About Jane Gillman

Originally a Marylander, I was raised by a writer mother and classical pianist father. I grew up with one ear glued to the pop stations on my transistor radio, the other tuned into the musical traditions in the DC community. Every summer I rode the bus downtown to soak up the musical treasures the Smithsonian brought to the steamy lawns that stretched between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial – the Cajun Balfa Brothers; harmonica hero Sonny Terry with Brownie McGhee, Jean Ritchie, Bill and Charlie Monroe – a real-life encyclopedia of American roots. I got my first guitar at 12 and the first of many harmonicas at 14.

In high school I began performing solo at the Red Fox Inn, a club a mile from home. Then at 17, I moved to Austin to study Folklore and Anthropology at the University of Texas. There I began to perform in bands, write songs, and tour, releasing 7 albums of original music along the way (Philo; Green Linnet/Compass; Rounder Records).

My favorite tour stops include folk festivals – Philadelphia, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Kerrville; clubs in big cities with no parking spots; smoky bars in Italy, and small-town venues assembled by local volunteer communities all for the love of music.

In 1990 I entered the world of musical theatre and appeared as a multi-instrumentalist in productions at Ford’s Theater, the Goodspeed Opera House, Vienna’s English Theatre, and with Missouri Rep’s National Tour of Woody Guthrie’s American Song; I served as Musical Director for Austin’s State Theater’s production of Dark of the Moon.

In 1999, I became one of just a few women harmonica players endorsed by Hohner.

No matter what creative path I take, collaboration is my joy.

Some of my favorite collaborative projects include –

  • Conceiving, co-creating, and scoring an impromptu short film in San Miguel de Allende Mexico, with a houseful of artist residents from different countries, including a painter, a seamstress, and a local cinematographer. Our film, Fire Animals/Fieras Vivaces, was selected for the Austin Under the Stars Film Festival in 2023, and won an award of Excellence from the Nature Without Borders Film Festival
  • Creating production music for European TV/film with creative, inventive (late) collaborator Gene Elders, whom I miss immensely.
  • Producing and co-writing the musical curriculum for Kindercare’s nationwide network of preschools. For two years, I corralled Austin artists of all genres, from blues to bluegrass, hip hop to hurdy gurdy, into Cris Burns’ Austin studio to create a musical education for children.
  • Creating the PrettySing Collective with Austin songwriter Barbara Wilson Clay, and producing a children’s album and songbook, Bad Dino. The PrettySing Collective was a group of Austin-based artists –painters, graphic artists, studio engineers, and 25 not-necessarily-famous musicians from the varied neighborhoods of Austin.

Just recently I’ve been performing on harmonica and octave mandolin with Up Around the Sun – musical and visual artist Tim Kerr and banjo master Jerry Hagins. Hope to see you around town at a live show.