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Home News-Telegram News What I Did on my Summer Vacation: SSHS sophomore’s voice jazzes up the Big Easy

What I Did on my Summer Vacation: SSHS sophomore’s voice jazzes up the Big Easy

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Ask 15-year-old Hannah Kirby, daughter of Richard and Nancy Kirby and a sophomore at Sulphur Springs High School, what she did on her summer vacation and you might be just a little surprised. In June, Hannah had the rare opportunity to sing with two jazz bands while she was on a trip to New Orleans.

“I was on stage at the Palm Court and at Snug Harbor,” Kirby said during a recent interview. “It was so cool.”

Kirby, her mother and family friend Janie Criswell of Lufkin were in the Crescent City visiting Criswell’s brother, John Crew, who owns The Marigny Manor House Bed and Breakfast.

“We went down there so that I could study the music, the jazz and understand the style,” Kirby said.  “John said we needed to go to the Palm Court, so we did. I was introduced to the manager, Miss Nina Burke.”

Burke soon asked Kirby if she wanted to sit in for a number with the Palm Court’s house band.

“I was so surprised,” Kirby said. “I sang ‘As Time Goes By.’”

According to Kirby, the band thought she was in college.

“They thought I was a lot older than 15,” she explained. “That was neat.”

A couple of nights later, Kirby and crew visited Snug Harbor, billed as “New Orleans’ Premiere Jazz Club.”

“I got to meet Charmaine Neville, Aaron Neville’s sister,” Kirby said. “When she asked if anyone in the audience would like to sing, I told her, ‘I’m from Texas and I sing.’”

Neville said she got her start singing country music with Kitty Wells in Austin, and invited Kirby to the stage.

“I sang ‘Long Gone Lonesome Blues,’” said Kirby. “Charmaine gave me a lot of encouragement. It was awesome.”

Kirby, who is in the high school choir and had a role in the drama department’s production of “Grease,” has been interested in music since she was 3 years old.

“I was supposed to sing with a children’s choir in church, but when it came time to perform, no one was singing except me, so they gave me the microphone,” she said. “I’ve been singing ever since.”

Kirby said a friend got her interested in the fiddle when she was 8, and since she claims to be “guitar-impaired,” she took up the fiddle. She’s studied in the famous Suzuki method and currently takes private lessons from Sarah Massatt-Holmes of Mineola. Holmes and her husband, Ross, give lessons at the historic Beckham Hotel.

“Ross is the fiddle player for Cadillac Sky,” Kirby said. “He’s an amazing fiddle player.”

Kirby said learning to play the fiddle wasn’t difficult.

“I just kinda got it,” she explained. “I have a knack for it, I think.”

Kirby practices an hour every day and enjoys going to fiddle camps and seminars.

“I attended Mark O’Connor’s fiddle camp last summer in Tennessee,” she said. “His electric violin class was my favorite.”

O’Connor is a Grammy-winning professional fiddle player who was named Musician of the Year by the Country Music Association six years in a row (1991-1996). He’s worked with Chet Atkins, Alison Krauss and Patty Loveless.

The young singer has already cut two CDs, including a collection of Christmas favorites,  and recently played at the Blue Mug Cafe near the courthouse square and at the Pleasant Jamboree in Mount Pleasant. She and her mother, who accompanies her on guitar and harmonica, are booked for a gig at LouViney’s next month.

“We’ll probably be doing some blues and jazz,” Kirby said. “I love to sing songs like ‘They Can’t Take That Away From Me.’”

Although she plans to attend college and possibly major in art or fashion design, what Hannah Kirby really wants to do is go on tour with a band.

“My dream is to be in a band and play rock,” she said.

Singing jazz in New Orleans is a good start on making that dream come true.




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