The daughter and now aunt of an Oakland-based family of artists, activists, teachers and spiritualists, both by blood and by community, the melding of Troutt’s creative and spiritual life emerged early, at the age of seven with her first church solo. Children’s choirs, holiday solos, and developing skills in piano and guitar as well as voice followed at the famed Walter Hawkin’s Love Center. By adolescence, at Berkeley High, Troutt’s world was being cracked open to the world of jazz at the same high school that produced jazz darlings Joshua Redman and Benny Green. Jazz camps, a Carmen McRae Scholarship, Stanford Jazz, Howard University Jazz program and ultimately the New School Jazz Performance program with contemporaries like Bilal Oliver and Tiombe Lockhart—always surrounded by teachers and learners, both vertically and horizontally, in her musical blossoming. After the requisite hand-to-mouth NYC grinds, lesson-rich production deals with labels like Oblique Sound (e.g., Gretchen Parlato), and a brief experience abroad as an ambassador for the International Association of Jazz Educators, Troutt ended up back in the Bay teaching music at the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts and performing for two years with the Grammy-nominated Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir, most recently as a featured soloist on Still We Rise, Still We Sing.
While New York offered dream actualizing experiences like performing at SOBs and The Knitting Factory, sharing stages with major recording artists like Les Nubians, and honoring legends such as Bobby McFerrin at tributes, it was in California that Troutt found herself most in-demand and coming into her own. Innumerable venues and festivals presented the unique Valerie Troutt experience including: Yoshi’s Jazz Club, Laurel Street Fair, The Mint L.A., CODA Jazz Supper Club, and the Art ‘n’ Soul Festival, among others. Troutt further found herself collaborating with singer-songwriters like Jennifer Johns, Maria Muldaur, Kimiko Joy, and Sister Monica Parker, and recording with modern composers like Gregory Del Piero, Emanuel Ruffler, Howard Wiley and Jaz Sawyer. For nearly two years, she also served as a principle singer in La Pena – Ayer, Hoy y Pa’Lante, an original suite of music by three-time Grammy nominee, Wayne Wallace with libretto by Aya de Leon.