Crystal Lynn Shawanda, the young woman from Wikwemikong’s Kaboni community—whose determination to remain a presence in the music business is quite extraordinary in and of itself—is becoming a role model for the larger community.
Ms. Shawanda has made a pre-Christmas Manitoulin tour that has taken her to live performances at the Zhiibaahaasing First Nation, the De-ba-jeh-mu-jig Creation Centre’s studio in Manitowaning, to Aundek Omni Kaning First Nation and to M’Chigeeng.
For a very reasonable price, Ms. Shawanda has made it possible for Manitoulin families to enjoy the live performance of a Christmas program by a talented artist; one who has reached several significant milestones in her performing, recording and song writing career.
Ms. Shawanda and her husband DeWayne Strobel are on the Island to spend Christmas with her parents Godfrey and Virginia Shawanda and her brothers and their families at Wikwemikong so she has taken advantage of the opportunity to perform locally at small venues.
During her shows, she speaks candidly about the business venture she has recently begun: establishing her own record label, New Sun Records.
She candidly tells local audiences that when she parted ways with her previous record label, RCA Records, she was initially unsure of how next to direct her career.
Ms. Shawanda explains that the day after losing the relative security of a major recording company, she looked out her window and the weather was bleak and overcast.
But it is her habit to read her fan mail the first thing each day and that particular day brought her a letter from a woman who told her how much comfort and strength she had received from Ms. Shawanda’s singing and lyrics, encouraging her to produce more.
Clearly Crystal Lynn Shawanda did not see herself as a backup singer for another artist and this message of hope provided precisely the impetus she needed at that moment to move her career in another direction.
Hence her own label, with herself as CEO of the fledgling business. This is a job that carries with it a wide variety of different functions, including director of marketing.
And so it is Ms. Shawanda who gets on the telephone to call country and western music stations across Canada and the US saying something to the effect of: “Hi! This is Crystal Shawanda from New Sun Records. We have a great artist and a new single that you should be playing. Her name is Crystal Shawanda.”
Ms. Shawanda says that sometimes radio station music directors think this is cute and so the conversation goes on from there while others think that she is a “bit nuts” but she persists and one song from her first independent album cracked the top 30 on the country and western charts in Canada, something of which she is clearly very proud.
But it is her fans, like that one letter-writer, who motivate her because she is able to speak personally to them through her music and that is both a gift and a responsibility.
One Manitoulin clergyperson who happened to be at one of her shows last week and heard her story used Ms. Shawanda’s experiences in an allegorical sense in a Christmas Sunday sermon when relating the scriptural story about Jesus’ mother Mary being told by a heavenly being that she had been chosen to have that particular baby, the one who would be born in Bethlehem some months later and whose birthday is the centre of much seasonal celebrations in December.
The point was made in the sermon that Crystal Shawanda, like Mary 2,000 years ago, was encouraged to believe that she would be helping people in ways she couldn’t comprehend but she had a strong sense that it was the right thing to carry on doing.
Just at this pivotal time of the year, as we are poised to walk through the door that January 1 opens for us (which may lead us to further uncertain economic times) and as “the true meaning of Christmas” attempts to be heard through the cacophony of commercialism and the hustle and bustle that virtually everyone inflicts on themselves just now, the lessons of both Mary and Crystal are valid ones, just as the clergyperson pointed out on Sunday.
Taking a leap of faith with the hope that others will benefit from one’s positive actions in the world is a useful thought to hold over the Christmas season and into the new year. All the time, in fact.
Ms. Shawanda’s current cycle of intimate Manitoulin Island concerts is a good local example of outreach bringing joy and happiness. As for Mary, history has written the book on her endeavours.
Please think positive thoughts for we must all do as much as possible to help one another as this is how we can best realize the wisdom of the adage, “charity begins at home.”
But who knows where it will end, once it gets started at home!
We believe this is Ms. Shawanda’s philosophy and it’s one we should all embrace.
Best wishes to everyone for a happy Christmas and the courage and good sense to deal effectively with whatever the fates bestow upon us.