Suzzette Ortiz, a passionate pianist, composer,choral conductor and educator, has been serving her communities with the gift of music form her humble beginnings in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, to her many recent successes as a Pennsauken, New Jersey native.
As a performer throughout the tri-state area, Suzzette has performed in such venues as the Philadelphia Clef Club, the Kimmel Center, The Mann Music Center, Wilmington Delaware, Baby Grand, the old Zanzibar Blue Jazz Club, Villanova Performing Arts Center, La Feria del Barrio, the Bethlehem P.R Festival, The Wayne Jazz Festival (all Philadelphia/ PA area venues), Clifford Brown Festival, the Chicken Bone Beach Jazz Festival (in Atlantic City,NJ), and El Flamingo Night club in Manhattan, NYC. She has studied piano with Cuban musicians withe like of Cesar “Pupi” Pedroso (of the world famous Cuban group, Los Van Van) and Elio Villafranca, Orlando Fiol, Sumi Tonooka,and the late Philadelphia jazz phenom, Jimmy Amadie. Suzzette has shared the stage with artists such as, Tito Puente, Nestor Torres, Eddie Palmieri, the Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Compay Segundo (of the Cuban based Buena Vista Social Club), Brenda K. Starr and Hilton Ruiz. Her international performance credits include the International FestiJazz of La Paz, Bolivia, Venezuela, the Jazz Festival in Cuba, venues such as the Kimmel Center, Zanzibar Blue, Chicken Bone Beach festival in Atlantic City, Ausbury Park Jazz Festival. She was featured at the Wilmington’s Clifford Brown Jazz Main Stage as part of women in music.
A true advocate of education Ms. Ortiz earned her bachelor degree in piano performance at El Conservatorio de Musica de Puerto Rico, as well as a master degree in education and composition at Temple University of Philadelphia, PA. Since the completion of her collegiate studies, Suzzette has continually sought out workshops and learning opportunities in her constant quest to grow as a musician and educator. These efforts have resulted in two trips to study Latin piano, rhythm and composition in Cuba, many national and international choral workshops, a workshop on vocal improvisation with master, Bobby McFerrin and his Voicestra, (Rhiannon, Judy Vinar, Joey Blake, Christiane Karam and David Worm), as well as post graduate credits in choral conducting at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, and New York City’s Julliard School of Music.
Ortiz has also recorded with many local music groups and many of her compositions have been recorded by local and international ensembles. She recorded with Orquesta La Paz from Philadelphia. Their album, “Déjà Vu” was nominated for 4 Latin Grammys.
Suzzette’s latest CD is an all original Latin Jazz CD entitled “Renacer,” (Re-birth). Her music not only portrays Latin Jazz, but world music as well. It is a reflection of the people she has encountered and the places that she has visited.
Along with the latest accomplishments, Suzzette Ortiz’s dedication as an educator has brought great prestige to herself as well as her students. She began her career in education with the highly acclaimed, San Juan Children’s Choir, continuing on religious, cultural, ) related choirs in the Philadelphia area to eventually find her home as the vocal director of the Camden, New Jersey’s High School for the Creative Arts High School; now Creative Arts Morgan Village Academy in which she recently retired after 27 years of service. Despite many obstacles, Ms. Ortiz created history for Camden when she facilitated both national and international trips to choral competitions where the students won multiple awards and recognition including 3 gold cups in Italy, Silver in Prague, special recognition in Poland, Ghana, Africa as well winning gold in Nashville, Tennessee, New Orleans, Puerto Rico, Orlando, Florida, Virginia and New York.
Her work as a teacher has been recognized multiple times receiving various awards including Teacher of the Year on four occasions and one was the “Wal-Mart’s State Teacher of the Year” Suzzette Ortiz has received countless awards, commendations, and medals from Camden’s City Council, Camden’s Board of Education, the New Jersey State Senate, the Martin Luther King Congressional Medal.Her greatest reward however is spreading the passion of music not only to those who listen to her music but also her students. One of her special attributes is teaching the value of making a difference. She recently received great ovation by singer Al Jarreau for her participation with her vocal students at a master class/ residency sponsored by the Mann Music Center.
Ortiz is currently writing her first book of memoirs which documents her thirty-two years of teaching music from the perspective of a performer who evolved into an educator. The book is to serve as a guide for new teachers who plan to teach in urban schools. It will include personal anecdotes, teaching strategies, tips for working within the school system, how to develop relationships with parents and students, and how she traveled the world with her students. Suzzette retired from the Camden city schools after 27 amazing teaching years, to pursue new music endeavors.
She is currently the new Artistic Director at AMLA music school where she strives to continue to create social change through music. She is not only committed to AMLA’s mission statement of promoting and developing understanding of Latin music and its roots but also help develop awareness and appreciation for other cultures.
Overcoming many social and cultural obstacles to share her message of hope and love though music, Suzzette Ortiz is truly making a difference