Gilda Solve

Gilda Solve is a well-established, multi-talented international jazz singer living in France who credits her interdisciplinary education at Dominican as the foundation of her enduring success.

However, unlike Al Jolson starring in the 1927 movie “The Jazz Singer” and Neil Diamond in the 1980 remake, Solve didn’t have to run away from home to achieve her goals. She just went on vacation and took advantage of what Dominican gave her.

“The most important thing was I was able to use the three disciplines – dance, music and drama – throughout my career,” said Solve ’84 who returned to her alma mater in August 2013 for a Performer’s Seminar class in Angelico Concert Hall.

You have to be able to adapt. I think what helped me was the musical training I received at Dominican.

Though primarily a singer and piano player, Solve was good on her feet at Dominican. Her namesake comes from her mother, Barbara McGill, who sang the lead as “Gilda” in Verdi’s Rigoletto in New York City where she met Solve’s father, Hans Solveig, also an opera singer. At San Marin High School, Solve’s singing career began its ascent with her leading role in “Hello, Dolly.”

That performance in part led Solve to Dominican, where she auditioned for music department head Dr. Ted Blair, thanks to the recommendation of Maestro Giovanni Camajani. Blair loved Solve’s performance from behind the piano and wanted her immediately to enroll in the music department.

“I said, 'Dr. Blair, there’s a problem,’ ” Solve recalls. “I don’t want to study just music at Dominican.”

After making lifelong friends at Dominican, Solve earned her Bachelor of Arts degree with an emphasis in Creative Arts. She worked at ACT in San Francisco for a couple of years, took auditions, performed in musical comedies in North Bay, yet figured she would have to move to Los Angeles or New York City to have a career.

 She left her belongings at her parents’ house and first went on a backpacking trip with a boyfriend to Europe.

As fate would have it, upon arriving in Amsterdam, Solve called an ex-boyfriend, Dominican alum Tom Hillyard, who was working in Paris.  He met her in Paris and introduced her to his vocal dance coach. The coach, Stacy MacAdams, heard Solve sing and asked if she could join other American singers for a Fourth of July performance in Paris. Solve sang “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” and wowed MacAdams.  He offered her a Friday night gig for the rest of the year at the Hotel Prince de Galles right off of the Champs Elysées

Solve’s boyfriend continued on to Milan and she launched her jazz singing career in Paris even though she didn’t speak a word of French.

“At that time, jazz in Paris was amazing,” Solve says. “So I was supposed to be on vacation and I never came back.”

Since 1990, Solve has lived in France and performed in night clubs, festivals, concerts, hotels and weddings. A versatile singer/pianist who sings American jazz standards from the roaring 20s to popular compositions heading into the 21st century, Solve has appeared on stage from Africa to Hong Kong.

“I’m a jazz singer,” Solve says. “I didn’t know it then. I went into it.”

So accomplished at it that Solve’s performances are international hits on YouTube. She has sung at some of the most prestigious Jazz Festivals in France:  Montauban, Marciac, Paris Jazz Festival, Montlouis.

Yet Solve says her proudest moment in France was giving birth to her daughter, Anais, now 13. Solve learned to speak French and now teaches vocal technique to French and English students in master classes and in various French conservatories.

When she can, Solve comes home to Cotati and to Dominican.  Gina Pandiani ’85 and Dominican music teacher Marian Marsh convinced her to participate in the Performer’s Seminar last year, about six years from the last time she performed on stage at Angelico Hall.

“I was extremely nervous to be on this stage. I passed my juries here,” Solve says. “I’m honored to be here.”