Bio

Ermelinda Cuellar (pronounced ER-meh-li-nd-uh QWAY-arr) 

Short Bio -

Jazz- and Latin music-vocalist Ermelinda Cuellar is known to Houston audiences for her beautiful vocal quality and sophisticated rhythmic feel. Born to Peruvian parents in Texas, Cuellar has been recognized by music critics for her precise intonation, inventive improvisations, and passionate story-telling in both English and Spanish. She works with some of the finest Texan instrumentalists including Andre Hayward, Paul English, and Bob Henshen and in group formats ranging from duo to septet. Cuellar’s 2022 septet album, What A Difference A Day Made, hit the top 3 spot on the Roots Music Report Latin Jazz Chart and received airplay from many JazzWeek-radio programs. Her material ranges from classic jazz standards, bossa nova favorites, Mexican/Latin/South American songs, originals, and even the occasional pop song. 

Cuellar has headlined at Houston jazz venues, clubs, outdoor events, regional arts and music festivals. The Trinity Jazz Festival recognized Cuellar as an important woman in jazz by featuring her as one of their Jewels of Jazz, and has invited her to open for artists such as Helen Sung and Roseanna Vitro. Cuellar graduated with her Bachelor’s Degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music. She toured with the Houston Grand Opera’s outreach programs for a year before switching her focus to jazz. Her training and extensive bandstand experience allows her to effortlessly alternate between a powerhouse sound, impressive dexterity, playful fun, and a bewitchingly romantic delivery. Ermelinda is a passionate educator in piano and voice.

 

Medium Bio

Jazz- and Latin music-vocalist Ermelinda Cuellar is well known to Houston audiences for her beautiful vocal quality and sophisticated rhythmic feel. Born to Peruvian parents in Texas, she earned a degree in opera performance before turning her focus to jazz in 2010. Cuellar has been recognized by music critics for her precise intonation, rhythmic improvisations, and passionate story-telling in both English and Spanish. 

Her versatility and crowd-pleasing repertoire have resulted in her gradually becoming one of the busier bandleaders in the region. She works with some of the finest Texan instrumentalists at gigs, concerts, and recordings including Andre Hayward, Paul English, and Bob Henshen. 

Cuellar conceived and recorded her second album, What A Difference A Day Made, with a sextet of first-call musicians, self-producing the session. The 2022-released album made its way to the top 3 spot on the Roots Music Report Latin Jazz Chart and received a warm reception from many veteran JazzWeek-reporting radio show hosts. 

The vocalist can be found performing around Houston with bands ranging in size from duo to septet. Cuellar’s signature sound is reminiscent of Ella Fitzgerald, and includes elements of improvised scat singing. Her material ranges from classic jazz standards, bossa nova favorites, Mexican/Latin/South American songs, and even the occasional pop song. Cuellar has the chops to convincingly inhabit challenging material, alternating between a powerhouse sound, impressive dexterity, playful fun, and a bewitchingly romantic delivery. 

Cuellar has headlined at Houston jazz venues, clubs, outdoor events, regional arts festivals, and music festivals. The Trinity Jazz Festival recognized Cuellar as an important woman in jazz by featuring her as one of the Jewels of Jazz and invited to open for acclaimed jazz pianist Helen Sung in 2019. In 2020, she opened for Roseanna Vitro as part of the “Bluebonnet Blossoms” three-part harmony group. She performs regularly at the Houston Methodist Hospital’s Center for Performing Arts and Medicine. 

At age 24, Cuellar won a scholarship to study at University of Houston’s Moores School of Music and graduated with her Bachelor’s Degree in Vocal Performance. She was cast in the Houston Grand Opera’s Opera-to-Go program and toured with them for a year. Deciding to make the switch to jazz, Cuellar navigated to mentors  but is largely self-taught, and a result of her extraordinary work ethic and resourcefulness. Ermelinda is a passionate educator to students of all ages in piano, vocal technique, opera, and vocal jazz.

 

 

Full-Length Bio 

Jazz- and Latin music-vocalist Ermelinda Cuellar is well known to Houston audiences for her beautiful vocal quality and sophisticated rhythmic feel. Born to Peruvian parents in Texas, she earned a degree in Opera Performance from the University of Houston before turning her focus to jazz in 2010. Cuellar has been recognized by music critics for her precise intonation, rhythmic improvisations, and passionate story-telling in both English and Spanish. “…Vocals that can stop traffic,” writes Jazz2Love. 

Her versatility and crowd-pleasing repertoire have resulted in her gradually becoming one of the busier bandleaders in the region. She works with some of the finest Texan instrumentalists at gigs, concerts, and recordings including Andre Hayward (Wynton Marsalis, Chick Corea), Paul English (Dizzy Gillespie, Ornette Cobb, Dave Liebman), and Bob Henshen (Freddie Hubbard, Anita O’Day). 

Cuellar conceived her most recent album at the height of the pandemic. With venues closed, she used the time to write original songs, and collaborate with her band-mates to arrange favorite jazz standards and Spanish songs into what would become her most ambitious project to date. She recorded What A Difference A Day Made with a sextet of first-call musicians, self-producing the session. 

The 2022-released album was played extensively on the air, and made its way to the top 3 spot on the Roots Music Report Latin Jazz Chart. The music also received a warm reception from many veteran JazzWeek-reporting radio show hosts. Exclusive Magazine describes that “ acutely beautiful, masterfully-created and heartfelt at every turn.” 

The vocalist can be found performing around Houston several nights a week in a variety of venues, and at private parties. Her bands range in size from duo to septet. Cuellar’s signature sound is reminiscent of Ella Fitzgerald, and includes elements of improvised scat singing. She applies it to material ranging from classic jazz standards, bossa nova favorites, Mexican/Latin/South American songs, and even the occasional pop song. She is a talented composer and lyricist. An excellent ear combined with her technique from classical and operatic singing mean that she has the chops to convincingly inhabit challenging material, sing harmonies, and offer audiences songs in multiple languages. Like the jazz greats, Ermelinda alternates between a powerhouse sound, impressive dexterity, playful fun, and a bewitchingly romantic delivery. “All she has to do is sing a few bars and you’ll be captivated by the dolorous - and seductive - mezzo of Ermelinda Cuellar,” writes veteran reviewer Raul da Gama for That Canadian Magazine. 

Cuellar has headlined at Houston jazz venues, clubs, outdoor events, regional arts festivals, and music festivals such as the Woodlands Art Festival and Trinity Jazz Festival. The Trinity Jazz Festival recognized Cuellar as an important woman in jazz by featuring her as one of the Jewels of Jazz in 2019. She was invited to open for acclaimed jazz pianist Helen Sung in 2019, and as part of the “Bluebonnet Blossoms” three-part harmony group to open for Grammy-nominated jazz vocalist Roseanna Vitro in 2020. She performs regularly at the Houston Methodist Hospital’s Center for Performing Arts and Medicine. 

Cuellar learned resilience from a young age. Her parents, who immigrated from Peru, had secured work as live-in servants for a rich woman. It was here that she first heard a variety of genres of recorded music while her mother cleaned. Young Ermelinda also experienced top-level live bands at the mansion’s soirées. Due to racism and attitudes toward immigrants at the time, the way her family was treated worsened, and the Cuellars had to flee their living situation when Ermelinda was only 6 years old. However, the music she heard during this period inspired her direction as a musician. 

At age 24, Cuellar won a scholarship to study at University of Houston’s Moores School of Music under the tutelage of acclaimed professors such as Katherine Ciesinski and Debria Brown. She graduated with her Bachelor’s Degree in Vocal Performance, and worked for several years in operatic apprentice programs. She was cast in the Houston Grand Opera’s Opera-to-Go outreach program and toured with them for a year. Deciding to make the switch to jazz, Cuellar navigated to mentors such as Roseanna Vitro and Horace Alexander Young. Her skills as a jazz musician are largely self-taught, and a result of her extraordinary work ethic and resourcefulness. 

Ermelinda is a passionate educator to students of all ages in piano, vocal technique, opera, and vocal jazz. As she continues to expand her artistry as a composer, educator and bandleader, Cuellar looks forward to touring her music wider afield, and planning her next recording. She enjoys photography, playing piano and guitar at home, and time with her pets.