“At age 48, my mother decided to pursue a life-long dream to become a jazz singer. A few years later, she recorded her only CD entitled, ‘Never Too Late.’ She believed it was ‘never too late’ to follow one’s heart. As I sail into this new season of my life, her words move and motivate me each time I step onto a stage.” -Donna Woodall
Donna Woodall grew up with family sing-alongs, church choirs, movie musicals, and JAZZ. Her earliest influences were greats like Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Nancy Wilson, and Johnny Mathis. She attributes her love of jazz music to her grandfather, who encouraged a young Donna to “sit and listen” to swinging divas, and to her mother, Jeanne Woodall, who performed in Milwaukee jazz circles, leaving behind a legacy of song after her passing in 2011.
Donna Woodall began her Milwaukee music career singing with top local groups, The Eddie Butts Band and Streetlife with Warren Wiegratz (former house band of the Milwaukee Bucks). She quickly discovered her own voice and style, forming the Donna Woodall Group. With her unique mix of jazz/blues and pop originals and covers, Donna Woodall blurs musical genres and presents lush, intimate vocals with every performance. She has established herself as a skilled singer, bandleader, and songwriter in the Milwaukee music scene. Masterful delivery and a captivating stage performance set Donna apart from the rest.
Donna artfully blends the musical styles of artists such as Cassandra Wilson, Bonnie Raitt, Norah Jones, and Tracy Chapman with elements of traditional jazz and blues. The result? A fresh, new twist on familiar pop songs. Audiences are delighted by her eclectic song selections, cool originals, creative renditions of classic hits, and her bold moves into different music genres- all the while staying grounded in her jazz roots.
Donna’s writing talents first emerged on her self-produced album, “The Subject Love.” This labor of love let her flex her songwriting muscle, showcasing original material that ranges from what she affectionately calls “soulful folk” to fun “jazzy-pop.” Currently, she is penning new tunes that highlight her unique musical sound and perspective.
A newly-retired English teacher, Trekkie, dog-lover, and interpreter of song residing in Milwaukee, WI, Donna feels most at home in a comfy sweater listening to her favorite artists on an old-school record player, and singing her heart out. “If pop songwriter Carole King and jazz singer Cassandra Wilson had a baby, they’d produce me,” Donna says. For over 20+ years, she has been on a wonderful musical journey performing with her husband, bassist Ethan Bender.
Performing at several of Milwaukee’s most prestigious events and festivals- Jazz in the Park, Summerfest, River Rhythms, Tosafest, Lakefront Festival of the Arts, Lakeside at MAM, Bay View Jazz Fest, Zoo a la Carte, Middleton Jazz Fest, Madison Jazz Fest, Chill On The Hill, Plymouth Jazz & Blues Crawl, Jazz On State, MOWA Art and Chalk Fest, The Sharon Lynn Wilson Center, The Stoughton Opera House, Cedarburg Cultural Arts Center, etc.- Donna has gathered a dedicated following.
In 2022-23, Donna will continue to share her gift as she performs with her stellar band in regular rotation at notable venues in Milwaukee and throughout Wisconsin- The St. Kate Arts Hotel, Blu/Pfister, Caroline’s Jazz Club, The Sugar Maple, StoryHill Firehouse, Cafe Coda, Old Germantown, Potawatomi Hotel, and The Cheel/Baaree.
One day, she hopes her goal of bringing joy through music to audiences near and far will come true. In the words of her mother, It’s never too late.