Ashley Orlando is a jazz vocalist, ukulele artist and communication expert who loves using music to help people find their voice, dream big and develop the outward presence to make their dreams reality.
“Music is one language that transcends cultural barriers,” she says, and it has given her the opportunity to sing not only in her native U.S., but also in Canada and Europe. A classically trained vocalist, Ashley’s smooth voice is a mixture of light, angelic grace and warm, jazz tones.
Originally from Ponchatoula, LA, Ashley’s childhood dream was to become the voice of a Disney princess. She grew up singing in church, performed in community musicals and All-State Choir, but eventually Ashley let self-doubt push singing to the backburner. She graduated from Louisiana State University in 2008 with a bachelor's degree in public relations and a minor in voice. Ashley immediately put her communication skills to use working for internationally-focused nonprofits, which fueled her long-time desire to learn French. She immersed herself in the language both in Nova Scotia and later while teaching English in the the French Alps, eventually earning a master's degree in French Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2013. She also worked at a tourism PR agency in Paris, promoting the state of Louisiana to French journalists and tour operators. There, Ashley connected with the French jazz scene, dancing swing and listening to live bands in the same underground caveau jazz joints that musical greats like Count Basie and Sidney Bechet once played. Le coup de foudre ("love at first sight") for music struck Ashley once again.
Upon returning the U.S. to promote Louisiana stateside as a member of Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne's communications team and later for several years as Assistant Director of the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area, Ashley became known for her innovative "French Immersion Excursion" program. This program connected the public with 1/2-day opportunities to practice their French speaking skills in fun, real-world settings, including paddling tours on Lake Martin, French song workshops and tours of the West Baton Rouge Museum, while also promoting cultural economic development through rural tourism.
In 2017, Ashley and her husband, Adam, were transferred to Houston, TX, for his work. Chance encounters with the ukulele and the kazoo prompted Ashley to jump head-first into the Greater Houston Area jazz scene and the international ukulele scene. She began studying with internationally recognized jazz ukulele artist Sarah Maisel and her husband Craig Chee and became not only a jazz vocalist and ukulele artist herself, but also a community leader, taking on roles with Houston's large ukulele club, Houkulele, and the international nonprofit the Ukulele Kids Club, which connects medically fragile children with ukuleles and music therapy as part of their recovery process. She formed a band, Vintage Point, and opened for Jim Heath (of the rockabilly band Reverend Horton Heat) at the Houston House of Blues. She also began studying with renowned Houston vocal coach Tom McKinney, who helped her harness her full vocal potential.
While in Houston, Ashley had the privilege of working regularly with some of the city's top jazz pianists, including Barry Sames, Henry Darraugh, and Art Fristoe, and singing jazz and French chanson for the high-end restaurant scene. For three years she also performed as the opening act for Joe Burlison's Christmas Jazz Show at the Dosey Doe Big Barn in Spring, TX. In March 2021, Ashley became a vocalist and ukulele instructor for RockClass101.com, and in April 2022, she was invited to perform as a guest vocalist with the Kingwood Big Band.
In June 2022, Ashley and her husband were transferred back to Louisiana. Based in Baton Rouge, Ashley combined her musical skills and extensive professional background in public/intercultural relations and community-building to inspire & coach others to step outside their comfort zones and lead more fulfilling lives. Last fall Ashley was a guest performer for the Jazz Listening Room Northshore and the Sunset at the Landing Concert Series in Covington, and hosted her own show at the Marigny Opera House in New Orleans with the traditional jazz clarinetist Ben Redwine and his trio. She also performed as a featured vocalist with Sandy Cash's "Big Swing" Big Band and with Ben Redwine and his band at the Abita Springs Opry. In April 2023, Ashley was invited to headline her own show in Spring, TX, at the Dosey Doe Breakfast, BBQ and Whiskey Bar. Later that month, she won the statewide (Louisiana) District 68 Toastmasters International Speech Competition. As of July 2023, she also serves as president of GSU Toastmasters Club.
In June 2023 Ashley headlined "Summer Swing with Ashley Orlando--The Great American Songbook & Beyond" in the Hartley/Vey Theater at the Manship Theater. The band for this SOLD OUT SHOW included Emmy-award-winning pianist and arranger Mike Esnault, Steve Martin Banjo Hall of Fame Inductee Don Vappie, LSU jazz professor Doug Stone, drummer and Alvin Batiste protege John Jones, and jazz guitarist Brian Breen. In September 2023, she performed a French & Traditional Jazz-focused concert at the New Orleans Jazz Museum with Ben Redwine (clarinet), Ed Wise (bass), and Adam Bock (guitar).