Young singer from the Bronx finds calling in jazz

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A young singer from the Bronx is making waves in the jazz scene and has big plans for the new year.

A little over a month ago, Castle Hill's Samara McLendon brought home the top prize in the annual Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Competition.

"When I heard my name – I couldn't believe it, I couldn't believe it," says McLendon.

The road to that moment was paved with taking chances -- and harnessing her natural gifts. McLendon was born and raised in the Bronx and comes from a family of musicians, with roots in gospel.

"My uncle played saxophone, my dad plays bass and sings, my aunts play piano," she says.

But she found her calling unexpectedly, not too long ago, in her junior year at Fordham High School of the Arts -- when she started singing jazz with the school's band.

"I didn't even think I’d be interested in that - I was gonna go to Binghamton for math because I didn't feel like music would be that secure of a career," says McLendon.

Now a junior at SUNY Purchase majoring in Jazz Studies, she's performed across the city at places like the Blue Note and Django in the Roxy. She won a contest last month, which landed her a spot in this summer's Newport Jazz festival, and thus a permanent mark in the jazz scene.

“I haven't been given this opportunity for no reason so I want to not only develop and surround myself with experienced musicians but I wanna take that to my school and show the students there that they can pursue whatever they want to no matter the time frame," McLendon says.

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