Harmonies of triumph and heartache: Samara Joy’s soul-stirring night at Jorgensen  


Samara Joy, two-time 2023 Grammy winner for Best New Artist and Best Jazz Vocal Album for her release, “Linger Awhile,” enthusiastically returned to the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts for her second visit on Oct. 20, 2023. 

The ambiance was incredible, a juxtaposition between a rainy afternoon in your local coffee shop and a walk through Central Park, dancing to your favorite songs as the autumn leaves fall around you. To say the least, Joy could make you feel every emotion possible — she could reach your mind, your soul and your spirit with her voice and energy. 

Of course, the band left an indelible mark on our hearts as well. Every person sitting in the audience felt the sound waves of the pianist, Cameron Campell; the trombonist, Donovan Austin; the alto and tenor saxophonists, David Mason and Kendric McCallister; the bassist, Michael Migliore; and the drummer, Evan Sherman through the course of their veins. 

There was not a single person who wasn’t absolutely in awe of the music. Whether they were dancing, singing along or simply smiling, there was no doubt they were intrinsically connected to one another by Joy and the band. Even Joy was, too. There would be moments where instrumentalists in the band would play a heart-grasping solo and Joy would stand by their side, not just to draw the audience’s attention towards that particular musician, but to admire their work like she was a fan. 

Their musicality was not the only reason her performance was worth attending. You’d expect that delicate and purposeful use of lighting is reserved for books and movies, but Joy has done it all. She and the band were illuminated by the fluorescence beaming behind them, the colors flickering perfectly in tune to the music. 

A few songs into the performance, she talked about creating a song while following a TikTok trend about writing music that represented what love felt like; not an infatuation or an unhealthy obsession, but true love: the initial rush of adrenaline, the constant butterflies, the subtle and obvious romance. While singing this song, the lights in the background had slowly turned red, setting a romantic mood and creating a visual and emotional appeal. Hannah Blunt, a first-semester nutrition major (she/her), agreed. “The lighting looked like a watercolor splash,” she added. 

Samara Joy is not just captivating because of her music, but also her personality and her inclusion of the band’s musical skills. Austin, the trombonist, created a song about being young, dumb and in love called “Sweet Pumpkin.” With the unpredictable rhythm and fitting melody of the song, you can’t help but sway along to the beat. 

Joy and the band also highlighted another tragic flaw of human nature: adultery. A dark turn, I know, but this song is an absolute masterpiece! In a song called “Guess Who I Saw Today,” Joy sings about an innocent partner in a relationship finding out their partner has been committing adultery. 

Campbell, the pianist, started by playing softly, easing the audience into the song, until Joy began to sing a line of rhetorical questions, creating a sense of suspiciousness while the background fluorescence shifted to a bluer tone. Interestingly, Campbell’s gradual crescendo and the immediate fall of the piano was oxymoronic in its creation of a fluctuating type of love in its confusing and heartbreaking nature — a representation of loving someone, but hating them at the same time. 

Near the end of the performance, she began to discuss her raw, heartfelt emotions after finding out she had won the Grammy awards. 

“And I’m like half asleep, like I wasn’t even — I was too nervous to watch the actual nomination livestream, so I was like: I’m just going to find out […] but twenty minutes away from Penn Station, I got a flood of texts from everybody,” she said. 

“When I tell you my heart dropped, it was like out there on the tracks or something,” she continued. “As soon as we got off at Penn Station, I was everywhere. [My friend] couldn’t even really video me fast enough because I was too busy running around.” 

 As her performance indicated, her Grammy wins were extremely well deserved and undoubtedly proved her talent!  

Just before she left the stage, she sang her final song of the night: “I’m Falling More and More in Love with Storrs, Connecticut.” What a Husky she is… even if she called UConn students “Muskies!” Don’t worry, it was an accident. I hope so, at least. 


  1. This was the third time I saw Samara, the second time at UConn. What is fantastic is that even though she’s performed some of her standard songs she did them differently. That is a sign of a true jazz musician who is never satisfied with the same version. She demonstrated a unique talent for successful improvisation. She is very diligent in perfecting her craft as a musician. She promises to be on the same level as some of our greatest vocalist / musician. I pray that God keeps her in His hands.

  2. Had a front row seat in June 2023 at the Rochester (NY) Jazz Festival. Wowie zowie… she is just amazingly wonderful in every way as is her band.

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