Raya Yarbrough’s voice and music bridge jazz and eclectic pop, with a storyteller’s lyrical instinct.
She was only seven when her musician father, Martin Yarbrough, brought her into the nightclub scene, where she found herself performing Jazz for diverse and often difficult crowds. This experience shaped her ability to communicate musically, and later influenced her writing. Today, her style is a kaleidoscope of edgy, truthful songwriting which stems from her classic jazz roots.
“Her voice is a pliable, versatile instrument, an effective vehicle for a musical expression that ranges freely from pop-style ballad to surprisingly effective scat singing,” declared Los Angeles Times music writer Don Heckman.
Now in her twenties, Raya has opened for Terence Blanchard in New York, an East Coast debut that came after years of performing in some of L.A.’s best venues. She has also been featured at The Los Angeles Music Center and at events sponsored by The Thelonious Monk Institute. While still in school, she performed in The Playboy Jazz Festival at The Hollywood Bowl. As a studio singer, Raya has recorded and performed with many major acts, including the re-formed Oingo Boingo for two Halloween events and appearing on Neil Young’s ground-breaking album Living With War.
As a winner of the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead Composition program, she performed her original music on the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage. She has been interviewed and performed on Los Angeles radio station KJZZ -FM, and was featured in a documentary on KCET-TV focusing on the L.A. Music Center’s Spotlight Award winners. Her original songs have been featured on televisions shows including Girlfriends and Sci-Fi Channel’s smash hit Battlestar Galactica.
Raya received a Bachelor of Music degree from the Thornton School of Music at The University of Southern California. During her college years, she won The Quincy Jones Award and The Herb Alpert Scholarship.