Location: New York, New York, USA
Tonight, in the venerable NYC cabaret Dillon’s Lounge, all eyes (and ears) are focused on singer Jeffrey Wilgus. It is much more than his wonderful baritone—alternately sensitive, soaring, and soulful—that draws everyone in: he simply has them wrapped around his finger. A pure natural on stage, Jeffrey chats easily between songs, taking the audience on a journey that includes everything from bawdy stories to heartfelt confessions: in short, a rollercoaster ride of emotions. It’s no surprise, then, that most everyone in the audience has the feeling that they are not only listening to a great singer—but are being entertained by a true stage presence.
From Early Influences—to singing in the City by the Bay
Growing up in Pennsauken, NJ, Jeffrey was exposed to music at an early age. He began singing as much as possible—from choral groups to school and community theater musicals, including roles in Guys and Dolls, Grease, How to Succeed in Business and Little Shop of Horrors—and credits his public school education for fueling a lifelong love of music and theater. After college, Jeffrey moved from Philadelphia to San Francisco, a move that changed his life. “The city opened many doors for me,” Jeffrey fondly recalls, “I met friends I will have for life, very talented musicians and I really grew as an individual.” He joined the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, and over five years recorded three CDs with the group, performed at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall, and alongside Megan Mullally, the late Nell Carter and Joanna Gleason. But while it would appear that everything was great—for Jeffrey, musically, something was missing.
Facing his path in life—with determination and passion
In 2002, Jeffrey moved to Portland to take a day gig that was “too good to turn down.” Here, at a company event, he was asked to sing a few numbers. Afterwards, coworkers and guests alike were asking him what he already knew: Why aren’t you doing anything with your music? It was at this time that Jeffrey remembered something Linda Christian (his first vocal teacher and a member of the Singers’ Workshop in SF) said: “accept your path in life and don’t fight it.” Within a few years, Jeffrey was in NYC, pursuing his music – and never looking back.
The move to NYC—honing his craft with some of the city’s top teachers
In New York, Jeffrey began studying with Patrick Wickham and Kevin Wilson at Wickham Vocal Studios, where the emphasis is on crafting the song and getting “into the head” of the character—something that immediately helped Jeffrey’s stage performance. This past fall, he had the opportunity to study with Billy Porter in an advanced vocal performance class and credits all three of these amazing teachers for the growth he has achieved. “I think it’s the honest approach they have that I admire the most. Nothing is sugarcoated, it’s all very direct.” Besides making Jeffrey a better singer, this tough-love approach is perfectly fine for someone whose favorite quote has always been from Dr. Seuss: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter.”
Jeffrey Wilgus—a singular voice
Of course, a big part of what makes Wilgus such an engaging presence is his voice, which can cover a wide range of ground; he’s equally comfortable singing his own up-tempo, driving pop songs—or a laidback swing tune, soft piano ballad, or rollicking Billy Joel cover. His own original lyrics only add to the power of Jeffrey’s voice: they are optimistic, but realistic; tough, but sensitive. And while Jeffrey may strive to “Be who you are and say what you feel”, that can, at times, be a bit difficult, because our lives are, of course, shared with others, as he eloquently states in “I Don’t Get What I Give”: “I don’t get what I give. It’s a simple lesson you learn as you live. Walk that fine line; don’t give too much, just enough to stay in touch.”
Promoting Signature—with an eye towards Broadway
Jeffrey is currently promoting his recently-released CD, Signature; produced by the renowned Haim Cotton (on the faculty of the New School, and who has recorded with a long list of vocal and jazz heavyweights). Jeffrey will also continue to gig around NYC (recent performances have included The Triad, Rose’s Turn, Don’t Tell Mama’s, Danny’s Skylight Ballroom, the D-lounge and Dillon’s.) Constantly challenging himself—as both a singer and songwriter—Jeffrey is already at work on his next CD of all original songs. He is also continuing his studies at the Wickman Vocal School with Billy Porter, focusing on Musical Theater—with an eye on Broadway for the not-too-distant future.
And wherever he ends up, we’re just glad that Jeffrey Wilgus is who he is and is singing what he feels.