“In some ways, I missed out on High School,” muses 21-year-old jazz singer Teddy Horangic.
Well, yes, that could be because as a 15-year-old she found herself sailing to Myanmar on a 50-foot ship with her parents, brother and sister (the boat being the family home for awhile). Though she completed her teenage curriculum through a combo of home-schooling and an online Stanford University course (“the best educational experience ever,” she says) the most ambitious course was one she set for herself – a 5-year study of the Myiek Archipelago in Myanmar, a ” pristine, untouched environment” – that she began before she was old enough to drive.
“I’ve always been interested in science,” Horangic explains.”There was very little information on the area and I found it fascinating.” Oddly, some of the information that was available on the area came in the form of an unpublished scientific paper, which she happened to find stashed away on a boat. With the help of her sister Helen, she began a month-long survey of the area and ended up living there for 5 years. “I became very invested in the area, at a time when people there were very hopeful.”
The Archipelago was the home of a nomadic sea tribe, the Moken, who speak their own language. Teddy was able to communicate with them by employing one person who could translate the Moken language to Burmese and then another who spoke both Burmese and English. “They have a very different way of seeing the world,” Horangic notes. “They don’t use money – everything is based on trading.”
When she returned from her quest she graduated from high school and, having her pick of a few Ivy League institutions, chose Yale. But with the COVID lockdown in place, there was no way she was going to begin her college career online so she took a gap year, settled into her parents’ apartment in the East Village and into a new life – as a jazz singer.
“I always loved music,” she relates. “My parents thought I’d be a drummer. I grew up hearing a lot of bluegrass, country, punk, R+B and soul, but not a lot of jazz. I am greatly indebted to my parents’ eclectic taste, but I found jazz myself.”
When musicians began to perform outdoors Horangic sat in with Eric Paulin, a frequent performer in Tompkins Square Park who liked her enough to invite her back. Since then the singer has had lots of opportunities to perform with various musicians, but is always aware of her status as a neophyte.
“I am at the very beginning of this process,” she admits. ” I realize how much I don’t know.” Continuing, she adds, ” the mark of an artist is to have a distinct, relatable vision. It’s a process of self-discovery and communication. Hopefully, in a few decades, I’ll have worked out what my message is!”
While Teddy was enjoying her new gig the coup in Myanmar took place, leaving Horangic ” very surprised and shocked.”
“I knew I had to do something,” she states. “I’m in a unique position – I can give people music and help contribute to the cause.” Her form of contribution is a series of concerts and informative panels to be livestreamed – one has already taken place – to encourage people to send some cash to those in need in the embattled country. Money will go to Mutual Aid Myanmar which distributes the proceeds directly to the people, including the peaceful protesters who are being targeted by the new regime.
Being a particularly self-reliant type, Horangic organized the benefit concert herself – gathering the musicians and panelists, finding the space (generously donated by the arts group Chashama) and promoting the event herself. Both the panel and concert can be seen on YouTube, where there are instructions on how to donate.
Horangic, whose endgame is to become an Environmental Economics professor, lets us in on her future plan. “I’ll be back in Myanmar as soon as it opens,” Teddy informs us. “I plan to continue working there.”
While we would hate to burden a young person with the term “extraordinary”, we can’t really think of any other way to describe a woman began a career in scientific research at age 15, taught herself guitar, has been a competitive sailor, went from home-school to Yale, became an activist and shows every indication of being a formidable jazz singer. One can’t help but feel that she is one of those people who is going to make a difference in the world, and probably already has.
Teddy Horangic on Instagram: @teddy.jazz
Link for the Myanmar panel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
Link for the concert: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
Link to donate: https://www.mutualaidmyanmar.