“When you have to sit and think about the things you have going on and how you can make an impact, there’s no better time than the present,” said local singer-songwriter Zandrina Dunning, who’s been omnipresent on the scene since 2013 as a show producer with her company, the ZD Experience. It turned out, 2020 was her time to act on goals she’d written way back when.
The unprecedented pause in live music gave her the space to cultivate concerts and tribute shows to serve as a balm to the city’s aching entertainment industry. She helped organize The Potluck Concert Series to stream musician showcases during the pandemic.
“Everyone was doing porch concerts and giving people the opportunity to make donations. Creatives will always try to find a way to make something happen,” she said.
The shows she organized at Forte Jazz Lounge in 2020 grew into the PURE Concert Series and Festival last April, benefiting Charleston’s Walk for Autism organization, which will return for its second season on Nov. 12, with soul artist Thomas Brown. Her Anita Baker tribute show last June at Charleston Music Hall will be followed by a tribute to Tina Turner Sept. 3, starring rock/soul artist Lafaye.
Dunning’s passion for curating shows is derived from having come into music at a young age.
“Getting into the professional music scene, I was mistreated year after year,” she said. “I wanted to show people that I wasn’t just a girl out there trying to get every gig I can — that was a huge turning point for my career: not accepting certain treatment.”
As a producer, making her network accessible to other artists and exploring what works for the local market is what drives her.
“For them to trust me with their careers and to be able to work with peers on that level is a beautiful thing,” she said.
That and the chance to share her knowledge. “Knowing your worth and knowing what you deserve — I’m trying to share that information with people even when they’re just getting their start. If the talent is there and the drive is there, why not skip a few steps? If I can offer the opportunity, I’m going to spare others some of the experiences I had.”
Dunning’s musical inclinations were sparked as a child, when her mom bought her records and kept their home dancing.
“My eyes were always open to everything — and my heart,” Dunning said.
And as a single mom, she is inspired by her daughter London’s journey in the arts.
“We look up to one another. She just goes with the flow. She’s following in my footsteps.”