Samara Joy: Jazz Singer, New Yorker, Grammy Winner

Samara Joy, Grammy Award Winning Jazz Vocalist

Who is Samara Joy? 

That’s what everyone was asking when they saw Samara Joy win the 65th annual Grammy Awards trophy for both “Best New Artists” and “Best New Jazz Vocal Album”.  

Joy went from rising Jazz musician to Grammy Award winner in what seems like the blink of an eye. Searches for her name on Google were 100x what they were a year ago following her win. 

While her meteoric rise to fame will go down in Jazz history and certainly lead to her being an icon in the genre, it certainly is not something that happened overnight. 

Samara Joy’s Birthday, Father, and Grandparents

Born on November 11, 1999, with the full name Samara Joy McLendon, the New York native grew up in the Bronx borough of New York City. Growing up in a musical family, her passion for music started as an adolescent. Her father, Antonio McLendon, had a huge influence on her music of choice, introducing her to gospel musicians like The Clark Sisters, Motown, and more. Her grandparents, Elder Goldwire McLendon and Ruth McLendon, were founders of Philadelphia gospel group The Savettes. Her grandfather, Elder, was also a finalist on season 3 of BET’s Gospel Talent show, Sunday Best

Samara’s Education in Jazz

Samara’s passion for jazz came about when she joined a Jazz elective class at Fordham High School for the Arts. After high school, Joy continued to follow her passion in the jazz program at SUNY’s Purchase College as a voice major. During her time in the program, she was introduced to many influential jazz vocalists and instrumentalists. 

In 2019, she went on to win the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition. Unfortunately, a few months later, COVID-19 came and had a negative impact on the music industry. However, Joy was able to stay the course and focus on her craft. During the pandemic, she focused on making a name for herself amongst other great Jazz vocalists.  Studying musicians like Vaughan and Fitzgerald has made Joy eager to explore a range of styles.

Samara Joy’s Album

During quarantine, she released an unplanned, self-titled project. She also released a number of viral video performances, including one that had been viewed more than 1.5 million times as of October 2020. Samara Joy was amongst the many artists who took full advantage of TikTok, gaining over 200,000 followers and millions of views to help her rise to fame. She was then named Best New Artist by Jazz Times in 2021.

Samara Joy’s Tour

In 2021, Samara capitalized off her online success and headed on tour around Europe, including a series of sold-out concerts in Italy and Austria. She eventually returned to the U.S. with bookings at Lincoln Center and Winter Jazzfest.

After her tour, Samara was invited to make the rounds on several national talk shows like The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, The Today Show, and The Kelly Clarkson Show,

Her Second Album

Samara released her second album, Linger Awhile, in September 2022. Creating ‘Linger Awhile’ allowed Joy to express herself even further, especially through the writing of her own songs. She penned rhapsodic lyrics for “Nostalgia (The Day I Knew),” a fan favorite on Linger Awhile. It was this album that led to her first Grammy nominations and wins for Best New Artist and Best Jazz Vocal Album. 

After receiving the Best New Artist and Best Jazz Vocal Grammy at the 65th Awards, Joy’s sophomore album reaped the benefits by sky rocketing up multiple Billboard charts. As of this writing, the album currently sits at No.1 on three charts: Top Jazz Albums, Traditional Jazz Albums, and Heatseekers Albums.

Still new to Jazz, Joy has already experienced a huge amount of success. And who knows what else is to come–she could even be the next dual threat! And like a good BlackOakTV show, Samara shows no signs of slowing down. “This will be a long journey that, hopefully, lasts for a while,” she tells W Magazine. “Thinking about all this stuff now is overwhelming. I’m not going to get a big head about it, because I’m aware of all the things I want to improve.”

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