Emma Pask on the surprise performance that kicked off her jazz career

It's not often a school concert changes the course of a life, but for singer Emma Pask that was certainly the case.

In 1994, she was a jazz-loving 16-year-old student at Kirrawee High School in Sydney's south when trumpeter James Morrison and his band visited to do a workshop with the school band and play a concert.

Jazz singer Emma Pask is celebrating the 25th year of her musical partnership with James Morrison.

Morrison heard Pask perform during a sound check and decided to issue an impromptu invitation for her to sing during his show.

"I walked up to the stage terrified, every part of my body was just zinging with nerves," Pask says.

She sang one of her favourites, Billie Holiday's God Bless the Child, followed by the less-familiar Gershwin tune They Can't Take That Away from Me.

"My beautiful mum was in the third row of the audience mouthing along the lyrics trying to help me remember the song, it was hilarious," says Pask.

"I thought that was my big moment of singing with James, then the next week his manager calls and said we've got a gig here with James, we'd like you to join the band. And that was it. We spent 25 years together."

Pask had suddenly found a jazz mentor and it was the start of a vocal career now in its third decade.

Morrison and Pask are celebrating the 25th anniversary of their musical union with a concert featuring songs from Duke Ellington, Cole Porter and, of course, Gershwin.

"It's taking me back to my roots of where it began," says Pask. "It's come full circle. We're doing a big band with James and I out the front. Both James and I have a huge passion for that era of the mid-'30s to the mid-'40s. We're just going to be having a swinging, great time."

James Morrison and Emma Pask, 3pm, State Theatre, 49 Market Street, city, $60-$111, ticketmaster.com.au

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