Mitzi has been singing and playing music for more than 30 years. She has taught jazz and contemporary voice, piano and guitar for ten of those years.
She knew she wanted to be a singer at the age of four. At eleven she discovered Billie Holiday realizing instantly that jazz was her music. Mitzi studied classical voice with Lorenzo D’enga in Los Angeles for more than six years and phrasing with Howlett Smith. In her teen years, she sang pop, country and folk music accompanying herself on the guitar. As an adolescent, she performed in numerous off Broadway productions including the King and I, Bye Bye Birdie, Hubba Hubba (a musical set in the 40’s) and the Nutcracker Suite.
She studied guitar with Bryan O’Brien and Portland’s own Dan Balmer. Her piano tutelage began in her youth and continues today with Gordon Lee.
For the past ten years Mitzi has taught a Jazz Workshop with beginner to advanced students at Portland Community College. The workshop utilizes a 50-page workbook she authored on how to overcome stage fright, using a microphone, working with an accompanist, stage movement and audience connection.
Mitzi is said to transport the audience with her distinctive alto voice, three octave range and storytelling phrasing. She is a veteran of the Portland Jazz scene for more than fifteen years. Her discography of cover and original tunes includes three releases: Two Sugars (2001), Something Good (2003) and Lazy Aspirations (2014). Her music can be found on cdbaby.com, itunes, Amazon and Rhapsody.
Mitzi performed widely in Australia and in 2006, she traveled to the Netherlands to perform with celebrated composer and pianist Amina Figarova. When she was a teenager, she recorded back-up vocals for the Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys in L.A.
Mitzi founded the prestigious Portland Jazz Singers’ Foundation dedicated to the performance and education of singers. The concert series has featured more than 200 singers and more than 500 shows since its inception in 2004. She performs regularly in Portland under the names Mitzi Zilka and the Green Dolphin Street Band, Mitzi Zilka & Mike Doolin Duo and French Twist X3 (a French retro pop and jazz trio).
She has a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing from San Francisco State University, an MBA from the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul Minnesota and a Professional Music Certificate from Portland Community College.
She served as president of the Jazz Society of Oregon in 2016.
Mitzi is a native Oregonian. When she isn’t performing or teaching music, Mitzi enjoys hiking, writing, and spending time with her two sons. To learn more about Mitzi and her passion for music.