Photo By: Chi Brown

Photo By: Chi Brown

"A Blend of wiry strength and ethereal charm that set her apart from the female vocalists crowding the jazz scene... Without compromising her debt to the most stringent jazz grammar, her light-against-dark phrasing revealed a love of pop and soul that gave fresh, heartfelt meaning..."

-Lloyd Sachs, Chicago Sun Times


"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, Stanley Cowell


"When faced with the question, "Can anything good come from the Southside of Chicago?", there are two obvious answers: First Lady Michelle Obama, and North Carolina Central University Assistant Professor Lenora Helm Hammonds."

Myra Wooten, NCCU Now (Nov 10, 2014)

          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. 

A recipient of the 2015 North Carolina Central University Teaching Excellence Award (the highest university award for faculty), a quarter-finalist for the 2015 GRAMMY Music Educator of the Year Award, Salzburg Global Citizenship Fellow, UNC Global Educator Fellow, a 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, Clifford Brown Jazz Festival, Capetown Jazz Festival, South Africa and Fiji Jazz & Blues Festival.  Brief career highlights include jazz composer awards from Chamber Music America/Doris Duke’s New Jazz Works and the MacDowell Colony composer fellowship, and adding lyrics (with the composers’ approval) to the compositions of Andrew Hill, Wayne Shorter and Branford Marsalis.  She appears on recordings with Andrew Hill, Stanley Cowell, Donald Brown, Dave Liebman, Ron Carter, Antonio Hart, and has toured with Michael Franks and Freddie Jackson.  Her 2009 critically acclaimed Chronicles of a Butterfly CD release, produced by Branford Marsalis, was recorded live at Hayti Heritage Center, and featured pianist Mulgrew Miller.   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. This recording also joined 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.   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. 

                     Lenora is a fierce arts education advocate and created a library of online vocal training programs at  A virtual boot camp for vocalists and vocal educators, this online library includes Vocal Jazz Online, Vocal Musicianship Academy, Vocal Jazz Summer Camp and Songwriting Workshop. Though most of Helm’s 30-year span of musical achievements as a Jazz Vocal Musician specializing in Classic, Traditional jazz standard and original repertoire to critical acclaim, she also has touring, recording and performing credits in many genres -- including R&B, Neo-Soul, and Pop, Theater and Opera.  She holds a B.M. in Film Scoring/Voice from Berklee College of Music, and an M.M. in Jazz Performance/Voice from East Carolina University.  She recently completed coursework in doctoral studies toward a Doctor of Musical Arts, Music Education degree at Boston University, with an eye on completion in 2017.  Helm is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Music at North Carolina Central University in Durham, and directs their NCCU Vocal Jazz Ensemble.  Since 2007, Lenora now makes Durham, NC her home - where she lives with her husband, Fred Hammonds.  Helm’s achievements in music have spanned more than two decades garnering her inclusion as a subject of biographical record, for Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Women and Who’s Who in the World.  *



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