Simone, daughter of Nina Simone, to perform at Penn in Philadelphia

March 16, 2012

Kristie Rearick
Gloucester County Times

Simone definitely has a voice all her own.

But the daughter of jazz great Nina Simone can’t deny that her mom’s genes run strong in her.

“We breathed the same air, we shared blood,” Simone said in a phone interview from her home in Miami, where, she pointed out, it’s 81 degrees at 11 in the morning. “I’m very much like my mother. I remind a lot of people of her and she definitely influenced me.”

She influenced her in many ways. And Simone, who will perform at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, Saturday, is happy to share her memories of her mother with audiences.

At her show in Philadelphia, she will speak at 7 p.m., before show time, with Salamishah Tillet, Ph.D., professor of English and African Studies at Penn.

“They asked me if I was willing to speak ahead of time and I’m always willing to share and get to know people before a show,” she said. “I don’t know what they want to talk about, my mom, or my time on Broadway, I didn’t ask. But they’ll probably have some students there who will have quite a few questions.”

Simone said she brings her own style to the stage. And she loves performing live in front of an audience with the musicians she tours with.

“We’re always changing and shapeshifting and growing as all things living do. Performing on stage, it’s an experience for us as well as the audience. That’s the beauty of a live performance,” Simone said. “Audiences always get involved, and that seems to garner so many positive responses.”

Growing up, Simone was always surrounded by music, but, even though she got praise singing as a child, she was never encouraged to follow in her mother’s footsteps.

“I always got positive reactions, which kids revel in, but it wasn’t something I thought I wanted to do. The elders in my life didn’t want me performing on stage,” she said.

An honor student, Simone originally set out to go to college and eventually law school.

“My plans to become a lawyer were derailed and I was desperate,” she said.

She joined the Air Force at 18. After Simone — a Gulf War veteran — left the service after 11 years, she began to return to her roots.

“I was wide open for change. I was really happy to start singing again. I was ready,” she said. “That’s when I entered this whole new phase in my life.”

She was ready for Broadway.

Her resume includes starring roles in Broadway’s “AIDA” and “Rent.” She also released a CD, “Simone on Simone” in 2008. Today, she’s just “two songs away” from finishing her sophomore album and she hopes to “drop some singles” in the next five to six months, she said. She also has several other projects in the works, including one about the life of her mother.

“I’m very excited. There are a lot of things happening right now,” Simone said.

If you go: Simone — with Jason Marsalis — will perform at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts (Zellerbach Theatre,) 3680 Walnut St., Philadelphia, Saturday at 8 p.m. A pre-show talk with Simone will be at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 to $46. For tickets, visit For more information on Simone, visit

Contact Kristie Rearick at 856-686-3638 or

Gloucester County Times