Local jazz performer Deborah Gilmore is always looking for ways to make things “Mo Betta.” 

Gilmore, the singer in the jazz group Mo Betta Jazz, has established a locally-beloved musical name for herself here in San Luis Obispo.

After moving to the area in Jan. 2020, Gilmore started her music journey in San Luis Obispo County by performing in the streets throughout the Central Coast mid-pandemic. Through her travels, Gilmore created a network for herself and built a community within her audience during each of her performances. 

Music has been a part of Gilmore’s life ever since she was a little girl. During Gilmore’s journey in Santa Barbara, she was about to find stable housing but was first turned down by a landlord due to her race. In order to find hope during times of hardship, Gilmore’s love for music resurfaced while listening to jazz in a Santa Barbara public library to help pass the time. 

This love for jazz music is more apparent than ever as she performs with Mo Betta Jazz. Her friendly personality has allowed her to form a wide network with a variety of musicians throughout the Central Coast, where she uses music as an outlet and piece of hope.

“I’m always thinking of projects,” Gilmore said. “Which project is next and how I can make it ‘Mo Betta?’” 

After losing her opportunities to perform during the pandemic, Gilmore’s desire to move forward stemmed from busking in the streets of San Luis Obispo. Seeds Restaurant allowed her to set up her band in front of their shop and Gilmore would do frequent shows there.

“I saw musicians busking… and I said ‘We’re taking it to the streets!’” Gilmore said. 

This was beneficial for Gilmore in a multitude of ways: being outside, performing live music, and building connections.

Gilmore would give out programs and receive business cards from individuals from all walks of life. Over time, she received sponsors from local businesses which has helped her network grow within the San Luis Obispo community. 

Once the world started opening up again, San Luis Obispo’s Farmer’s Market got a hold of Gilmore through her sponsors from a previous show. This opened up a door full of opportunity and on July 8, Gilmore performed at the market for the first time. 

The show was a success and Gilmore continued hosting shows all over town. After receiving sponsorships from nine different local businesses, she held a week-long jazz production on Aug. 1-8, called “7 Days of Jazz.” 

Despite the obstacles Gilmore has come across, jazz music has helped her find peace. This walk of life she has come across has caused her to be resilient and strong-minded. Establishing relationships with her audience and those in the San Luis Obispo community has led to a large repertoire of opportunities.

“Of course music gives me hope, but a lot of things give me hope.” Gilmore said. “You have to have many different forms of hope… something to hold onto.” 

On Nov. 14, Deborah Gilmore, the singer in the musical group Mo Betta Jazz, will be performing at The Penny with trumpet player Walt Johnson. 

Johnson is known for his collaborative work with icons such as Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and Barry Manilow and will be accompanying Mo Betta Jazz in her show, which is titled “Part 2: A Night in Paris.”

Gilmore recommends making reservations ahead of time to ensure a spot. For more information, you can find @mobettajazzmusic on Instagram.

This article was originally published on KCPR.org.

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