Musician, drummer, composer, educator, and perpetual student; Audra Menconi's music represents a dynamic soulful energy that is revealed through her drumming and compositions. Born in San Antonio, TX, Audra's interest in drumming began as far back as she can remember, yet growing up in a family of non-musicians it was a surprise when she pleaded for a drumset while still in elementary school. Before she even owned a drum, Audra was playing along with recordings with "homemade" sticks and a set she constructed from buckets, lids, boxes, etc. With no formal training at this age; she learned by listening and emulating. She was givern her first drumset at the age of 11 and by the time she was 14, she began playing professionally (with her parents escorting to gigs.) She studied percussion in junior high, but drumset was her passion yet not a part of any school band curriculum so her early years were self-taught using recordings as her "teachers."
It wasn't until undergraduate school that Audra was introduced to the "sound and language" of jazz music. She was immediately hooked and determined to become a part of the amazing, unlimited world of the jazz music lineage.
A major turning point during this journey happened her senior year of college when she attended the Jazz In July Camp at The University of Massachusetts at Amherst to study with the late great, Max Roach. His recognition of her talent and encouragement lit a fire of confidence and determination in this aspiring young drummer. At the end of the workshop, Audra was selected as a member of the quintet to open for The Bright Moments Jazz Festival featuring Max Roach, Oliver Lake, Yusef Lateef, Shiela Jordan and The Billy Taylor Trio. Before that concert, Mr. Roach sat down with her and gave her a priceless gift with his words. "Audra....you've got it. You have something special to offer that runs deep and you were born to play these drums. Don't ever compare; just do what you do and don't ever stop." That moment was life changing to say the least and it was that gift from him that sparked a desire to channel all of her energy into learning, practicing, listening and performing---as well as a commitment to offer a similar gift to others. Years later, Audra formed a Jazz Camp modeled after Jazz In July and has been fortunate to be able to inspire many young musicians. Her commitment to mentoring and teaching continues to this day.
After finishing undergraduate school with a BA in music, Audra moved to Boston, MA to study with legendary drummer "Rakalam" Bob Moses at the New England Conservatory of Music. Getting a formal Master's degree in Jazz Studies was only a by-product of being submersed in an environment of master musicians and teachers, gifted students from all over the world, and the opportunity to "learn while doing". It was at NEC that Audra studied and performed with Rakalam; as well as George Garzone, George Russell, Geri Allen, Dave Holland, Cecil McBee, John McNeil, Ran Blake, Alan Dawson, Fred Buda and Jimmy Giuffre, ...as well as all the visiting faculty and students from the Boston area who inspired and motivated one another in an environment that fostered experimentation, thinking outside the box, and most importantly--developing one's own personal style.
Right before graduating from NEC, Audra received a call to audition for the Kit McClure Band in NYC, so immediately after graduation she moved to New York to work with Kit. This band traveled and performed both nationally and internationally and was Audra's first real experience of what it meant to be a touring musician; always on the road and home for only brief moments at a time. Grateful for that opportunity and experience, Audra wanted to travel less and work more in the city to immerse herself in the local NYC music scene. That time in New York was 'Real Live' post Graduate School' to say the least....
Getting married and having children changes everything...
Audra was blessed with an amazing husband and two amazing children; along with those blessings came sacrifices. Audra chose to move back to Texas; first living in Austin as a freelance musician, as well as recording with artist's such as Dr. James Polk, Erin Fisher Wright, Heather Bennet, Rich Harney, Bobby Meyer, and the Nobuko Trio (including a tour of Japan.) Durning this time, Audra also recorded her first CD as a co-leader with pianist Frank Carlberg. Prologue (1992) is a result of this piano/drumset duo formed during her time in Boston.
After living in Austin, Audra finally settled back in San Antonio and with the birth of her daughter, she limited her traveling/performances and increased her private drumset studio as well as teaching at Texas State University, St. Mary's University and several community colleges in the area. As her children got older, Audra began playing local Jazz Festivals again and over the years has had the opportunity to perform with artists such as; Richie Cole, Rufus Reid, Marcus Belgrave, Bob Mintzer, George Garzone, Hannibal Lokumbe, Dave Leibman, as well as her mentor Rakalam Bob Moses. Audra also spent more time composing and recorded Secret World (2003) featuring the great George Garzone. This quintet features many of Audra's original compositions.
Today, Audra is busy composing, performing with her own group, teaching at St. Mary's University and running her own private studio. She is also an Artist Representative for Vic Firth and participates in clinics and concerts at various schools and festivals in the area. Audra's music is constantly growing and changing and although she is considered a jazz musician/drummer; the entire lineage of her experiences and musical influences holds no boundaries. With an open mind and an open heart she strives to never stop learning and to always allow her music to define itself.