Musician, drummer, composer, educator, and perpetual student; Audra Menconi's unique style 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 at such a young age. She began playing the drums at the age of 10 and by the age of 14 she was playing professionally (with her parents escorting her to gigs). She studied percussion in junior high, but drumset was her passion and not a part of any school band curriculum at that time, so she learned by listening and emulating.
It wasn't until undergraduate school that Audra was introduced to the "sound and language" of jazz music and she was immediately hooked. She was determined to become a part of the amazing, unlimited world of the jazz music lineage.
During her senior year of college, Audra was chosen to attend the Jazz In July Summer Workshop at The University of Massachusetts at Amherst with the opportunity to study with the late, great Max Roach. His recognition of her talent and his encouraging words lit a fire of confidence and determination in this aspiring young drummer. At the end of the workshop, Audra was selected as the drummer for the student quintet to open for The Bright Moments Jazz Festival featuring Max Roach. Back stage before the concert, Audra will never forget when Mr. Roach sat down next to her and gave 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 yourself, 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 that same gift to others. Years later, Audra formed a Jazz Camp modeled after Jazz In July and has been able to pass along a similar gift with so many young musicians.
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. This is when her 'real education' began. 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 met, studied with, 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 amazing 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 with the opportunity to immerse herself in the local NYC music scene. That time in New York was another amazing learning experience and opportunity to grow as a musician and person. 'Real life 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, and along with those blessings came sacrifices. Audra chose to move back to Texas, first living in Austin freelancing and working as a studio musician recording with artists such as Dr. James Polk, Erin Fisher Wright, Heather Bennet, Rich Harney, Bobby Meyer, and the Nobuko Trio (who she played with for years as well as a tour to Japan). Durning this time in Austin, Audra also recorded her first CD as a co-leader with pianist Frank Carlberg. This album, Prologue is an improvisational drumset/piano duo.
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 her CD--Secret World featuring the great George Garzone on tenor sax. This quintet album features many of Audra's original compositions.
Today, Audra is busy composing, performing with her quartet, 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.