Roger Moss, Jr. was born in Chattanooga, Tenn., and moved to Savannah in 2001 for a job in media advertising. He first sang in public at the tender age of five, and said he has long “experienced an off and on relationship with the whole idea of being a singer.”
This flirtation with an artistic career led him to take private voice lessons throughout high school and college. However, Moss’ stately baritone often left music teachers and theatre world gatekeepers perplexed as to how and where to utilize that prodigious talent — if at all.
“To me, singing is like breathing,” Moss recalled. “But I was one of those kids who people often said sang ‘too loudly.’ A college professor from the conservatory once said I shouldn’t consider being a soloist. (So) I was not comfortable with my voice until well into adulthood, and even then I still heard reservations and criticisms. I auditioned for the first tour of ‘Dreamgirls,’ only to have the casting director proclaim my voice wasn’t ‘black’ enough. The epiphany came when I discovered the American Songbook…”
Moss cited classical voice teacher Marcos Freire Dos Santos and famed actress and chanteuse Andrea Marcovicci as the two instructors he studied under who “changed his life.” “(Santos) pushed me out of my comfort zone, and (Marcovicci) taught me truthful singing,” he reflected. Over the course of a lengthy and varied performing career, he has done political-themed improv in Chicago, and in Chattanooga, tackled musical stage shows like “Showboat” and “Ain’t Misbehavin,’” as well as heady dramatic plays like “The Runner Stumbles.”
Despite these bona fides, Moss said he only felt he could call himself “a professional singer” after living in Savannah for a year. A finalist in 2002’s prestigious American Traditions vocal competition, Moss cut his teeth in our town appearing alongside many of the area’s best jazz and classical musicians, including viola player Ricardo Ochoa, pianist Eric Jones, and the late, great bassist Ben Tucker. Outside of his musical accomplishments, he is known to many as co-founder of the acclaimed Savannah Children’s Choir and chairman of the Savannah Classical Academy charter school’s founding board.
For the last year he and pianist Kim Steiner have performed a cabaret series in the cellar of Broughton St.’s East End Provisions restaurant. Known as “Sip, Savor and Song,” it finds the two men showcasing timeless compositions from both Tin Pan Alley and the American Songbook. In mid-September, Moss —with area vocalists Kim Polote and Huxsie Scott— will sing some of the most beloved gospel hymns in a local benefit concert called “Hymns to Remember.” Perhaps most notably, on June 29 at the spacious, upscale, newly opened Victory North venue in the Starland District district. You can read about that show elsewhere in Do Savannah and on dosavannah.com.
Single most amazing live musical concert you’ve ever attended? “Al Jarreau at Chicago’s Ravinia Festival in the early ‘80s. He opened the concert with ‘Take 5,’ vocalizing every instrument in his band before they were even on stage.”
Shrimp and Grits or Lowcountry Boil? “Lowcountry boil.”
One deceased jazz artist you’d give anything to travel back in time and see live? “Johnny Hartman at the Cotton Club.”
One book you find yourself rereading every few years? “C.S. Lewis’ ‘Surprised by Joy.’”
Paul Robeson or Screamin’ Jay Hawkins? “Paul Robeson.”
Sammy Davis, Jr. or Tom Jones? “Sammy Davis, Jr.”
Recent movie which you can wholeheartedly recommend to most anyone? “‘Rocketman.’”
True or false: The clothes make the man. “The clothes make the man and the woman.”
Do you ever gamble in any form? “I am too cheap to gamble.”
Favorite and least favorite modes of transportation? “Favorite: flying. Least Favorite: bus.”
Three musical artists folks might be surprised to learn you adore? “Dwight Yoakam, Martina McBride and Bruno Mars.”
Favorite flavor of Leopold’s Ice Cream? “I love their butter pecan.”
More impressive vocalist: David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar? “Sammy Hagar has some serious vocal chops.”
One song you sing when alone that you’ve always wanted to sing in public? “‘Marry Me a Little,’ by Stephen Sondheim.”
One song you’d be fine with never singing again in your life? “This will get me in trouble, but… ‘Georgia on My Mind.’”
Would you rather be lucky or rich? “Rich.”
How do you protect and strengthen your voice? “Before a performance I don’t eat, I don’t do dairy and a I pray a lot.”
One of your own shows you’d give anything to go back and do over, and why? “The first show of ‘Porgy and Bess’ (with the Memphis Opera). I flubbed an entrance and still have nightmares about it.”
Complete this sentence: “I’ll die before I…” “I’ll die before I sing ‘Dixie.’”
First thing you’d do as Mayor of Savannah? “Gather citizens to come up with a true vision and plan for the city.”
Each week, 20 Questions features a different noteworthy figure of the local arts community in a quick Q&A session curated by veteran writer Jim Reed. Read more at dosavannah.com.