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Make Your Own Kind of Music: San Francisco Musician Lilan Kane made the most of the quiet time during the pandemic, and is thriving now

A Note from Hope Katz Gibbs, publisher, Inkandescent Women magazine — It’s a pleasure to introduce you to Lilan Kane (pronounced LEE – lawn), a vocalist, educator, producer, and music entrepreneur based in Oakland, CA.

We met this talented woman during the pandemic in the winter of 2020 and learned how she created ways to merge her creative and entrepreneurial ventures over the last two decades and made the most of her quiet time during the pandemic. Today, she is thriving!

In the article below, you’ll learn What’s Next from the Berklee College of Music graduate who attended as a voice principal and got her degree in Music Business and Management.

Lilan studied with Grammy award-winning vocal arranger Donna McElroy and drummer/arranger Kenwood Dennard and completed internships at Atlantic Records and Jazz At Lincoln Center in NYC. Since returning to the Bay Area in 2009, she dove into her performing roots and created a name for herself in music and business.

As an artist, her vintage-tinged soul sound flows through heartfelt compositions, telling stories of love, loss, and self-discovery while they seamlessly blend R&B, funk, pop, and jazz. She has released one album and two EPs: Love, Myself, and Lilan (EP), produced by Michael Aaberg (Lalah Hathaway, Goapele) and Shadows (EP), a collaborative project with Cosa Nostra Strings of the Jazz Mafia family in October 2020.

Backed by her dynamic band, she has sold out established jazz venues Yoshi’s Jazz Club and SFJAZZ. Last fall, she completed an East Coast tour, including Minton’s Playhouse’s notable venues in NYC, Wally’s Jazz Cafe in Boston, and Chris’ Jazz Cafe in Philadelphia. She also joined the legendary Pete Escovedo Latin Jazz Orchestra earlier this year and has opened for Hall & Oates, Lenny Williams, Freddie Hughes, The Doobie Brothers, Chicago, Sharon Jones, Trombone Shorty, and Morgan James. Her new single, “Time Keeps Moving On,” is a story of soul searching and self-reflection during COVID-19. Now available on all platforms!

Entrepreneurship and education also run deep in her blood. In 2010, Lilan founded the award-winning Marin County singing camp Own The Mic, which she served as director for seven years. She implemented and directed several singing and band classes at the internationally acclaimed San Domenico Conservatory. Throughout her tenure, she continued to perform as a working musician and sing with the Dick Bright Orchestra, the Fil Lorenz Orchestra, Jazz Mafia, the Lucky Devils Band, and more was ready for a new venture.

In 2017 she created the private event band Hella Fitzgerald – a wedding and event band specializing in jazz, 90’s and contemporary music. Quickly they became one of the most in-demand bands in the Greater Bay Area, expanding to LA and NYC and winning awards on and performing for high profile clients like Paypal, Facebook, Google, Porsche, and others. Annually she employes over 100 musicians and last year booked 125 events.

As a woman in a male-dominated industry, this has been a constant climb both as an artist and entrepreneur. “It’s been a lot of hard work and breaking down barriers. But I do think treating people with kindness and respect will get you far, and I feel that no matter what challenges I face or what preconceived notions may be upon me being a woman, I keep my head up, and my goals in sight and things seem to work out for the most part,” she says.

Through the pandemic, Lilan launched a webinar series called “Mind Your Business,” in which she talked about all things music business and even had two segments entitle Boss Lady, highlighting the specific areas of the industry that women encounter. She also launched a virtual production company called LK Presents, where she produced a social justice live music series called Social Call highlighting prolific Black Bay Area performers. Lilan is currently teaching music production classes at the California Jazz Conservatory and self-producing her upcoming song releases. No matter the endeavor, her core values are community, sisterhood, care, and mutual empowerment.

Scroll down for What’s Next for Lilan Kane. 

What’s Next: 4 Questions for Rocker Lilan Kane

An interview with Hope Katz Gibbs & Cynthia de Lorenzi, authors, Your 2021 What’s Next Journal

Hope & Cynthia: Tell us about your business/industry and its before the pandemic hit in March 2020.

Lilan: Before the pandemic, my business was thriving. After creating and managing my private event band, Hella Fitzgerald, in 2017, our business had tripled, we were able to franchise playing multiple events on a given night, and we had booked 125 events in 2019 alone. The music industry is a fickle business, to begin with, but in the SF Bay Area, we are fortunate to have a thriving scene for working musicians. With the abundance of beautiful wedding destination spots (Napa Valley, Carmel, Lake Tahoe) Being the tech world’s home base, we were playing the annual company parties for Google, Paypal, Facebook, Salesforce, and more.

So this became steady income for many musicians in the Bay Area and myself, and we were anticipating a similar flow for 2020. I am also a solo artist, and I had several big local shows and tour dates on the books for my own performing career, which was starting to blossom. I guess leading up to March 2020, I felt like everything I had worked so hard for was finally falling into place and settling most beautifully and perfectly.

Hope & Cynthia: Where were you personally in your life when COVID-19 arrived in the US? What were your short and long-term goals at that time?

Lilan: For me, my personal life is so wrapped up in my professional life; it is hard to differentiate the two most of the time. My friends are my colleagues; my job is my passion. I don’t really know any other way. Being a woman in a male-dominated industry made me feel especially proud and accomplished that I could build this.

I had to focus on it that I was finally at a place to bring my goals and focus back on my performance and recording career. My short term goals were that I was gearing up for tours in the Pacific Northwest and East Coast under my own name, starting to work on my new album, and finally transitioning into solely managing Hella Fitzgerald and not performing with them anymore.

My long-term goals were to begin touring more frequently, collaborating on songs with bigger artists, and to learn how to balance more time for myself (that has been a lifelong challenge!) Then live performances came to a crashing halt, weddings and events were canceled or postponed for at least a year. Yes, COVID-19 had arrived.

Hope & Cynthia: What are your thoughts now about your industry, your business, your personal life, your heart?

Lilan: Quite honestly, what I thought was the biggest devastation, turned out to be an incredible blessing for me. I was able to tap in and do what I wanted with no obligation to anyone else. I set up a home studio and began learning how to produce my own music, and now teach virtual production classes at the California Jazz Conservatory. I am doing studio sessions and collaboration with people from around the country.

Mostly, I am discovering so many new things that I love and also really tending to myself. I’ve redirected my mindset to be very intentional about how I show up — in the world and for myself. Developing some self-care routines, including regular exercise and a mostly plant-based diet, mindfulness podcasts, and meditations, letting myself chill without feeling guilty if it’s not productive, have also been extremely healing and balancing. I have amazing friends and family in my life who support and inspire me, which has helped tremendously during these last nine months.

As for my industry, it’s really suffered. Many clubs have shut down permanently; many of us are struggling financially and emotionally. It’s like we’ve lost a part of ourselves. I also see so many people being creative and stretching themselves, trying new things, which is very inspiring and fun to behold. I guess creators will create no matter the circumstances.

Hope & Cynthia: Now the big question — What do you see coming next?


  • For your industry: change and innovation. This has really leveled the playing field quite a bit, and with the digital world at our fingertips, many people are becoming more self-sufficient and thinking outside the box. I’m excited to see what happens next!
  • For your company: We have several events scheduled for next year, but I think we will have to be flexible and understand that the come back will likely happen slowly and differently.
  • For yourself: I see more balance in my life. I do not want to overwork and exhaust myself. I understand how important self-care is, and I intend to keep that as a top priority.
  • For the country: This is a loaded question after a crazy year! There is too much division among Americans, and I really hope people can take a step back and tap into the human aspect of life and have more compassion. I hope we can see some unification over the next few years to restore our stability and resilience.
  • For the world: Everyone has been struck in different ways. I’m not sure what I see for the world, but I am hoping to see things rebuild and restore.
  • For women: We are thriving, and I love seeing amazing women step up in all industries. I hope we continue to do that and do so with love and support towards our fellow sisters. We are more powerful than we know.

Hope & Cynthia: One more question — now tell us the one question we didn’t ask you.

Lilan: What is the next song you are releasing? I wrote a song early in the quarantine called “Time Keeps Moving On” about how many of us are feeling lost and confused, but we will be ok because we can’t always control our circumstances, but in time, things will unfold the way they are supposed to. It is the first track I self-produced and features some incredible musicians, including Chase Jackson on vibraphones, Mike Blankenship on keys (Michael Franti, Lauryn Hill), and Marcus Phillips on bass (Jennifer Hudson, Tony Tone Toni). It’s a track with an Erykah Badu vibe intended to help you relax and put your mind at ease. I’m really excited to share it with the world!

Financier of the Month

Make Your Own Kind of Music: San Francisco Musician Lilan Kane made the most of the quiet time during the pandemic, and is thriving now