Clif Payne

(2022). Clif Payne is a Grammy-honored vocalist/voice teacher & recording artist. My strength as a teacher is rooted in my ability to teach a variety of vocal styles: rock, pop, country, folk, theater, r&b, blues, inspirational, gospel and jazz. In concert, I’ve opened for Tony Bennett, Johnny Mathis and Rueben Blades. My experience, patience, encouragement and passion for sharing what I’ve learned as an accredited voice teacher and performer is a plus for my students. I teach all ages and I use all digital music platforms.


Harlem-born and classically trained, Clif has one of the most beautiful voices in music today. Discovered by jazz icon Bobby McFerrin, Clif has opened in concert for Tony Bennett, Johnny Mathis, Dionne Warwick and has performed with Freda Payne, Sly & The Family Stone saxophonist Jerry Martini, Harvey Mason, pianist/arranger Laurence Hobgood, Ledisi, Evelyn “Champagne” King, Sheena Easton, Randy Jackson, Tower Of Power, keyboardist David Sancious, saxophonist Dave Koz, former Chicago lead vocalist Bill Champlain, the LA acapella ensemble Inner Voices and jazz fusionists Hiroshima. He has also shared the stage with Dianne Reeves, The Commodores, Mary Wilson, Shelia E. and Lakeside. Clif’s album credits include George Benson, Little Anthony, En Vogue vocalist Maxine Jones, saxophonists Gerald Albright and Dave Coz, Phil Perry and Arsenio Hall Show music director Victoria Theodore. Pop superstar Katy Perry, pianist Taylor Egsti and trumpeter Chris Botti are among the celebs who have been in Clif’s audiences. As a guitarist, Clif has backed impressionist Rich Little, legendary disc jockey Wolfman Jack, Danny Gans and former Platters lead vocalist Sonny Turner.


Clif demonstrates a passion and mastery of song interpretation spanning the genres of jazz, R&B, pop, folk and gospel. His connection to the audience is captivating and mesmerizing, having performed at various venues including LA’s Jazz Bakery, Herb Alpert’s Vibrato Grill Jazz, San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall, Yoshi’s Oakland, CA and the Gallo Center For The Performing Arts.


After years of singing on commercials (Chevrolet, Manwich, Delta Dental, Molson Beer), voiceovers and various artist albums, Clif released his first solo albums, Welcome To My World in 2016 and TOO in 2018. Both albums were a tribute to the classic R&B stylings of the 1980s & ’90s and featured the legendary vocalist Freda Payne in duet with Clif. Welcome To My World featured their #1 U.K. R&B hit “No Payne, No Gain.”


Clif was born into a family of singers, musicians and preachers. The first song he remembers hearing on his minister grandfather’s radio was The Platters version of “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” at age 5. Clif’s first vocal solo was “Steal Away To Jesus,” sung at his grandfather’s church at age 12. But it was hearing Donny Hathaway’s version of John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy” years later that began 18-year-old Clif’s love affair with singing as a career and art form.

Clif is the son of James “Buddy” Payne, reedsman with the Lionel Hampton, Lucky Millinder, Cozy Cole and Fletcher Henderson bands of the Harlem jazz and R&B scene of the 1930s-1950s. While in Harlem the Payne’s lived within walking distance of the Apollo Theater. James was a regular in the Apollo Theater bands. Clif’s mother, Aline, taught by Tuskegee Alabama famed educators James Weldon Johnson and William Dawson, was an ensemble vocalist who once backed Nat “King” Cole. James was in Coles’ accompanying band for the Tuskegee concert, and it’s how Clif’s Mom and Dad met! The Payne family lived in an apartment on St. Nicholas Avenue on Sugar Hill in Harlem. Duke Ellington lived on the floor above the Payne family, and Clif’s Mom would tell her recollections of “just happening to be in the lobby” when Duke would pass through.

Los Angeles Times journalist Don Heckman Heckman says Clif “is a lush tenor with soaring melismas in his individual passages.”


Mission, Richmond




Jazz & Blues, Pop & Rock, Traditional Folk (Us/Int)

Schedule A Lesson

For an expedited process, fill out the Private Lesson Inquiry Form.

For assistance in choosing a teacher and scheduling, make a Registrar Appointment (typically 30 minutes).