FEATURED MEMBER: COMBO Member – Larger than life: Eighteen Year Old Kenzie Culver
It all started July 2004, after experiencing frequent headaches dizziness, and tingling and numbness in her hands and feet, 4-year-old Kenzie Culver was diagnosed with Chiari Malformation and Syringomyelia disease and needed emergency surgery. Chiari, a condition in which brain tissue extends down toward the spinal column, is often the cause of Syringomyelia, a rare disorder that happens when a cyst forms on the spinal cord. If the cyst is left untreated, it can a cause paraplegia and even be fatal.
Though her surgery was successful, her recovery was quicker than many doctors had seen before, and she was constantly on high doses of morphine, little Kenzie still suffered unbearable pain — until one day the pain didn’t seem all that bad.
While many family members visited during her recovery, one man, David Wilson, a “dear family friend,” sat down by her bedside and began playing his guitar. Culver remembers him playing and singing Veggie Tales, and even though she couldn’t sing along with him, it seemed to soothe and heal her of her pain.
“After that,” she said, “that’s when my love for music was born.”
Almost 10 years later, at the age of 13, Culver sang in her first on-stage gig called Summer Battle of the Bands at Boyd Lake State Park in Loveland.
“I was in eighth grade— a shy kid normally, but I fell in love with performing. This [performing] felt like home. This is where I belonged. This is where I fit in.”
After her exhilarating performance at Battle of the Bands, Culver’s music and her talent for songwriting started to thrive. She attended Camp Electric, a music camp in Ohio, and wrote her first song, “Gone.” At 15, she auditioned for PMW Live, a record label in Los Angeles, California, and got a one time deal, and produced an alternative-style, punk-rock song (and music video) called, “Are You With Me,”a song inspired by her time in the hospital as a child. Culver was shocked when the video hit over 100,000 views in less than two months and the record label asked her to record five more songs for a mini EP album she would later name, “Echoes.”
“It’s really raw. It’s relatable. It’s not just about the story and the words, it’s about the experience of the song,” Culver said of her music’s popularity. “I don’t hold back any emotions, no matter what I may be feeling that day when I’m writing, whether it’s happy-go-lucky or heartbroken.”
Culver got even more attention when she started writing more original songs. Since then, she’s played the main stage at The Summit Music Hall in Denver, Loveland Fire and Ice, Mishawaka Amphitheatre, and Ryan Seacrest’s Denver Seacrest Studio. Culver’s recent single, “Afraid of Being Saved,” earned her semifinalist status in the 2017 Unsigned Only Music Competition. She’s also won first place in Keptone Battle of the Bands, and the Colorado You Got Talent competition. [Kenzie has also been a two-time winner of COMBO’s Songwriting Contest!]
But writing, producing and performing her own music aren’t the only things Culver enjoys. She is also a state ambassador for Blue Star Connection, a national non profit organization that gifts instruments to sick children in the hospital. [See benefit for BSC on Sat., Feb. 17th]
“I just want to be able to help people like David did for me. What he did with helping me feel better while I was in the hospital,” Culver said. “I think that act of kindness and selflessness instilled in me to help other people. I don’t think I would be where I am without his help. I am a believer in the healing power of music. You don’t have to be good at an instrument to be able to make noise. Medicine heals our physical bodies, but music heals the soul.”
Culver plans to attend Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee in fall 2018. She wants to major in songwriting. She’ll take the more than $40,000 she’s received in scholarships with her. While her dreams are to share as much of her music as she can with the world, Culver still desires and stresses one other important thing on her life: to help people.
Now 18, already an accomplished artist with a portfolio full of community service, a smile on her face, and a survivor of two illnesses that could have robbed her not only of life, but also of her voice, she is ready and excited for a new adventure in Nashville.
“My favorite quote is, ‘Just keep swimming” from Dory [Finding Nemo], she says. “Never give up.”
For more information about Kenzie – https://kenzieculvermusic.com/
Experience Kenzie Culver’s music on Feb. 24, 2018, at Sunshine Studios Live, 3970 Clearview Frontage Road, in Colorado Springs, 719-392-8921. 6:00 p.m. – Tickets $37.50 to $40. With Tonic, Mass Transit, Chadwick Mcintire and Kenzie Culver. All proceeds from the show will benefit homeless men and women through two organizations, Hope For Humanity and The Empowerment Program.
By: Lily Morford, the New Scene Feature Reporter