Lisa Kramer, Voice of the San Juans

By Kathryn R. Burke

[December 2019 | San Juan Silver Stage]

LISA KRAMER IS THE VOICE of the San Juans. When it was announced that she won that title at Altrusa’s annual Voice of the San Juans contest, I was there at the Pavilion, where the event takes place, with some friends. Like everyone else in the audience, we were cheering and clapping, so happy and excited for her when she took first place. It came as no surprise and was well-deserved; her voice is amazing and she knows how to use it.

A few days later, I visited with Lisa at her home studio and she sang “I Believe” to me. She had me in tears. That beautiful voice. Her range, sincerity of notes, tones, and lyrics—Lisa doesn’t just sing, she emotes. A little later, after some congenial discussion about her life and her music, and learning a lot about how a karoke machine works (totally new information!), Lisa cranked up her machine and sang Patsy Cline’s “Crazy.” I closed my eyes and, OMG! It was Patsy singing to me.

Karoke lets you pick your background music and accompaniment, choosing from different adaptations of popular songs. Lisa can tune in—or tune out—to various renditions of the same song and still sing it in a variety of styles and keys. Lisa’s voice is glorious, an intriguing combination of country, gospel, folk, and blues mixed with contemporary and classical styling. You can hear a little bit of Dolly Parton and Patsy Cline, Ruthie Foster with a little of Norah Jones (as in Norah’s singing of “Lonestar,” which has a touch of Texas country in it). That said, Lisa’s styling and her voice is all her own.

Being a guest in her home, and hearing her sing—as an audience of one—was a gift, one that not too long ago was a rare occurrence. There was a time when one person would be too many. Lisa is a shy singer. “I’ve been singing behind closed doors all my life,” she said. “I love to sing, but for years, I mostly sang only for myself. As a child, I’d sing in my closet, or in my room when nobody was home to hear me.” Grown up and married with children, that pattern still hadn’t  changed until the last 13 years or so, when her parents gave her a karoke machine. “Even then, I’d sneak and sing when nobody was around,” she said. “As for singing in public, the idea of getting up on a stage was too scary to contemplate.”

But she did. Little by little, and encouraged by family and friends. “It seemed like people kept pushing me to sing,” she remembered. So, she gave it a try at the Colgate Showdown, on the radio, and at the Olathe Corn Festival. Doors kept opening for her. Musician Wilson Jones of Ridgway gave her a chance to go to Nashville. She did a cover CD that made it to iTunes. (Listen at itunes.apple.com/us/artist/441257108) Her track, singing Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” is on that CD.

Winning the Voice of the San Juans contest also gave Lisa a chance to sing with Rockestra in Grand Junction. She sang “At Last,” one of the pieces she performed in Montrose. “It was fun to sing with a full band,” she said. “It’s been really phenomenal, the way people have responded once I got the courage to get out there and sing. I know I made the right decision.”

Listening to her sing, I couldn’t agree more. Lisa was given a gift; how wonderful for us all that she has chosen to share it!

Above: Lisa in her studio. © Kathryn R. Burke.
right: Lisa Kramer singing. Courtesy of the artist.