MARIA ANA BIJA
Born in Boston in 1972 to an Italian mother and English-American father, vocal artistry became the core of Maria's being at a very early age. While primarily self-taught in voice, she studied classical piano beginning age five, and was soon influenced by her father's love of classic jazz as well as the soulful music of Aretha Franklin, Bonnie Raitt, and Cesaria Evora.
Maria began professional vocal recording in her teen years for commercial jingles as well as with various performing groups, mainly in jazz and R&B styles. In college years she lived in Italy and India, and later during her graduate music degree, she spent time in West Africa and Brazil. Captivated by earthy international rhythm and dance forms, she became hooked into the World Music scene, and after singing for several years with a samba band led by David Rumpler in Boston, joined up with Caribbean musician Diego Jameau, to whom she was married for eight years and performed extensively around the Napa Valley and San Francisco Bay Area, selling over 15,000 cds under the duo name, Twin Souls.
During that era she was known as Maria Billings Jameau, and became a mother to two beautiful daughters and created a boutique music & movement program in 2000 for families with young children in Napa Valley called Musical Mothering. As her daughters grew, she founded the Bija Children's Choir and later a Brazilian Quintet, "Blue Brazil." As a result of her recording “Maria Jameau & Blue Brazil: Gema”, she held a contract for two years with Challenge Records International of the Netherlands, and reached the top of the radio charts over there with her rendition of ‘Tristeza Pe No Chao.’
In 2011 Maria changed her last name to Bija, which is an abbreviation of her maiden and ex-married last names, holding the Sanskrit meaning: "seed of creation," where creating is the key to a thriving life. The name change came along with a new life chapter, both musically and personally.
She now performs solo in the greater Bay Area and teaches private lessons and choir classes. Holding her Master of Music Degree in Dalcroze Eurhythmics and Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Maria has played piano for 40 years and is a former faculty member of the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston and the Longy School of Music in Cambridge. Living now in Sonoma County, CA, Maria developed the Bija Children's Choir into a nonprofit 501c3 organization, allowing her to expand the scope and vision of the program along with a supportive board of directors.
On the performance side of things, Maria’s travels and love of world music & dance have inspired her vocal performance projects ranging from Brazilian to Appalachian and early American jazz along with world-class musicians in the Bay Area. Audiences may listen to performances through audio / video recordings, house concerts, and other intimate venues in the seasons to come. Click here to join her private fan mailing list.