Staff Spotlight: James Kendall and His Brother are Grand-Prize Winners of Popular Fox Game Show

By day, James Kendall is known on campus as the Director of the Student Success Center, but by night, he’s a name-that-tune guru who polishes his skills with the popular Shazam app.

Those quick-name recall skills combined with sharp knowledge of popular music led Kendall and his brother, Justin, to winning $1 million together on June 6 during the “Sibling Smackdown” episode of Beat Shazam on Fox.

The two brothers were in their natural, competitive element throughout the entire episode, completely tuned in to each other.

“We were just big music fans growing up,” Kendall recalls of his childhood in St. Charles, Missouri. “When we were kids, we had a Pontiac van that we drove all over the country for sports and different events, and if a song came on the radio, my dad would ask us what it was. So we had a lot of practice and got pretty good at that.”

On a whim, Kendall applied in September 2022 to appear on the show and quickly forgot all about his application. Everything suddenly fell into place, however, and the Kendalls soon found themselves filming the show over a three-day period last spring.

The brothers tensely faced off with two other sibling duos, briefly losing momentum on a series of Lizzo songs, but easily tag-teamed on their strengths: Justin tackled contemporary music, while Kendall focused primarily on oldies as a result of being more of a classic rock aficionado.

After closing in on the competitors, the two brothers instinctively locked eyes on the final song: “Easy Lover” by Phil Collins and Philip Bailey from 1984. Both instantly knew the name of the song — their father listened non-stop to Collins when they were growing up.

This time, Justin took the lead. When he correctly named the tune, the studio audience erupted in applause while gold confetti fell around them and “Easy Lover” blasted overhead. The Kendalls hugged and danced in circles before being joined on the studio floor by Kendall’s wife, Alex, and Justin’s wife, Abigail, along with their parents, Jim and Lisa Kendall.

Guest host Nick Cannon with contestants Justin and James (in background) Kendall and family members in the “Sibling Smackdown” episode of Beat Shazam that aired Tuesday, June 6 on FOX. © 2023 Fox Media LLC. CR: Lorraine O’Sullivan/FOX.

Today, Kendall is much calmer than he was late last spring and says he does not plan to leave his job at Westminster to live off his prize money. Instead, he is planning a family trip with his brother and their wives and parents. The young families also plan to use the money for substantial life expenses.

For now, however, Kendall is content reflecting on his experience.

“I can’t even put words to it,” Kendall says, smiling broadly. “It’s funny looking back, because we were so nervous going into it and just not sure of what to expect. It ended up being the most nerve-wracking but fun thing I’ve ever done.”

All photos are courtesy of Fox Media LLC.


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Sarah Rummel Backer

Sarah Rummel Backer is the Director of Media Relations and Senior Writer at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. A proud Westminster graduate, Sarah has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and strategic communications in the areas of higher education, medicine, agriculture, and the private business sector.