From voice memos to EPs, student Keshon Duke has grown as an artist

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Keshon Duke taught himself how to play bass and drums in middle school. Now he has released an EP titled “love letter.”

In one of the band member’s basement, next to the washing machine and cat litter, Keshon Duke met for the first time with three friends to jam as a band. The group called themselves Hazel Avenue, after the street that West Hall dormitory sits on. Duke was living there when he met Grace Robertson and Ben Shafer. It was fellow audio production major Aden Biggs’ basement where they all met to record as a band the first time. 

Hazel Avenue was the culmination of a lot of hard work for Duke, who had taught himself how to play instruments since sixth grade. He started learning bass to play in the middle school orchestra before picking up drums later in middle school. When he got to high school, Duke realized he wanted to learn the piano. 

“I always wanted to add [piano] to my arsenal,” Duke said. “I started going to the practice rooms and basically started self teaching. I taught myself bass, drums and keys up until this semester.” 

Duke had never taken a music lesson prior to this semester. He would watch some YouTube videos to master techniques or pick up small details, but he mostly just listened to other music. After listening to hundreds of hours of music, Duke got a feel for each genre and how he could best fit in his music style. 

Learning piano was a transformative time for Duke. Not only did he pick up a new instrument, but learning piano also made him better at other instruments. 

“One of the maestros at my church told me when you learn organ and piano, it helps you learn everything else,” Duke said. “I started to understand every note. Like when I’m playing bass, if I don’t know what the route note is, I just look at what the piano player is doing and I can find what note I’m supposed to be on.”

Robertson shares Duke’s love for music and agrees with the importance of piano. 

“Everyone who dances hates ballet,” Roberston said. “Ballet teaches you the basics of everything dance. The piano is the ballet of music.”

Musician Keshon Duke plays piano while vocalist Grace Robertson sings behind him. Duke and Robertson play in a band together and also recorded a song together for Duke’s new EP, “love letter.” Photo by Jenna Jones.

Robertson and Duke call each other “music soulmates” because of how similar their music tastes are. 

“Every time I send a song to him he’s like ‘I already have that,’” Robertson said. “Everything that he puts out I know I’m going to like. That’s why it’s so easy for us to make music together because we’re usually on the same vibe with what’s going on.”

“Vibe” is a word Duke would use to describe a lot of what he has worked on. Whether it’s promotion for his recent EP, a practice session or a post on Instagram, vibing is what Duke does best. Sometimes, when he’s feeling particularly inspired, he’ll capture the vibe and put it on social media.

“I feel like that’s something that is very true to me. Like, I love a good vibe and groove and jamming and stuff,” Duke said. “So whenever I’m doing that, I just probably catch myself in the moment and be like, you know, whoever else might [enjoy the music], I enjoy just doing it.”

Eli Guzman, a friend of Duke’s since freshman year, had noticed Duke’s love of music from the second he saw him.

“It was always easy to tell when he was around because he was constantly bumping a speaker in his backpack and jamming out,” Guzman said. “He wears his passion for music on his sleeve and his artistry has grown impressively throughout our friendship.”

On Instagram, Duke has over 1,200 followers. When Duke published the announcement of his EP, 102 people liked it. He has 196 monthly listeners on Spotify under the name “Keesh.” 

“You know, I’m always doing it for myself, for the fun, for the love of both the music and the grooves and stuff, but now it’s like there’s other people that like that same groove or like the way that I present it,” Duke said. “It’s an honor that others are liking your stuff.”

Guzman said anyone who listens to Duke’s music would become a fan and would want more songs from him. For Duke, his future plans include continuing to play music with Hazel Avenue and on his own. He’s started getting requests from live venues to play “love letter” and will have to figure out how to piece the live band that he will need together. The band will also have a livestream show on March 27. He also wants to keep putting out music so Duke will be staying pretty busy in the coming months. But, he’s not complaining. Music is something that’s always been natural to Duke.

“I never gave a thought to it like ‘I need to do this for, you know, whatever reason.’ My motivation really is just like loving the music and loving like wherever that vibe is,” Duke said. “And I just want to spread that. And so that’s really where it goes from. I’m just like, alright, let’s get into the process. And all the way throughout it is fun.”

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Robby Floyd
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