About NCCU Academics Admissions Athletics Campus Life Giving Research

Lenora Z Helm Hammonds

Profile Image

Contact Information

Assistant Professor, Jazz Studies/Director of Vocal Jazz Ensembl
(919) 530-6653
(919) 530-7979
204 C. Ruth Edwards Music Hall


Director, NCCU Vocal Jazz Ensemble and Coordinator of Vocal Jazz activities
Assistant Professor, BM. MM.
Tenure-Track; Department of Music, Jazz Studies
Fulbright Senior Music Specialist
Franklin Humanities Institute Fellow (2017-18) for the John Hope Franklin-Mellon Foundation Duke-NCCU Digital Humanities Partnership

Director, Teaching Artist Certificate Program; www.nccu.edu/teachingartist

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.

Teaching Duties: Graduate and Undergraduate Jazz Studies Faculty

Also teach Undergraduate and Graduate Applied Voice, Graduate Jazz Vocal Combo, Graduate Jazz Vocal Ear Training, Jazz and Contemporary Vocal Music Online, and GEC courses: Composing, Arranging and Songwriting in a Global Network MUSL 1300 OL (online global classroom) and Songwriting (MSUL 4900 OL); Co-Author and Co-Instructor of course, Global Inequality, Global Structures, Culture and Power; (GLST 1000 02)

Lead Fellow of a 12-person team with three successful courses between schools in South Africa, Denmark and NCCU


Lenora Zenzalai Helm is a highly imaginative, adventurous musician who likes to write lyrics and reconstruct familiar songs to reflect her thoughts and feelings. Singer, composer, arranger and lyricist, Ms. Helm uses all of her exceptional gifts to push the envelope and make very personal statements with her music.?
Dr. Billy Taylor

"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, Stanley Cowell


Chicago native Lenora Helm Hammonds is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Music and Jazz Studies Program for the College of Arts and Sciences at North Carolina Central University in Durham, NC since 2005. Her service at NCCU includes directing the NCCU Vocal Jazz Ensemble and a number of academic and student initiatives, including the planning, design and coordination of a Teaching Artist Certificate program, and co-authoring a Global Citizen Certificate on-boarding course. She co-authored and team teaches two courses in globally networked classrooms: Composing, Arranging and Songwriting in a Global Network and Jazz! Born in American, Created Internationally and co-authored published research on the results of these collaborations. Recently named to the Jazz Vocal Advisory Board for Juilliard Jazz, Hammonds is a former U.S. Jazz Ambassador to Southeastern Africa, and the inaugural recipient of the 2018 International Javett Music Award given to jazz scholars assigned to University of Pretoria, South Africa. She is a GRAMMY Music Educator of the Year quarter-finalist and 2018 Who’s Who Lifetime Achievement recipient. From 2013-18 she was the Fulbright Senior Music Specialist for Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus/Alborg, Denmark, University of South Africa, Pretoria and the largest distance education university in South Africa, UNISA.

At her home university she earned the prestigious NCCU Excellence in Teaching Award, was named a UNC Global Educator Fellow and the 2014 Salzburg Global Citizen Fellow. Additionally, she is a NCCU-Duke University John Hope Franklin Institute Digital Humanities Fellow, She has written vocal jazz pedagogy syllabi for international universities and community music schools and is the vocal jazz artist-in-residence for Aruba International Jazz Day. Professor Hammonds’ research focuses on the intersection of Jazz, globally networked learning environments (GNLEs) and intercultural competence.

She is interested in distance education, new media and global citizenry. A strong personal philosophy of access to resources in education for all, Lenora’s dream for creating access to under-served global populations interested in vocal jazz education was realized in the creation of a library of online vocal training programs at www.LenoraHelm.online. Helm is the former Artistic Director and cofounder of the NYC based nonprofit youth music program HARMONY Program Inc. and is a past president of International Women in Jazz, an advocacy and presenting organization supporting women in music.

She was the first African-American woman vocalist to graduate from Berklee College of Music with a B.M. in Film Music Scoring/Voice. Helm also studied Indian classical voice at the Jazz India Vocal Institute in Mumbai, India. She was also the first African-American woman to earn a Master of Music in Jazz Performance/Voice from East Carolina University where she was inducted into the Pi Kappa Lambda music honor society, and is ABD for Doctor of Musical Arts, Music Education degree, Boston University (2019).

Professionally known as Lenora Zenzalai Helm, Lenora 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. Over her three decades of achievements garnered accolades as “...the voice of her generation,” by Jazziz Magazine. She has appeared in renowned jazz festivals and venues worldwide, including Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Aaron Davis Hall, Schomburg Center's Women in Jazz Festival, JVC Jazz Festivals, Clifford Brown Jazz Festival, Cape Town Jazzathon, South Africa and Fiji Jazz & Blues Festival. Career highlights include jazz composer awards from Chamber Music America/Doris Duke’s New Jazz Works, being selected as a MacDowell Colony Composer Fellow, and adding lyrics (with the composers’ approval) to the compositions of Andrew Hill, Wayne Shorter and Branford Marsalis. She appears on the recordings of Andrew Hill, Antonio Hart and Donald Brown. Her sixth and 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. Helm composed the full musical score for the children's play, Indigo Blue: A Reimagining of the Pied Piper for Walltown Children's Theater, Durham, NC and composed the music for several Black History Month promo campaigns on the ESPN network. She also has touring, recording and performing credits in many genres -- including R&B, Neo-Soul, Pop, Theater and Opera, including being a featured touring vocalist with Freddie Jackson, Michael Franks and performing with the Durham Symphony Orchestra. Visit her at www.LenoraHelm.com

You can visit Lenora Zenzalai Helm on line at:



Research Interests

Jazz Vocal Performance Pedagogy
Intercultural Competence in Jazz Global Classrooms
Digital Humanities for Performing Arts Curricula
Performance Based Pedagogy
Teaching Artist Curriculum Development for Performing and Visual Artists

Jazz Vocal Musician, Lenora Zenzalai Helm Hammonds, (Assistant Professor, Jazz Studies/North Carolina Central University, United States) is a performer, composer (pka/Lenora Zenzalai Helm) and educator who has carved out a niche as an in-demand global inter-disciplinarian. Coalescing her decades of experience as a jazz performer with her academic experience as a jazz educator, Helm Hammonds intersects her interests as an intercultural competence researcher of jazz in globally networked classrooms. What results is Jazz-infused experiences with a down-to-earth approach to building bridges between international glocales.


MA East Carolina University 2010
BM Berklee College of Music 1982
NCCU complies with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in all programs and activities (including sexual harassment and sexual violence) in the University's educational programs and activities. For additional resources or to file a Title IX complaint, visit the NCCU's Title IX webpage.
© 2019 North Carolina Central University 1801 Fayetteville St., Durham, NC 27707