2020 Jazz Artist of the Year Zandrina Dunning

Photo by Rūta Smith

Singer Zandrina Dunning certainly deserves her Jazz Artist of the Year honor, but as a vocalist, she can just as easily handle soul, rock and anything else thrown at her. And, she said that you can thank her mom’s extensive music collection for that.

“Growing up listening to my mom playing records from all these different genres, being able to listen to and be influenced by so many sounds, I never wanted to stick to one type of anything,” she said. “It’s all beautiful. It’s all music, and a lot of it conveys the message of love and good vibes.”

Dunning has put that versatility on display with various projects around Charleston, from her Aretha Franklin tribute show “Queen of Soul” to her role as an associate producer at South of Broadway Theatre Company. And since 2013, she’s also been a force behind the scenes, booking and promoting various shows like the PURE Concert Series at Forte Jazz Lounge. 

“I’ve never been the type of person to just talk about doing things,” she said of becoming an event producer. “I’m a doer; I’m somebody who follows through with things and uses all of the resources available to get it done.”

To get it done, Dunning said she’s had to be prepared, as both a vocalist and a promoter.

“You have to take care of your voice,” she said. “You have to get enough sleep so that you’re mentally aware. You have to be quick on your feet, dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s when you present ideas to people, because sometimes you’re only going to have one opportunity.”

And if she has a question, Dunning said she’s always willing to ask for help.

“If I don’t know, I’ll call and ask somebody else,” she said. “I would contact my good friend Quiana Parler [of Ranky Tanky]. She’s been a mentor of mine, and I always appreciate the advice that she’s given me along the way.”

Of course, as someone with seven years of event production under her belt, it stands to reason that Dunning has some advice of her own to offer those musicians who might be looking to create their own opportunities.

“Be cautious,” she said. “It’s very important to be self-aware, and that comes from within. Staying focused is a huge thing, because there are all kinds of challenges that can step in your way and throw you off so quickly.”

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