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Point Loma’s Kendra Shank returns home for jazz album release concert

| August 2, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Stephen Prendergast

You would normally expect your high school valedictorian to go on to become a titan in business, a renowned scientist or medical doctor, or enter some similar high-profile career. Point Loma High School graduate and valedictorian Kendra Shank has made a name for herself, as well, but not in the “traditional” areas one would expect. On Saturday night, July 16, Shank and her collaborator, pianist Geoffrey Keezer, performed for a packed house at Dizzy’s in Pacific Beach, presenting jazz selections from their first duo album “Half Moon.” The evening marked the latest success in a music career that began, unexpectedly, in the subways of Paris.

Kendra Shank and her collaborator, pianist Geoffrey Keezer, performed for a packed house at Dizzy’s in Pacific Beach. Photo by Gregory Patent.

Kendra Shank and her collaborator, pianist Geoffrey Keezer, performed for a packed house at Dizzy’s in Pacific Beach. Photo by Gregory Patent.

After graduating high school at the top of her class, Shank headed to France to study, eventually earning a BA with a double major in French, her passion in school, and visual arts. “Music was just a hobby, and I never anticipated that it was going to be my profession,” Shank admitted. While studying in Paris, she explained, “I took my guitar into the subway and started playing, and people were throwing money at me and clapping. It felt very appealing, so I started getting gigs playing in bars and coffee houses and so on.” This success led her to begin singing French cabaret music as she became fluent in the language.

For ten years Shank performed as a folk singer, with forays into country and bluegrass, until the fateful day a friend played her a Billie Holiday record. “I sort of had an epiphany,” Shank confessed. She began listening to jazz and hanging out in jazz clubs in Seattle and Paris, where she had dual residency. Her biggest step into this new realm was studying with Jay Clayton, a woman who is considered a pioneer in improvised jazz vocals. From there she began to develop her own personal style.

Another major influence on Shank was the vocal artist and teacher Rhiannon, with whom she also studied. A vocal exercise during one of Rhiannon’s workshops helped Shank to develop the unique vocal improvisations she uses in her own performances. Today Shank is a respected jazz vocalist in New York City with a 13-year residency at the famous 55 Bar, one of the oldest bars in the city, where she performs on the last Friday of the month.

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Category: Entertainment, Music

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