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Shaymus Hanlin-‘I’m Here to Sing!’
Saturday, October 19, 2019


Shaymus Hanlin had no use for lullabies at nap time. He wanted to hear the love songs of his idol Frank Sinatra.

When he entered a song competition in middle school, it was one of Frank’s songs that he sang. And on Friday night the 18-year-old sang a full set of Frank Sinatra tunes at the Sun Valley Jazz & Music Festival with the easygoing hypnotic finesse that Ol’ Blues Eyes brought to the stage.

Hamlin showed a stage presence far beyond his 18 years of age before a packed audience of 800 people at Sun Valley Resort Friday night, even as he poked fun at his age by toasting the crowd with candy cigarettes and a bottle of water instead of Sinatra’s Jack Daniels.

He even noted that Buzz Aldrin had played a cassette tape of Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon” on the moon, adding, “What’s a cassette tape?”

“My grandma played Frank Sinatra, Doris Day and Tony Bennett as I was growing up. Since, I’ve found so many others I like, like Nat King Cole and Bobby Darin. But, to me, there’s no one like Frank Sinatra. He’s so recognizable. His phrasing is impeccable. And he’s very honest. And I aspire to be honest to get the stories across. That’s what the Great American Songbook is all about,” said Hanlin, who will perform at the Jazz & Music Festival at 11 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. today and 2 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Sunday.

Although music was always part of his life growing up in Coos Bay, Ore., Hanlin never considered becoming a singer until he was 13.

“I had to be in choir in school but it was not my favorite thing to do. But then I auditioned for an all-state choir and took part in that singing competition. I got up there, snapping my fingers not having a clue what to do. But I went home and said, ‘This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.’

And, while I didn’t win the competition, my choir teacher Ken Graber had me sing the Frank Sinatra song before the choir and that sealed the deal.”

The desire to sing burning in him, Hanlin showed up at a rehearsal for the Oregon Coast Lab Band Evolution, a program for high school musicians who performed at the Sun Valley Jazz Festival for many years.

“I said, ‘I’m here to sing!’ ” Hanlin recalled. “And I loved it so much I made it to every rehearsal thereafter. I had tunnel vision I loved it so much.”

Hanlin took private vocal lessons for three years, learning how to sing vibrato and classical music. And, by the time he was a junior in high school, he was performing every chance he got, juggling his classes as best he could.

Hanlin’s grandparents, who danced with American Ballet Theatre in New York, tried to teach him stage movements. But, he admits, it only clicked after hundreds of hours of watching other musicians on stage.

On Thursday Hanlin performed “Nature Boy” and Sinatra’s “L-O-V-E” with banjo player Gary Ryan and vocalist Yves Evans, whose constant banter kept him on his toes.

“He has beautiful ‘I love you’ music,” Evans told her audience as the set ended. “He’s fresh scrubbed. And, with a first name like Shaymus, you don’t ever need to know his last name.”

“I enjoy her keeping me on my toes because it loosens me up,” said Hanlin, polished in a light pink dress shirt topped by a multicolored bow tie and a grey suitcoat “There’s nothing I like more than being in the zone with the audience and whoever’s on stage with me. And it keeps things fresh. Even if I sing the same song over and over, it’s different every time I sing it.”

Hanlin is grateful for the chance to work with veteran musicians like clarinet virtuosos Dave Bennett.

 “I met him at the Medford Jazz Festival when I was 15. We were talking over snacks in the hospitality room and I told him I want to be a singer—it sounded crazy, like saying I want to be an astronaut. But he didn’t act like it was crazy. Everyone I’ve met is so eager to guide me—not straight up advise me, but share their stories with me. I would hope they see a little bit of themselves in me.”

It was the Phat Cat Swinger, a jazz rockabilly group that invited him on stage with them at the Clambake Music Festival in Coos Bay, that first gave him his confidence, loosening him up before an audience.

“They had so much energy and charisma. I felt like I was stepping up to something I had never felt before,” he said. “A lot of people think music is a dog-eat-dog world but I haven’t experienced that. I figure if you’re kind to people, hopefully they’ll be kind back.”

Having graduated from high school in June, Hanlin has decided to postpone college to see if he can make it in what he calls “the crazy music business.”

“Now, I’m relying on myself to perform to make a living. I’m doing what I want and what I love,” he said.

He just moved to Portland, Ore., immediately introducing himself to his new community by performing at the senior center there. And he’s performing as lead vocalist with a band that spun off from Evolution called Bay City Swing.

His next goal is to record an album—perhaps even with some of the original music he has written but not yet shared on stage.

“I don’t want to box myself in. But jazz is my absolute favorite music,” he said. “I will never stop trying to get young people to hear it and enjoy it. I love it because every time you perform it it’s new because every time you perform it you do it differently than you did before.”


A Marching Band Salute and Second Line Parade through Sun Valley Village will kick things off at 9:30 a.m. today--Saturday, Oct. 19. Today’s schedule also includes tributes to Bobby Darin, Louie Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan and Glenn Miller. The Yale Whiffenpoofs will sing a free set at 2 p.m. at the Sun Valley Inn Duck Pond, weather permitting. And the Dance Competition will take place at the Sun Valley Opera House at 3:30 p.m.

The festival concludes on Sunday with gospel and other sets.

For more information, visit www.sunvalleyjazz.com.



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