MJ Territo – Down With Love
The path may have been deliciously circuitous, but my lifelong love of and involvement in jazz has led me to a great point-working as a jazz singer and releasing my first CD.
From earliest childhood, I studied music and dance, and as a teenager won a dance scholarship to Ramblerny, an arts camp in New Hope, PA. Ramblerny also had a jazz program, run by saxophonist Phil Woods. That summer I finally had a name to put to the music my mother, who was a classical pianist and piano teacher, listened to while she was ironing. I really dug what I heard that summer-the tunes, the improvisation, the passion of the jazz students. When I wasn’t dancing, I was hanging out with the jazz kids, taking a jazz singing workshop I hadn’t expected to take, and noodling on the piano in the jazz band rehearsal space, nicknamed the Birds’ Nest. I’d always spent a lot of time at the piano, playing purely improvised music instead of practicing Chopin. Now I had a context for my improvising.
After high school, I left Trenton, NJ for the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where I earned an academic degree, but kept singing, dancing, and acting, too. And listening to jazz. After graduation I headed to New York City, where I’d always dreamed of living. I became a cabaret singer, actress, and musical comedy performer. I was also a student of jazz vocals with Janet Lawson. To pay the rent regularly, I had a parallel career in the publishing business as a freelance editor. One of my clients was Judy Sullivan, editor-in-chief of a line of romance novels. Due to late delivery of an unsatisfactory manuscript, Judy had a hole in her schedule. She told me I’d be writing the book to fill it, then plunked me down in an unused cubicle, and said she’d send in coffee and sandwiches. I turned on the typewriter and the jazz radio station. Three weeks later, the book was done, and my career as a writer was launched. For several years, I wrote romance novels under a variety of pseudonyms, as well as non-fiction collaborations, primarily in the fields of health and psychology.
While I was writing, I fell in love with and married Richard Fursland, a transplanted Brit. Eager to have our own front door and a patch of grass, we moved north to Yonkers. In a couple of years our daughter Emma was born. I finished my outstanding writing commitments and settled down to Momhood. When Emma was about three, I took her to a music and movement program for young children, Music Together