mandala music

bett butler


press kit

Jazz pianist/vocalist/songwriter Bett Butler grew up in a conventional suburban household, surrounded by her father's uber-eclectic record collection. She began playing piano at age three, attempting to imitate what she heard around her, from Ella Fitzgerald to Patsy Cline to Ernesto Lecuona to Prokofiev, and made her performance debut in a Mexico City nightclub a year later when a tolerant pianist allowed her to sit in with his trio. That magical and formative experience, with atmosphere and applause so like the movie musicals she loved to watch on television, set her on the performance path. Confined to the house with asthma brought on by Houston's smoggy air, Butler took up songwriting and gravitated to the radio stations at the low end of the dial, where she first heard the voice of Billie Holiday, an epiphany that would change her whole way of approaching music.

Her high-school and college years brought an unusual assortment of musical gigs, from touring the South in tent revivals to accompanying silent films. Before embracing a full-time career in music, s
he worked in Melodrama Theatre as a scriptwriter, composer, musical director, and actor. That experience, where heckling from the audience was encouraged―followed by thirteen years playing solo six nights a week in a rowdy roadhouse-―made her fearless.

Butler has two critically-acclaimed albums of original music: Short Stories, which earned a “recommended” rating from All Music Guide; and Myths & Fables, winner of a performance grant from the Artist Foundation. Her song “When Love Has Left the Room” placed first in the Jazz category of the 2006 International Songwriting Competition out of over 10,000 entries worldwide, and h
er latest album American Sampler won the Cabaret category of the 12th Annual Independent Music Awards.

Recipient of the inaugural Fred Weiss Memorial Grant for Professional Development from the Texas Music Coalition and an inductee in the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame, she was named a Woman of Influence in the Arts by the San Antonio Business Journal and Artist of the Month by the City of San Antonio. Recent albums include Boleros, a fusion of traditional Latin American music and jazz with Trio Azul; and A New World, a world fusion project with her spouse, bassist/ composer/ producer Joël Dilley. She co-owns Mandala Music Production, a studio specializing in the creation of quality original music for licensing; and Dragon Lady Records, an independent co-op label. She plays jazz festivals and clubs and tours with the American Musical Geniuses series with author Dr. Herbert Keyser.

Bett Butler shares with her partner Dilley the philosophy that music is emotion, songs are stories, and musicians are storytellers. She sees each song as a story to be told, and she just tries not to get in the way. 

Photo by Melanie Rush Davis