Most mornings you can find Brenda Bayne sitting at Volta Coffee, Tea and Chocolate, sipping on a short americano. Every Wednesday you might walk into Emiliano’s Cafe and find her singing and playing a snare drum. She presents herself as a modest and casual performer, but her resume and repertoire say otherwise.
Bayne was playing the guitar more than thirty years ago, singing a lot of Bob Dylan songs. She was taking a bit of music theory at Santa Fe College to better her practice and improve her skill. She had no idea a fruitful career as a jazz musician was to follow.
“I was attracted to a song that came on the radio,” said Bayne. “It was a jazz standard. I got into the jazz songs by way of the songs.”
Bayne began exploring songwriters of older eras, thinking that she was coming into music too late to fit in with the rock and pop scene. She felt inspired by the performances and music of many different categories. Creating her own type of performance was a culmination of several things coming together.
“I was pretty much tone deaf,” said Bayne. “Yet, I felt like the only way I would get better was to get out there and do it.”
She really did it, too. Gradually she began performing at Gainesville’s historic Thomas Center and was involved with the Gainesville Friends of Jazz. One of the big concerts was an evening with a great American jazz guitarist, Gene Bertoncini.
Still, fifteen years of concerts in the cultural heart of Gainesville, Bayne came to realize she actually did not like performing. Performing was the difficult part and was always the part she came to dread.
“People aren’t supposed to say this, but it's true,” said Bayne. “It was always strenuous.”
She recalled one of the last big concerts she played. This was a significant one, with Bertoncini to accompany her.
“We did about an hour and a half of run throughs of the songs,” said Bayne, remembering the great time practicing in her home. “I loved the sounds. I loved playing with him. I was disappointed to have to then go out to the Thomas Center to play with him.”
Bayne hasn’t given up her performance, though, she just found smaller spaces of the world where she can feel content to sing. For years that setting has been Emiliano’s Cafe, where the Brenda Bayne Jazz Trio serenades wining and dining patrons.
“People who have heard me for years are like, ‘You’re background music,’” said Bayne, who also used to play at Satchel’s Pizza. She disagrees. Instead she feels like she can finally transcend the concert experience and be free and comfortable with all the noise in the room.
“I sang for that spiritual evolution,” said Bayne. “It is nice to have some talent you can contribute to the community. Plus, I was always more attracted to the songs than the performance.”
The community she sings to, and with, is more than just restaurant guests. Bayne spent about 20 years teaching community education, allowing people to belt out all their best and worst notes in her home. She found it fulfilling to teach people to sing.
Bayne spent years singing for hospice and found that fulfilling, too.
“When you sing to someone who is dying,” said Bayne, “music is a beautiful way to touch people. Even though I struggled, people were still affected. They cried, it was emotional.”