St. Augustine native Kay Gianna was just 12 years old in 2014 when she performed at Nocatee’s Roscolusa for the first time.
Wide-eyed and nervous, she’d taken the stage with self-composed music before a crowd of hundreds – the largest audience she’d faced in the three years she’d been singing publicly. But for all her nervousness, Gianna never felt more conviction than she did at that moment.
“I had never been in front of that many people before and I was trying to get over my stage fright and nerves,” she said. “At that point, I had only been performing for a few years, so that first time at Roscolusa stands out in my mind because … even though I was nervous, being up there is what made me realize I wanted to sing for the rest of my life.”
Now 15, Gianna has come a long way from where she started years ago. The young musician’s curriculum vitae includes performances all along the first coast from Mudville Grille to the Jacksonville Landing and five years as an alto and tenor saxophonist, which she plays competitively as part of her Christ Church Academy honors band. The rising tenth grader has earned Superior ratings at the District Solo Assessments and the State Solo Assessments, and this summer she’ll compete as part of the 2017 Nine Star High School Honor Band as one of only two saxophone players. She’s also been playing the piano since she was 5 years old, writing her first song – dedicated to her pet horse – at age nine.Her more recent ventures see the young artist tackling a more mature sound, a pop alternative fusion inspired by the likes of music teacher Chrys Rowe and her favorite artists, Ruth B and Ed Sheeran, with the singer poised to show the world what she’s made of. This spring, Gianna released her debut single, “Oxygen Thief,” on iTunes and Spotify.
The direction is decidedly different from her first pony-themed song, as Gianna laments the uncertainty of love over a piano instrumental, and aside from the thrill of putting her own voice to a studio track, penning “Oxygen Thief” was a milestone of its own. Gianna composed the single alongside Nashville based producer Patrick Davis, whose own resume includes collaborative work with Darius Rucker. For the single, Gianna also starred in her first music video produced by Dusty Barker, whose clientele includes Maggie Rose, Sam Hunt and Lee Brice. But perhaps what’s best of all is what’s still to come.
“I was so excited to finally release this track and I’m even more excited to get back (in the studio),” Gianna said of her debut. “I’ve actually written around five songs that will be on my EP and I can’t give away too much about them, but everyone will be hearing them soon.”
The release of her forthcoming EP is the first step of many in the budding musician’s career, and Gianna has no plans of slowing down. Her steadfast approach has the teen setting sights on the prestigious Juilliard School and chasing dreams of gracing the stage in New York in addition to her more immediate goals of participating in high school level band competitions. Her ambition, she says, is rooted in the support of her family, a love of composing and a desire that may even eclipse that of her peers.
“I feel like my love for music is what’s kept me interested for so long,” Gianna said.
Though Gianna faces the challenge of juggling school, a social life and unwavering dedication to the saxophone with an accelerating music career, she takes it all in stride to achieve her dream and inspire others.
“I’m only 15, I’m trying to strike that balance,” she said. “But I’ve definitely loved that I can combine what’s basically my job with something that I love doing.
“And if there are other girls out there who are working toward the same goals, the best advice I can give to them is the same advice my dad gave me: If you want something, you’ve got to want it more than anything else. It’s what keeps me motivated.”
Check out Kay Gianna's music video for "Oxygen Thief" below!