Joan Ellison has been praised for her “vocal prowess….[and] organic grasp of the classic songs” by Michael Feinstein. She has made a specialty of reviving Judy Garland’s repertoire from the golden Hollywood years to her Carnegie Hall concert and television show, including restoring Ms. Garland’s glorious original orchestrations. Joan’s 2016 NYC solo cabaret debut prompted Cabaret Scenes Magazine to describe her as “Judy-esque in appearance and…a near voice double for her idol.”
Her intimate understanding of retro musical styles of the 1920s to the 1960s comes from transcribing over 250 song arrangements note-for-note from original recordings, bringing distinct freshness and authenticity to her interpretations of classic American standards. At Michael Feinstein’s invitation, she serves as Editor of the Judy Garland Carnegie Hall Concert Restoration Project for the Judy Garland Heirs Trust.
In addition to touring the country with shows she co-created, Love Finds Judy Garland and Gershwin On the Air, Joan has played classic leading-lady roles, including Julie in Carousel, Nellie in South Pacific, Lizzie in 110 in the Shade, Eliza in My Fair Lady (in concert), and Claudia in Nine. In 2010, Joan released her debut album, “A Date With Judy! Joan Ellison Sings Judy Garland”, and followed up in 2015 with “Retrophonic Gershwin,” featuring her arrangements based on original recordings of the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s. Recorded at Oberlin’s Clonick Hall and mixed and mastered by Grammy-winning engineer Robert Friedrich, it also features singer Mark Flanders and duo-pianists.
She earned an M.M.T. and a Bachelor of Music degree in vocal performance from Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where she was elected Pi Kappa Lambda. Early musical highlights while growing up in Iowa included playing Flora in The Turn of the Screw with the Des Moines Metro Opera, opposite Lauren Flanigan, and singing for Liza Minnelli when she came to town. She currently serves as Teacher of Popular Voice at The Cleveland Institute of Music and is a member of Actors’ Equity Association.