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Lenora Z Helm Hammonds

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Assistant Professor
(919) 530-6653
(919) 530-7979
204 C. Ruth Edwards Music Hall


Assistant Professor, Department of Music,
Director, NCCU Vocal Jazz Ensemble
teaching Applied Voice, Voice Class methods (MUSL 1260) (music education course)
and 20th Century Music (MUSL 1300) and MUSL 4900 - Songwriting (Seminar in the Music Industry)

Graduate and Undergraduate Jazz Studies Faculty
teaching Jazz Vocal Combo, Jazz Vocal Ear Training, Vocal Jazz Online.

Community Director, College of Liberal Arts; Coordinate activities, programs and events between NCCU College of Liberal Arts departments (Music, Theater, History, Art, English, Modern Foreign Language, Global Studies) and community based organizations.

Director, Teaching Artist Certificate Program; http://www.nccu.edu/academics/sc/artsandsciences/teach-artist-cert-program/index.cfm


"Lenora Zenzalai Helm is a singer with all the right stuff: a musician in the broadest and most complete definition of the word, with an expansive vision that subsumes category. The breadth of her expression is staggering…her technical prowess is phenomenal…superb creative arranging skills…thoughtful composer. (She) has plenty in her arsenal of talents." Pianist/Composer/Educator, Stanley Cowell

Lenora Helm Hammonds /p/k/a Lenora Zenzalai Helm is a jazz vocalist, vocal musicianship coach, composer, lyricist and educator with six solo recordings, her own recording and publishing company, Zenzalai Music, and an extensive discography with some of the biggest names in jazz and contemporary music.

Lenora’s achievements in music have spanned more than three decades garnering her inclusion as a subject of biographical record since 2005 for Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Women and Who’s Who in the World, and most recently, a 2018 Who’s Who Lifetime Achievement Award. 2017-18 academic awards include selection as a Mellon Foundation-John Hope Franklin Institute NCCU-Duke University Digital Humanities Fellow and a North Carolina Central University Innovation Fund grant recipient. 2016-2017 academic year included achievements as the 2016 Mayors Award recipient from Sister Cities Durham, NC for promoting international understanding, and a Fulbright residency at the Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus, Denmark. A 2014 Salzburg Global Citizenship Program Fellow, Fulbright Senior Specialist, and former U.S. Jazz Ambassador under the auspices of the State Department and Kennedy Center, her achievements garnered accolades as “...the voice of her generation,” by Jazziz Magazine.

She has appeared in renowned jazz festivals and venues worldwide, including Jazz at Lincoln Center, Schomburg Center’s Women in Jazz Festival, JVC Jazz Festivals, Capital Jazz Festival, Millenium Stage @ The Kennedy Center, Clifford Brown Jazz Festival, Mellon Jazz Festival, Cape Town Jazzathon 2000, South Africa and Fiji Jazz & Blues Festival and JazzPar Tours, Denmark. She appears on recordings with renowned jazz musicians Andrew Hill, Stanley Cowell, Donald Brown, Dave Liebman, Ron Carter, Antonio Hart, Branford Marsalis, Mulgrew Miller, has toured with Michael Franks and Freddie Jackson, and has touring, recording and performing credits in many genres -- including R&B, Neo-Soul, and Pop, Theater and Opera. Her 2009 critically acclaimed Chronicles of a Butterfly CD release, produced by Branford Marsalis, was recorded live and featured pianist Mulgrew Miller.

She is a sought after clinician, educator and academic lecturer having presented academic papers, master classes, workshops and concerts at Berklee College of Music, Boston, MA; Duke University, Durham, NC; The New School, New York, NY; Salve Regina University, Newport, RI; the Essentially Ellington Festival at Brigham Young University, Provo, UT; University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Chattanooga, TN, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC; North Carolina Central University, Durham, NC; University of Aruba in Oranjestad, Aruba; Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, Natal, Brazil, University of Pretoria, South Africa; University of South Africa (UNISA), University of Cape Town, South Africa; Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus and Alborg, Denmark and University of Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda.

Of her six recordings, her latest CD, I Love Myself When I’m Laughing was listed on Independent Ear’s 30 Recommended 2012 Record Releases amongst an esteemed list of jazz artists. Joining the distinction with her previous releases (in 2003 and 2004) garnering inclusion on the 2013 GRAMMY ballot for consideration of nomination in vocal jazz and arranging categories. In May, 2014, she was named a 2015 quarter-finalist as GRAMMY Music Educator of the Year, chosen amongst 7000 nominees. Lenora also co-founded the Afrocentric soul-jazz vocal ensemble Sepia, known throughout the world for their soul-stirring lyrics and beautiful harmonies.

As a TV and film music composer, most recent music credits include writing the musical score for the children’s play, Indigo Blue: A Reimagining of the Pied Piper for Walltown Children’s Theater, Durham, NC. Other notable composition credits include Ms. Helm’s compositions featured in several Black History Month promo campaigns on the ESPN network. Brief composer highlights include jazz composer awards from Chamber Music America/Doris Duke’s New Jazz Works and the MacDowell Colony composer fellowship, and penning lyrics recorded to the compositions of John Coltrane, Andrew Hill, Jason Moran, Wayne Shorter and Branford Marsalis.

Lenora Helm Hammonds is a Chicago, IL native, and currently an Assistant Professor at North Carolina Central University, Durham, North Carolina, USA. At NCCU she wears many hats and roles of academic leadership, including: Director, Vocal Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Studies; Global Educator Fellow, University of North Carolina; Global Citizen Certificate development team, NCCU International Affairs; Author and Co-Instructor of course, Global Inequality, Global Structures, Culture and Power; Community Engagement Coordinator, College of Arts and Sciences; Collaborative Online International Learning; Lead Fellow of a 12-person team with three successful courses between schools in South Africa, Denmark and NCCU. The 2017-18 academic year also marked landmark program where Lenora spearheaded the curriculum design and implementation of the university's first Teaching Artist Certificate Program, a training and job preparatory program for teaching artists. This program is the first of its kind at a historically black college and university.

She holds a B.M. in Film Scoring/Voice from Berklee College of Music (completing that degree in three years becoming the first African-American woman to complete that degree), and an M.M. in Jazz Performance/Voice from East Carolina University (where she was inducted into the Pi Kappa Lambda music honor society, graduating Summa Cum Laude). She is presently engaged in doctoral studies toward a Doctor of Musical Arts, Music Education degree at Boston University, with an eye on completion in 2018.

Hammonds is a member of numerous international music and academic service, advocacy and professional organizations including GRAMMY's NARAS (National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences), AAUW, (American Association of University Women), Jazz Educators Network, Chamber Music America, College Music Society, is a SESAC composer and publisher, GLOMUS (Global Network of Higher Music Education), and is a past president of International Women in Jazz. Since 2007, Lenora now makes Durham, NC her home - where she lives with her husband, Fred Hammonds. Read more about Lenora at www.LenoraHelm.com and her online courses at www.LenoraHelm.online

You can visit Lenora Zenzalai Helm on line at:




MA East Carolina University 2010
BM Berklee College of Music 1982


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