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Girtley was born and raised in New Orleans Louisiana where she grew up on the west bank of the Mississippi River in an area of the city called Algiers. She comes from a family with strong spiritual beliefs and a rich musical background. As a little girl Girtley’s style of singing and piano playing was highly influenced by listening to recordings of the late Mahalia Jackson and Mildred Falls, as well as hearing her mother, Adeline singing at home and in the church’s choir on Sunday mornings. Young Cynthia would listen to the songs, memorize them and then sing them to her mother.
At the age of (4) after her baptism and first communion Girtley was finally allowed to sing in the church’s junior choir where she quickly became one of the lead singers and soloist. She soon began singing with her siblings for special church programs as “The Girtley Sisters.” At the age of ten Girtley began formal piano lessons and by fourteen she served as full-time pianist for the young peoples choir. At sixteen young Girtley joined a gospel group called the “Glory Travelers.” Throughout high school and college she continued singing, playing the piano and directing choirs for churches in the city of New Orleans. After high school Girtley attended Xavier University where she majored in music performance.
Girtley later moved to Washington DC where she served as Minister of Music in various churches and denominations throughout the Washington DC Metropolitan area.
During her career Girtley has performed in London and toured Brazil singing gospel. She has appeared at major festivals and concert venues, such as The National Cathderal and John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC., the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Global African Festival in Dallas, the Cincy Blues & Boogie Festival in Ohio, the Bloomington Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival in Indiana, the Bourbon Street Festival in Brazil and the Boogie Festival in Innsbruck Austria.
Girtley has also had the opportunity to work, perform and record with New Orleanian jazz historian and world renowned clarinetist Dr. Michael White.
In May of 2011, Girtley produced and released her debut CD entitled “A New Orleans Tribute to Mahalia Jackson. While contemporary, hip hop, gospel rap, and urban gospel seems to be more prevalent today, Girtley continues to carry the torch of such pioneers as the late Thomas Dorsey, James Cleveland, Mahalia Jackson and Mildred Falls by continuing to sing and perform traditional gospel music.