Some children want to be astronauts, firemen or doctors. Some girls aspire to grow up and become the first female president of the United States. All Olivia Duhon ever wanted to do was sing.
“Ever since I can remember, singing was the only thing that I knew I was meant to do,” she says.
Since her first solo performance at the age of eight – in front of a crowd of about 1,000 people, no less – Duhon’s star has been fixed. Sixteen years later, the Tulsa singer’s sultry stylings have won her a devoted fan base along with the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame Legacy Tribute Award, presented to a rising Oklahoma jazz performer each year.
Duhon was humbled when she learned of the award.
“To be alongside the names and likes of the musicians I admire and aspire to be, that, in itself, is such an encouragement,” she says. “Especially in this day and age where pop, rock and country seem to be the end-all, be-all of popular music, and the jazz genre is seemingly for the older crowd. It’s refreshing to see my generation appreciate and applaud the honest efforts of young musicians in jazz music.
“Receiving this award was just an affirmation that my passionate hard work is actually worth something and that it connects with other individuals.”
Duhon attributes her jazz roots to the musicals of Rogers and Hammerstein and Gershwin’s An American in Paris, which led her through the first steps of what was to become a long love affair with music.
“Through those songs, I discovered such artists as Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Anita O’Day and Billie Holiday,” Duhon says. “I made a connection with that music and it spoke to me in a way I can’t explain. I’ll never forget the time that I listened to one of Ella’s live recordings. I seriously had that album on repeat for six months straight. Her raw and genuine interpretation of the songs seared into my brain and I couldn’t stop listening.”
And Oklahoma audiences can’t stop listening to Duhon. With a new album due out in late summer and performances lined up in venues throughout the state, at 24, she seems to be living every singer’s dream.