ALTON - The Miles Davis Jazz Committee recognized recent Alton High School graduate Kennedy Stephens for her musical and academic achievements.
Stephens is a vocalist and saxophone player who has developed her music through Alton School District’s drama and band programs.
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“Through music, I have met many other students who share the same passions and interests as me. Music is like a bridge that brings us closer together and enriches our lives,” Stephens said.
Stephens credits her mother as the driving force behind her love of music. At age five, Stephens began singing in the children’s choir at St. John Missionary Baptist Church, where her mother serves as the choir director. She still has a love for singing, which she fostered while playing lead roles in the Alton Middle School’s drama club.
Stephen’s main instrument is the saxophone. She has some experience with the recorder and violin, but she said her musical passion really developed when she began studying alto saxophone under Chris Jarden, Alton High School’s jazz band director.
“Under his instruction, I was compelled to keep pushing myself to become a better player,” Stephens said.
In seventh grade, she decided to learn how to play the tenor saxophone. Stephens was then selected to play in the middle school’s Jazz and Honor Bands. When she entered Alton High School, Stephens joined the Alton Marching 100 Band under Director Alyssa Overmann.
In addition to her musical talents, Stephens has been recognized as a varsity athlete and Illinois State Scholar. She also held leadership positions in the national math honor society Mu Alpha Theta and AHS’s Minority Excellence and Drafting Clubs.
AHS teacher Patrick Goetten, who has worked with Stephens in multiple engineering and drafting classes, called her “an asset for victory.”
“She sets the standard for the rest of the class,” Goetten said. “She is an amazing young woman with a great work ethic and high moral standards among most of her peers.”
The Miles Davis Jazz Committee awarded her a $500 scholarship, which she will put toward her education at one of the 11 colleges to which she was accepted. Stephens plans to major in civil engineering.
She hopes that her education in civil engineering will allow her to “redevelop disenfranchised and depressed city areas, via planning, designing, and building structures, reinforcing young girls, more specifically young women of color, to achieve their dreams.”
But in between her classes, Stephens can be found listening to R&B and alternative music or expanding her vocal and instrumental talents. Her passion for music continues to be a driving force in her life.
“The most satisfying thing about being a musician is the amount of stress that playing music relieves from my body,” Stephens said. “While performing, I feel transported to another world.”
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