By Bob Marovich
She won a major music award in March. Received the key to her hometown in April. The State House of Representatives issued a congratulatory resolution to honor her achievements.
And she is still in high school.
No, this is not an old story about Taylor Swift but a new story about emerging gospel artist Kendra Smith. The Florence, South Carolina, teenager received the Stellar Award for Youth Project of the Year for her album, Something New, at the 30th Stellar Gospel Music Awards in March.
A second semester senior at South Florence High School, Kendra was born into a family of church musicians, including an aunt who sang with Donnie Harper’s famous New Jersey Mass Choir. Kendra started recording in 2008 and four years later was named South Carolina Music Awards Gospel Artist of the Year. She has also been nominated for several 2015 Rhythm of Gospel Awards.
Something New was recorded for her father’s label, DeVine Records Management LLC, and released in 2014. Although Garland Miche Waller, former music director for choir master John P. Kee, produced the album, nobody could have anticipated it would gain national award attention.
Nevertheless, buoyed by its singles, “I’ll Praise You Forever” and “Deep Down,” the album captured the interest of industry leaders and gospel music enthusiasts. The Journal of Gospel Music made “Deep Down” its Pick of the Week for September 1, 2014, singling out Kendra’s “commanding voice and confident presence” and calling her “a young woman to watch.” Stellar voters propelled Something New through two rounds of nominations and past the other three finalists for the Youth Project of the Year award.
Just last month, Kendra was feted at a special reception held at the Florence (SC) County Museum, where she received a key to the city. The museum plans to include her accomplishments in its collection for future generations to learn from and gain inspiration.
Kendra is now poised to minister in music nationally and overseas. Meanwhile, the singer anticipates a summer tour and a new single titled “Power.” This fall, she will enroll in Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina, where she plans to major in music education.
Having achieved more than gospel artists twice her age, Kendra is not looking back. “I’m only eighteen,” she said. “I have so much more to accomplish.”
For more information, visit www.kendrasmithmusic.org.