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"Jazz Monthly Feature Interview" Shannon Kennedy

shannon kennedySmitty: I am very excited to welcome to Jazz Monthly for the very first time a great young saxophonist.  She’s a native of Southern California; she’s produced her first CD; it’s called Angel Eyes, and what’s so cool is she released this CD just months after her high school graduation. Please welcome Ms. Shannon Kennedy.  Shannon, how are you?

Shannon Kennedy (SK):  I’m good, Smitty, thanks.  How are you?

Smitty: I’m wonderful. Thank you. You have so much going on. My goodness! You’re playing instrumental pop, you’re playing contemporary music, smooth jazz, blues, you’ve produced a CD that is great, and you’re working on some other projects, you’re co-producing a CD. Talk to me about your CD, Angel Eyes.  Now, this is your first album and how are you feeling about this first album?

SK: I feel that it reflects my ability at the time very well. I actually ended up doing the CD as an accident ‘cause I talked with one of my teachers about recording a CD and he took me seriously and he said “Yeah, okay, we’ll get you in the studio” and it never happened, so I started talking to some of the kids that I know, and the next thing I knew, we were picking out a list of songs to record and we went in the studio for two days, we recorded the CD live, we had about three hours each day, we spent the first hour rehearsing and the second two hours recording it in the basement studio at my high school, and it was a lot of fun. I was in the booth and everyone else was back behind the glass, and it was really hard because the first day we only had two sets of headphones, so it was really hard to follow each other, but we managed to do it and it was a lot of fun.

Smitty: When you first began put this record together, talk about how you selected the songs for this first project.

SK:  It’s funny. How I selected the songs…well, I pretty much picked songs that I knew.  Actually, there’s one song on the CD I hadn’t played before the recording. All the rest of the songs I learned just for the CD.

Smitty: How were you able to manage other activities?

SK:  Well, I went to the Orange County High School of the Arts, which is a school specifically for future artists, musicians, etc., and we were always in the environment of putting things together sort of last minute and just pulling things out of the hat like a magic kind of thing, and it was a spur-of-the-moment thing with the production and design crew at the school, so we brought in a kid to engineer the CD and the band’s all kids I went to high school with and I brought in my saxophone teacher, Greg Vail, and he supervised everything and we pretty much just did it all on our own.

Smitty:  So Greg Vail was in on this, huh?

SK:  Yeah.

Smitty:  That’s pretty cool. Yeah, he’s a great sax player, isn’t he?

SK:  Yeah.

Smitty: You’re also working on some other things. I know you’re a Web designer so you’ve designed some Web sites for some of your colleagues, including your own Web sites as well.

SK:  Yes. When I was first starting on saxophone and I was taking lessons with Greg, his son, who is my age was always working on his Web site, so I had him teach me html and I just kinda took off with it. I design Web sites for him now and for other young musicians.  The first website that I designed was
. It started out as a Web site for my band when I was a sophomore in high school which was called Night Vision and the url was already taken, so I chose Teen Jazz and after a while I figured with a url like that….and I was already writing articles that were pretty much advice articles for young musicians, I decided to gear the purpose of that Web site towards other young musicians my age. I had the advantage of going to an art school and meeting a lot of musicians who had already been auditioning for a while. That helped me out a lot and I know that the average kid doesn’t have that, so I tried to create a place for them to go and, in a way, have the same help that I had starting out.

Smitty: That was very cool, to be a resource for others, so this wasn’t just about you, but you recognized the need for fellow musicians to have the resources that you had. When you released your first CD, what was the reaction from the rest of the band? Talk about the whole experience of finishing and releasing the CD. 

SK:  Well, as far as releasing the CD, it was kind of stressing because the people we took it to for printing, they did a really good job but it took awhile. So I was just so glad to finally have them, and we scheduled a release date. My high school teacher booked a club near our school….and I play there every month….and the first date I ever had there was the CD release party and it happened to be the day after my birthday, so there was a really good crowd there. It was “Come to Shannon’s CD Release Party/Birthday Party” and there were a lot of people there and it was a lot of fun, and I used the band that was on the CD. We played the songs off the CD and then three hours worth of other music, everyone was really happy and proud that I was able to do that at such a young age, and I felt it was….personally a really big accomplishment for me.

It was very exciting. It was a very different experience for me because it was the first gig that I’d ever been the leader. I’ve always just gone to someone else’s gig, brought a sax and a mike, plugged into their P.A. and played. At this one I had to bring my own P.A., I had to set up all the mikes, get their early, rehearse with the band, and I had never had to do any of that before. I don’t even own my own P.A. system so, of course, I had to borrow someone else’s. Because I didn’t own a P.A. system, I didn’t know how to set it up, so I had to have someone else set the P.A. up for me.

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