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Lenora Zenzalai Helm

2023 Jazz Road Creatives

Lenora Zenzalai Helm

Recipient Information


Durham, North Carolina

Project Title


Year of Award


Grant or Fellowship

Jazz Road Creative Residencies Grant

Grant Amount


JOURNEYWOMAN: A Composer’s Workshop, Performance, Music Business Mentoring for Young Artist Residency, and Jazz Wellness Sessions. Culminating student composed multi-disciplined work, teaching artist concepts, development of curated jazz playlists for mindfulness practices. Lenora marries her love for the healing arts with her communities of practice as a bandleader, composer, educator, jazz mentor, teaching artist and thought-leader in the intercultural maturity space.

About the Artist

Lenora (Zenzalai) Helm Hammonds is a highly accomplished jazz vocal musician with a career spanning over 40 years. She has toured, recorded, and performed internationally with her various groups, collaborating with renowned jazz icons. Lenora has excelled as a lyricist, guest artist, background singer, composer, and educator at North Carolina Central University. She holds the position of Associate Professor in the Department of Music and Jazz Studies Program at NCCU, teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in vocal jazz performance, jazz ear training, jazz pedagogy, and songwriting. Lenora is also the director of the NCCU Vocal Jazz Ensemble, which received the Best Choir award from HBCU Digest in 2018-19.

In addition to her academic achievements, Lenora has made significant contributions to the music industry. She has released six solo recordings and has been recognized as a jazz clinician and vocal musicianship coach. Her seventh release, "For the Love of Big Band," came out in March 2020. Lenora has performed as a soloist, composer, and bandleader since 1983, sharing the stage with jazz greats and headlining prestigious venues and festivals. Her talents extend beyond jazz, as she has appeared in theater productions and opera.

Lenora's work as a composer has garnered awards from Chamber Music America, Doris Duke New Jazz Works, and the MacDowell Colony. She has been acknowledged as the "voice of her generation" by Jazziz Magazine and received the Who's Who Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018. Lenora is also actively involved in research, exploring the intersection of jazz, global classrooms, intercultural competence, vocal jazz pedagogy, and digital humanities in education. She has published numerous papers and is a sought-after speaker at conferences worldwide.

With a Doctor of Musical Arts in Music Education from Boston University, a Master of Music in Jazz Performance from East Carolina University, and a Bachelor of Music in Film Scoring and Vocal Performance from Berklee College of Music, Lenora Helm Hammonds brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her multifaceted career as a jazz vocal musician, educator, composer, and researcher.