A native Floridian, Jess grew up singing in church and swinging from banyan trees. Her mother swears she could sing before she could talk and swim before she could walk. As a girl, she dutifully learned her scales on clarinet and euphonium and marched with gusto in competitive southern marching bands. At Wesleyan University, she set aside her instruments in favor of books, limiting her music to her voice, where she sang in funk and soul bands. After college she moved to New Orleans to teach and build school gardens, but became mesmerized by the big, uproarious glory of the street bands and second lines. She dusted off her lonely old clarinet, built herself her iconic frog washboard, and somehow convinced the local bands to let her sit in. She fell in love with American traditional music and dove right in. Over the last seven years, that deep dive has continued - Jess now performs and teaches all over the country: in performance halls, theaters, universities, festivals, dance tents, music camps, house concerts, the woods, on the back of bicycles... She produces an annual tribute to Patsy Cline, has added guitar and upright bass to her repertoire, and has become an award-winning songwriter.
Jess has an awesomely chubby toddler named Monk and a precious big-eyed bean named Eva Duke. She loves being a mom more than anything in this big, crazy world. She spends her time with her family in Brentwood, MD making Christmas cookies at all times of year, or else she's off hiking a trail.