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"I can't remember a time in my life when I wasn't singing." – Joel Sheridan
Born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Joel Sheridan was the youngest of three children. "When I was six, my Mom got a full-time job to help out. Because they were older, my siblings weren't around much, so I spent a lot of time alone. I had to learn how to fend for myself, and to keep myself amused... and singing was a big part of that. Singing took me to a happy place. It still does... but now I can share it with others!"
"Even as a child, I was learning the music and lyrics to my favourite songs; just because I loved them. But also because I dreamed of becoming a professional singer someday."
Joel would listen to, and sing along to his parents' small record collection of pop artists, and Broadway cast albums and film soundtracks of Carousel, The King and I, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, and West Side Story. "Like millions of children at the time, my first exposure to a Hollywood musical was seeing The Wizard of Oz on TV. It was broadcast only once a year back then, so it was a big deal. I never missed it. But it wasn't until I was a teenager that I saw the Oz sequences in colour, because we only had a black and white TV set before then. When I finally did, I was a little disappointed. The colours had been so much more beautiful in my imagination."
At the age of 18, Sheridan was accepted into George Brown College’s Musical Theatre program (currently, its internationally-recognized Theatre Arts program), where he honed his skills as an actor and singer. He also studied voice privately with numerous singing teachers and coaches, singing everything from classical lieder to show tunes.
While at George Brown, Joel auditioned for the Banff Centre, School of Fine Arts (Banff, Alberta), and received a scholarship award to participate in its Drama program, working with many of North America’s most distinguished theatre professionals and teachers, including world-renowned acting coach William Esper.
Immediately upon graduating from George Brown College, at 20, Joel Sheridan made his musical theatre debut in the title role of 'Conrad Birdie' in Bye Bye Birdie, the inaugural production of Young People’s Theatre.
Joel received a second, all-expenses-paid, full scholarship award to the Banff Centre, School of Fine Arts, for its Drama Master Class, the highest level of its Acting program. Due to scheduling conflicts, he had to turn it down in order to perform at the Stratford Festival (Stratford, Ontario).
Billed at the time as Joel Hartt, Sheridan continued to perform in numerous plays and local productions of Broadway musicals, and was cast in Oh Coward!, the critically-acclaimed musical revue showcasing the songs and writings of Noel Coward. “It was a 3 month run – my longest at that point – and being in that show, I learned how to keep a performance fresh, and how to sustain it. And because it was a revue, and not traditional musical theatre, I also learned how to drop the fourth wall, and to look at, and relate directly to the audience; a skill which became invaluable to me when I began performing in night clubs and concerts!”
Another challenge, musically and dramatically, came in playing the principal role of 'Benjamin Stone', in a revival of Stephen Sondheim’s ground-breaking musical Follies.
Joel Sheridan (still billed as Joel Hartt) landed the musical lead in Twelfth Night Blues (a film-noir musical version of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night) at the Stratford Festival. Cast as 'Feste', a 1940s nightclub singer, he discovered for the first time his passion and affinity for singing jazz. The show received critical praise from the press, describing it as “a winner”, and Sheridan’s performance as “outstanding”.
After fifteen years in the business, Joel decided to take a sabbatical from the entertainment industry in 1994. "There were a lot of factors involved. Sometimes one's priorities change at a certain age. I was thirty-five; I wasn't a kid anymore. I wanted more financial stability in my life, and more security. Also, I'd had a couple of unpleasant work experiences, and I thought... Who the hell needs this?!... I wanted to feel like I had more control over my career, and my life. It seemed like the right time to pursue other professional interests, and to train and work in another field. So I went back to school and changed careers, and I didn't look back."
Over the next twelve years, Sheridan successfully established himself as a Career Counsellor. "I really enjoyed helping people find their vocations, and discover their missions in life. But something was missing in my own life. I missed my music. So I began vocal training again - just as a hobby - simply because I enjoyed the physical act of singing. I wasn't planning to go back to music professionally. But one morning, I was singing in the shower, and I thought, what's the point of doing all this work on my voice if nobody is ever going to hear it?!... I've been given a gift, and I should be sharing it with people."
"I finally admitted to myself how much I had missed performing." Joel decided to return to singing, but to pursue a new musical direction... in Jazz. "I was feeling much more positive and confident again, with a stronger sense of who I was. I had something to give back again, as a performer. I was more open, and there was more of myself to give! That changed my relationship with my audiences. I wanted to share more with them, and I was ready to."
To make the challenging transition from musical theatre performer to jazz vocalist, Sheridan trained for several years with internationally-acclaimed jazz singers, musicians and teachers, including: pianist Barry Harris, saxophonist/singer Bob Mover, American jazz vocalists Kevin Mahogany and Sheila Jordan, Italy’s Roberta Gambarini, and Jon Hendricks (of the legendary jazz vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks and Ross).
"When I was acting and performing in musicals, I had to play a character, and pretend I was someone else. Now, I can truly be myself, and relate to audiences in a more direct and spontaneous way. My relationship with them feels richer, more authentic, and more personal, now. Sometimes, the love coming from them is palpable. I feel so blessed and grateful for their incredible support."
Since returning to music in 2006, Joel has performed with many of North America's top jazz musicians, captivating standing-room-only audiences at some of Canada's premier clubs, concert venues, and jazz festivals, including 6 consecutive seasons at the TD Toronto Jazz Festival.
Besides performing, Sheridan has written and produced seven tribute shows honouring the talents of songwriters Ira Gershwin, Harry Warren, and Antonio Carlos Jobim, as well as the singers who were his major musical influences: Nat King Cole, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Frank Sinatra.
Joel Sheridan’s debut CD Spellbound received its official Launch at Jazz Bistro, Canada's premier jazz supper club, on May 23rd, 2018. The 15 song CD features four of Canada's top jazz musicians, including guitarist Reg Schwager, bassist Jordan O’Connor, drummer Maxwell Roach, and co-producer, musical director, arranger, and pianist Mark Kieswetter. The album showcases Joel’s inimitable voice, and his expansive and eclectic repertoire of classic pop and jazz standards, swing, ballads, bossas, urban blues, Broadway, and rarely-heard musical gems. Included are three originals written by Sheridan, showcasing his songwriting skills as both a composer and a lyricist. Spellbound is currently receiving airplay on Jazz FM and CBC Radio.