By Dr. Elaine Richardson aka Dr. E., performance activist, Ohio State professor and board chair of Education Foundation for Freedom
Marquisa “Monique” Mitchell will be performing at the 2023 Columbus Women&Girls’ Fest on Sunday, Aug. 27 at the MPACC Box Park. We chatted with her about her background and inspirations in music.
Dr. E.: How long have you been singing?
Monique: I have been singing since before I could formulate words, according to what my parents have told me. Both of my parents are natural singers and musicians. My father was a professional drummer and singer in a funk/R&B band and my mother was a church choir director. I simply emulated melodies that I heard around the house, so singing came natural to me and my four sisters, as well. When I was about four years old, my parents formed an ensemble called The Mitchell Sunbeams and, we sang for local events and churches across Gary, Indiana, where I was born and raised. I further honed my professional skills throughout the years in various ways, namely school and church choirs. I graduated from Emerson School for the Visual and Performing Arts in 1995, in which I attended from seventh to 12th grade, majoring in vocal music and musical theater.
Dr. E.: Who inspires you?
Monique: So many different artists have inspired me but if I had to single an artist out, it would have to be Mr. Steveland Hardaway Judkins Morris, professionally known as Stevie Wonder. I came into my musical consciousness listening to him on the radio, as a little girl. I sat in front of my radio as if it was an actual television and saw colors and patterns, swirling around. I truly resonate with him as a human being because he didn’t let his lack of physical sight keep him from creating and sharing his amazing gift, to the world. I’ve decided to not allow low vision to hinder me from pursuing my lifelong passion of being a singer, thanks to the inspiring force of Stevie’s amazing light.
Other artists that inspire me are Chaka Khan — huge inspiration — India Arie, Rachelle Ferrell, Jill Scott, Van Hunt and Sarah Vaughn. They all share the common denominator of being unique and highly underrated, according to music industry standards. (With the exception of Chaka and Sarah, of course.)
Dr. E.: What would you say is unique about you as an artist?
Monique: I’m 47 years old and, I have yet to unmute the symphony that dwells inside of me. I’ve never written or recorded my own music. I suppose that fact is pretty unique, in and of itself.
Instead, I’ve been blessed with plenty opportunities to share my gift in the capacity of being a support vocalist. Being a support vocalist gives me the musical freedom I crave to dive deep into so many styles and expressions. I’m collaborating and learning from other gifted artists, traveling and being afforded a variety of new experiences.
Being a support vocalist allows me to perfect my craft while making a vast, and oftentimes unsung contribution, to the artistic community.
I love making industry contacts that helps me to advance my singing aspirations. I’ve been featured on numerous recording projects for notable national recording artists and Columbus artists and that brings me artistic fulfillment.
Dr. E.: What most excites you about being an artist and your artist journey?
Monique: My entire universe revolves around music and my passion for singing. There hasn’t been anything else I have ever wanted to do, as far as career aspirations are concerned. Nothing ignites me like music. I get pure joy being in the presence of artists who upholds music in the same regards as I do.
Music has ALWAYS been the one thing in my life that I look forward to, the one thing that came “easy” to me, and it just makes sense for me to keep doing what is natural. I’ve always fantasized about the notion of rehearsing, learning, practicing and recording music at odd times of the night. Not working in an office, not making it big, not even making a lot of money. I am a vocalist because that’s the only thing I ever envisioned myself doing. That will always be exciting to me. In the near future, I will create a music-centered podcast to give me and fellow music “factoids” a platform for us to talk about a wide range of topics, surrounding the passion I hold for all things music related.
Dr. E.: What’s the best thing about the Columbus scene for artists right now?
Monique: The hope-infused energy of resiliency. The last few years have been turbulent for most artists and we are out here trying to get our rhythm back, literally and figuratively speaking. I am witnessing a community of artists forging together to rebuild followings and working relationships after being quarantined. It’s a pure air of excitement, especially with all of the summer music festivals reinstated around the city.
Dr. E.: Anything else you want us to know about you as an artist?
Monique: I am always open to make new connections with other artists for collaboration projects and would love to step into new spaces! I am also an intuitive private vocal coach. I take what I have learned throughout the years and impart that wisdom to aspiring singers and public speakers.
See Monique performing at the 2023 Columbus Women&Girls’ Fest on Sunday, Aug. 27 at the MPACC Box Park. Learn more about her on Facebook, on Instagram at @music_and_so_much_mo and on TikTok at @music_and_so_much_mo.
This article is part of a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council as part of the Art Makes Columbus campaign. Explore a calendar of events, public art database and artist stories at columbusmakesart.com. To learn more about GCAC grants visit gcac.org.