Five Firsts: Kendra Shank

Kendra Shanks
Kendra Shank

Photograph by J Hunter

NAME: Kendra Shank
BAND AFFILIATION: Kendra Shank & John Stowell
1. THE FIRST ALBUM I EVER BOUGHT WAS … Hmmm – hard to remember. When I was five years old, I remember dancing in the living room to the Beatles’ hit 45 of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (wearing a Beatles wig and playing air guitar) in 1963. (And now I’ve given away my age…) But I didn’t buy that record, my parents did. The first record I bought myself was probably by Joan Baez when I was 13. I don’t remember the title, but she performed folk songs solo with guitar, and “Wildwood Flower” was on it. I learned to play guitar listening to that record.

2. THE FIRST CONCERT I EVER SAW WAS … a Malvina Reynolds concert when I was about four or five years old. She sang “Little Boxes” and “Turn Around.” Mom bought her songbook, and we sang them at home. Mom performed musical theater and used to sing me and my brother to sleep with torch songs and lullabies, so that was the first music I ever heard. I often sat through her rehearsals at the theater as a child, so you could say those were my first concerts.

3. THE FIRST INSTRUMENT I EVER OWNED OR PLAYED WAS … a Ventura steel string acoustic guitar. Got it when I was 12. It was a real dog with high action and hard to play. By the time I was 15, I realized I was serious about playing guitar and upgraded to a 1942 vintage 00-21 Martin, a beauty, which is the guitar I still play.

4. THE FIRST SONG I EVER PERFORMED IN PUBLIC WAS … when I was eight years old, performing in the musical “Brigadoon” with my mom in a community theater production. She played Fiona, the lead, and I was in the chorus singing “Jeannie’s Packin’ Up.” Aside from musical theater performance, the first song I performed in public was “Sunrise, Sunset” at a wedding. This was also the first time I got paid for singing. I think I was 14.

5. THE FIRST BAND I WAS EVER IN WAS … in 1982 with banjo player Barry Hunn. We worked as a duo for five years performing folk, country, bluegrass and French songs. My first forays into jazz were with a group of musicians in Seattle in 1987 – guitarist Klaus Lendzian, pianist Overton Berry, bassist Bruce Phares and drummer Luis Peralta. I performed solo with guitar for the first six years of my professional music career. 

In celebration their new album, “New York Conversations,” New York City-based jazz vocalist Kendra Shank and Portland, Oregon guitarist John Stowell roll through Nippertown this week with stops at the Falcon at Marlboro at 7pm on Thursday (May 8) and at 7pm on Friday (May 9) at Professor Java’s Coffee Sanctuary in Albany at 7pm on Friday (May 9).

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