A Leap of Faith: How Soul Singer Kenya Abandoned a Career in Medicine for Music
Music equals air for me. It has always been the case and for some odd reason I thought I was going to be able to do life without it. Imagine, life without breath? So why was I trying to live in a box that had no ventilation? Why was I trying to live life without creating music?
My adolescence and college years were filled with diverse music experiences including show choirs, jazz ensembles and musical theater; however, the majority of my adulthood has been spent as a practicing licensed physical therapist, clinical instructor and administrator in higher education. I graduated from Howard University in Washington D.C., with a degree in physical therapy, and later completed a Masters degree in counseling with a focus in student development from Trinity College, a women’s college in D.C. I worked at different universities and even became a tenure-track faculty member at a community college in Chicago. On paper, I was extremely “successful” professionally. Furthermore, I married a surgeon and we have two incredible sons. This is a perfect life, right? Wrong. In fact, I felt as though I was carrying this heavy secret. I knew inside my creative self was slowly dying, and I felt too restless and hopeless to save her.
After years of going through the motions of life and trying to keep my “secret” at bay, I came to the emptiest space I had ever felt. I was emotionally exhausted, and it was affecting my marriage and my ability to be present for my children. Ultimately, I was no longer connected to me. Given my background in both physical and mental healing, I decided to take a dose of my own medicine and began seeing a counselor. That was the beginning of me receiving CPR. I was finally being pointed in the direction of resuscitation. I was beginning to find my voice, literally.
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After years of counseling, an incredible life changing spiritual retreat and a ton of “come to Jesus” moments, today I am breathing again and making music. I took a massive leap of faith and took baby steps to create a space for music. Once those steps were initiated, God and the Universe fully co-signed and I’ve been in the most amazing flow of purpose. Once I got honest and revealed my “secret,” I have had incredible opportunities as a new artist. I used my academic and clinical work ethic and drive and learned the ropes of becoming an independent artist. I now own my production company, I am building my own management team, and I am the executive producer as well as the primary songwriter on my music projects.
While this process has been incredibly intense full of highs and lows, the highs have completely outweighed the lows. I have performed in front of sold out crowds. I’ve opened for some of my favorite artists including Grammy award-winning recording artist Lalah Hathaway and the multi-talented vocalist Rachelle Ferrell. I’ve worked with award-winning producers, travelled around the country and preparing to travel abroad to perform and promote my first full-length album, My Own Skin, which has reached the number one spot on the UK Soul Chart and two other London based soul radio stations.
Similarly, my personal relationships have shifted in positive ways. The more I’m connected to my creative self, the more present I am with my family and friendships. Authenticity has given me the ability to be transparent and “show up” in my personal relationships, which provides an even more meaningful interaction.
I finally feel free. I feel alive. I’m in alignment. And while I am still evolving and making mistakes along the way, each setback simply prepares me for a stronger comeback along the journey. After all, I now have oxygen; I now have music. I have finally caught my breath.
Kenya is an international recording artist and songwriter, who is best known for her jazz-kissed soul style. Her debut album, My Own Skin is receiving rave reviews and wooing admirers simultaneously in the U.K. and U.S. Kenya and her family are based in Chicago.