stage now if it wasn't for artists like her," said Lubin. 
Franklin's fans say her voice will never be silenced, that her legacy lives on through those she's inspired and empowered.

Whenever her music played at Beaux, people were smiling and moving to the rhythm.

On keyboard is Dee Spencer, professor of musical theater at San Francisco State. 
"You feel her energy. It's undeniable," said Spencer. She says "Respect" has become an anthem. 
"People today look at that song and use it as part of the civil rights movement, as part of the women's march. And people are walking around going R-E-S-P-E-C-T," said Spencer.
These artists say they first heard Franklin's music as young girls when family members played her records. They admire her versatility and ability to convey emotion. 

"She didn't just do R&B, she did jazz. She did rock. She did gospel. She was amazing," said Lubin. 
Deborah Coley is a professional vocalist by night and works at a hospital by day. 

She says the power of Franklin's music is in the way it spoke to people. 
"I found her to be very empowering to women and to people of color about standing up for yourself, doing what was right, believing in yourself," said Coley. 
Her influence, these women say, is undeniable: a powerful female artist in control of her own destiny. 






This course will examine the contributions of

women instrumentalists and vocalists

throughout jazz history including Early New

Orleans and the Swing Era. Women played a

vital role in the development of America’s Art

Form: Jazz. This course will examine early film

footage as well as classic recordings made

popular by vocal legends such as The Boswell

Sisters, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Sarah

Vaughn, Rosemary Clooney and others.

Instrumentalists/composers/arrangers such as

Melba Liston and Mary Lou Williams will also be


This course will add to your enjoyment of the

upcoming season at SFJAZZ

Dianthe “Dee” Spencer (Ed.D University of San Francisco) is

Professor and Chair of the School of Music and Dance at San

Francisco State University where she founded the jazz studies

undergraduate degree program in 1990. She served on the piano

faculty at Berklee College of Music (Boston, MA) prior to her

appointment at SFSU. Dee served on the governing boards on

the International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE) and the SF

Chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences

(NARAS). As a keyboardist, Dee has recorded with vocalist Lenny

Williams and Bernard “Pretty” Perdie. Her debut CD “Vintage

School” was released in 2002. In various settings, Dee has

performed with jazz greats Clark Terry, Jimmy Scott, Regina

Carter and Grammy‐nominated R&B artist LEDISI.


∙ — Early New Orleans and

Chicago Jazz

∙ — Swing Bands

∙ — Ella, Billie and Sarah

∙ — Pianists

∙ — Instrumentalists

∙ — Current Touring Artists


CALL 415.817.4243

 EMAIL olli@sfsu.edu

Faculty spotlight: Dee Spencer


Associate Professor and Chair of Music and Dance Dee Spencer, a jazz pianist, talks about growing up in a family of musicians, the importance of practice and her golf game. 


Can you provide a summary of your areas of expertise and what you do here at SF State?

I'm beginning my second three-year term as chair of the School of Music and Dance. I've been here since 1990, and I started the jazz program back then. My areas include jazz piano, I coach jazz voice, I've taught music ed courses as well. I've taught in many, many areas. Jazz history, theory. I created a new theory class as an alternative for students who are looking for something more contemporary. I'm across the curriculum in a number of ways.


Dee Spencer plays piano in Knuth Hall

What about music initially interested you?

I grew up around music. I don't think I had any choice. Music kind of chooses you. My parents were musicians but not professionally, so everybody was active in performing music in my family. I'm the only one who decided, "Oh, I think I'll do this for a profession." I grew up around jazz too. At that time, I was classically trained, but I always loved jazz. My parents were very open but they insisted I maintain my classical training. And to this day I tell my musicians, my jazz players, "Look, you've got to learn your fundamentals. Classical is a way to get your discipline, your fundamentals down. Then you can play anything, but you've got to get your technique."


What is your favorite thing about teaching at SF State?

I love the students here. The students are amazing. It's the most diverse and interesting and fascinating and inspirational body I've ever met, and from every walk of life. I just never tire of our students. 

What do you enjoy about living in the Bay Area?

What's not to enjoy? First, the climate. This is the most beautiful place on the planet to live. Anything you want is here. The best food, the best wine, the best culture, the best of everything. Music, dance. This is where things are created. We're the creative juice for the rest of the country. This is where people aren't afraid of being creative. They go out and try new things and eventually things catch on and become trends. I love being here. It's just a very, very important place for creativity.

What do you think makes SF State unique?

This campus has such an important history, and it's such an important place for social justice. We have that social justice component that not many universities on the planet have. And we're closely tied with our urban mission. We have to serve the city. We're the city's university, and that's an important role. I used to do the high school all-star band years ago. I do the San Francisco Symphony's "Adventures in Music" program, where I go to elementary schools. To go into every elementary school in the city is just an amazing experience in and of itself. I love that program.

Do you have any good study tips for students in your field?

You have to love the process of things. Our society tends to put a lot of emphasis on the end results of things, but you have to love practicing. You have to love learning, and you have to love the process of learning and improving your life. And you have to realize you are your best investment. I tell my students this all the time. Don't worry, you're going to get some ROI on yourself. You will. That's what college should be about. Learning, investing, growing.

What is something about being a musician that would surprise people?

I think people are surprised by the amount of practice it takes to get a performance together, and how many hours it takes. People tend to think that people perform well because they're talented. I think talent's overrated. People say, "Oh, you're so talented, Dee!" If they only knew how many hours I had to spend where I sounded absolutely horrible and pathetic just to get to the point where this actually started coming together and sounding good.

What kinds of people tend to excel in music?

You can't be too sensitive, but at the same time, you want to be a sensitive artist. You've got to be able to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again because things aren't always going to go well and you've got to be able to have a real strong sense of self. Most artists who are successful know who they are, trust in themselves and really have a sense of self confidence. It's so easy to get discouraged, but the best artists are the ones that just keep on rolling.

Tell me about your most treasured possession inside your office at SF State.

I like having my pianos, because any time I feel like I want to play something, I just go over and play piano. I just played this morning. I give lessons in here, so I had a student and we both played together, and my whole day after that was great. I've played the piano every day I've been here. It's like five steps away. Get up. Go back. It's nice to have that. I'm very, very blessed.

What is something that people might be surprised to know about you?

I'm an avid potential golfer. I love to play golf. I recently started taking lessons. I've been a hack for maybe four years, and I was like, "You know what? I have to get a teacher." So I've been studying for the last year, and I'm getting better, thank goodness. There are so many parallels between golf and music. I have to practice. There's a drill involved, like a warm-up for music. You have to concentrate when you're out there. You have to have the rhythm of your swing. A lot of musicians are golfers, I've found.

How would you describe our students in three words?

Simply the best. Those aren't original words. Those are Tina Turner's words.

Faculty Spotlight focuses on some of the many faculty who make learning happen at SF State. For more on how SF State Makes Things Happen, visit http://www.sfsu.edu/~puboff/overview.html





Here's a snippet of Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm" at McKenna Theatre on Saturday November 1, 2014.


Dee Spencer, piano with Kathy Baker, percussion and Jason Brock, vocals 

1. Small Game (original by Dee Spencer)

2. Sunrise, M. Liston from "Smile Orange"

3. Lonely Teardrops, Gordy

4. Louisiana Sunday Afternoon, Golde and Ivers


Here's an article about my participation in an amazing SF Symphony program:



Dee Spencer helps bring music to city's children

April 25, 2013 --

When Dee Spencer isn't busy leading SF State's School of Music and Dance, she's bringing music into the lives of public elementary school students throughout San Francisco.

Spencer, professor and chair of music and dance, has for the past two decades participated in Adventures in Music (AIM), a program put on by the San Francisco Symphony in conjunction with the San Francisco Unified School District. The program's goal is to instill in the city's children a lifelong appreciation for music, whether or not they someday become performers themselves.

A photo of Professor and Chair of Music and Dance Dee Spencer.

Professor and Chair of Music and Dance Dee Spencer

"These are first and second graders," Spencer said. "We're teaching them how to snap their fingers for the very first time. That's a very significant thing for them. We're trying to shape their listening skills and their experience with music for the rest of their lives."

AIM, which started in 1988 and reaches every public school student in first through fifth grades in San Francisco, includes, among other components, specialized teacher curricula, a private concert by the San Francisco Symphony at Davies Symphony Hall and in-school performances. The program reaches about 24,000 students annually, said Sammi Madison, director of education programs for the symphony.

This school year, Spencer leads one of the eight AIM ensembles that provide in-classroom performances. Her four-person jazz group performs three to four times a week, amounting to 142 total performances between January and May of this year. At each performance, the group introduces the jazz form by playing the "Happy Birthday" song in a traditional manner, and then with a jazz interpretation. Each member of the ensemble then takes a turn introducing him or herself and their instrument and conducting a song. In addition to playing keyboards, Spencer is in charge of supervising the performance and making sure everything runs smoothly.

Throughout the performance, the group explains the roles of the composer, conductor, musician and audience. The lessons are part of this year's theme, "Elements of Music," which explores these four components and how they mix together. Each year's theme is designed to fit into a part of the district's core curriculum, Madison said. This year's theme of "mixing" integrates music with language arts and visual arts, including concepts about shapes and colors for students in first and second grades and basic concepts in architecture for students in third through fifth grades. 

"Dee completely understands the power of a musician to touch the imaginations of children," Madison said. "Through great music, a child can take flight around the world. As a music educator, Dee also embraces the truth that you must never give anything less than your very best to children."

Spencer said her work with the AIM program, which reaches every part of the city from Bay View to Pacific Heights, fits well with the mission of SF State to engage its community. In addition, she said, music has a multitude of cognitive benefits for children that AIM helps to instill early in their lives.

"They get to see the cooperation between individuals working for a common purpose," she said. "They get to interact. They learn how to respond appropriately by applauding. There are all kinds of intrinsic values that are being taught during that 30-minute performance."

-- Jonathan Morales













Latest performance on 10/22/08 with the legendary Jimmy Scott at Herbst Theater, SF. Review by David Wiegard in SF Chronicle
Just performed at a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton with members of the fabulous Montlclair Women's Big Band in Hillsborough on 10/22/07. Check out the photo in the gallery. I ran from the keyboard and almost didn't make the photo after Hillary shook my hand!
Hosted the Band Director Academy on July 18-21 presented by Jazz At Lincoln Center!! SFJAZZ and SFSU collaborated and it turned out GREAT!!!
Performed again with the great Jimmy Scott at the Detroit Institute of the Arts on July 6! Check him out! He's incredible.
Had the rare chance to perform with the legendary vocalist in Las Vegas last Saturday, June 2. AMAZING!!!!

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