The biggest misunderstanding about this year's Artist in Residence Bobby McFerrin is that he is the singer with that one hit: Don't Worry Be Happy. Yes, that's him, but that song actually was merely a side-step during his long career. True fans know this and they admire him for his voice and his range of vocal techniques. Bobby McFerrin can effortlessly move his voice across four octaves. He is at home in many genres, from pop, jazz and folk to classical and world music and has received ten Grammy Awards for his work.
New York-born McFerrin was brought up with opera music. His father was the first African-American soloist with the Metropolitan Opera. At first, McFerrin was interested in the clarinet, but he later switched over to the piano. His first high school band was called the Bobby Mack Quartet. He only started to sing in 1977 with the Astral Projects in New Orleans and when touring with legendary singer Jon Hendricks. Since that time, McFerrin has begun to develop into an all-round voice artist and he has given improvised solo concerts all over the world, inspired by the solo performances of pianist Keith Jarrett.
Bobby McFerrin's work is admired in musical circles. He is an artist with whom people really like to work. He regularly gives duo concerts with pianist Chick Corea, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Herbie Hancock, and he performed at the North Sea Jazz Festival in 2005 together with Randy Weston and his quintet.
In the past years, McFerrin has also worked as the conductor of various classical orchestras. He conducted the jazz opera Porgy & Bess and also runs his own choir, Voicestra, for many years now that includes members from the theater and jazz scenes and classical musicians. He likes to work with large groups of singers, whether they are skilled vocalists or simply his audience. Especially during his solo concerts, he likes to work with audience participation. He sees this as a way of making music together, not just as a 'singalong'.
During this festival Bobby McFerrin can be heard with different lineups. He will sing with and conduct the NDR Big Band, perform with among others bassist/vocalist Richard Bona and he will give a big solo concert with a number of special guests. The singer will also give a clinic.