By Mackenzie Sugrue, Point Park News Service:
On a family vacation in the Outer Banks in North Carolina, Hannah Jenkins at age 9 shyly declined all offers of those trying to get her to participate in karaoke night — until her mother offered her a $20 incentive.
In front of 200 strangers, Jenkins sang “Don’t Cry Out Loud” for the first time and nailed it.
Eleven years later, Jenkins is performing around Pittsburgh, studying entertainment management, working toward making a name for herself in the music industry and has signed to a record label.
“I remember thinking, ‘My sister is going to be famous,’” Jenkins’ older sister Heather recalled about Hannah’s first performance.
Jenkins said she remembers growing up watching American Idol and how she never missed a season. Her first performance at karaoke night was inspired by Idol contestant Diana DeGarmo, runner-up on American Idol season three.
“She sang that song in the finale as one of the songs and I was obsessed with it and thought she was the coolest person ever,” Jenkins said.
After that first performance, a spark ignited in Jenkins that couldn’t be put out. She took full advantage of every opportunity to showcase her singing ability by joining school choirs and plays.
She also showcased her talent in school competitions. Jenkins participated in an American Idol-style event as a senior in high school, with a live studio audience, lights and three judges.
Jenkins surprised the audience with her cover of the Adele song “About A Boy.”
“It was just Hannah in a black dress with the piano and the entire auditorium was silent – not a sound – and she won the competition,” Heather said.
When it came for college, Jenkins kept her mind on the entertainment field but started to look at it from a different angle. Enrolling into the Sports, Arts and Entertainment Management program, she started classes to earn her degree in entertainment management.
That changed a bit during her sophomore year when an opportunity presented itself with a new university record label, Pioneer Records.
Pioneer Records gives students a chance to compete with others to use professional recording equipment and engage in hands-on experiences recording their own album. Jenkins sent in her demo of one of her original acoustic songs.
“My mom had no idea that there was a competition at all,” Heather explained about her sister’s competition. “I found out when she made it into the final three, and my mom didn’t find out until she won.”
Jenkins’ music can be classified as acoustic indie. When listening to her EP, the mixture of her acoustic guitar and simple drums beats, you can hear the influence of her favorite artists such as Ed Sheeran and John Mayer. Although she does play her guitar, Jenkins said that her strength lies within her voice and the guitar is to accompany it.
After she won, Jenkins went into the studio with a group of young local studio musicians to make the EP, and she shared the news with her siblings and parents.
Jenkins worked with the group to build the tracks from the ground up. What started as simple acoustic songs turned into songs with electric guitars, drums, and harmonies. Not only did it give Jenkins bragging rights, it also gave her future plans some reassurance.
Hannah’s EP, “Something Out of Nothing,” was released in 2015.
After the release of her album, Jenkins has been playing any gig she can – including the Pittsburgh winery, Club Diesel and a hummus stand.
Jenkins was invited to play on the front lawn at the Farmer’s Market at the Phipp’s Conservatory one Thursday last summer. Never passing up an opportunity, Jenkins set up her one microphone behind the hummus stand and hoped that her guitar would be picked up by the microphone.
Another show that Jenkins performed at was at Club Diesel over the summer. She was on the lineup with only one other acoustic artist, Dan Swank. The rest of the line-up was packed with aggressive rock, hardcore and scream music. Unfortunately for Jenkins, Swank couldn’t make his set so Jenkins took the stage with just her acoustic guitar and began to sing slow, mostly sad songs to a crowd full of fans of a very different type of music.
In the future, Jenkins said she sees herself moving to Nashville, Tenn., either writing and recording her own music, writing music for another artist or even working in the artist and repertoire department for a record label.